Last week I was totally immersed in issues related to urban agriculture and trees. It started off when two large branches of our forty or fifty foot tall Black Acacia tree broke off and landed on two neighbor’s roofs. Luckily no one was hurt, but one of the landlords next door freaked out and wants the tree cut down. He got two arborists to write that the tree is unsafe and rotten to the root, although no core tests were done and I didn’t trust what they were claiming, the report seeming to come from a viewpoint of doing what would be the most expedient thing to do with little to support the assertion that the tree was really sick and at the end of it’s life cycle and unsafe. It’s like my friend Jocelyn said “No one wants the liability of a tree falling on someone. Thus NO BIG TREES, great solution. I don’t see MUNI being shut down for all their accidents, failures and fatalities.” My friend Carolyn who is retiring from the Urban Tree Council told me that according to the USDA Forrest Service out of all the trees in San Francisco only 4% are left with a trunk diameter of 22”-30”. Our tree has a diameter of about 24” or more. As I write the chain saws are roaring outside my window and I am praying for forgiveness of all our foolishness.
On a happier note last Tuesday night I attended the first Urban Agriculture meeting organized by my friend Antonio plus help from Ellen and Elizabeth and hosted by ReBar (I think the Mission Rocks with groups like this fermenting grand schemes right down the street from me). The event really got me pumped up with excitement. There were two main themes “How can we work better together and how do we better interact with the City”. I thought the most fun part was seeing all the people from different groups who are doing great Urban Agriculture work…there must have been forty or more people there representing many groups: “Permaculture Guild representatives, , Greywater Guerillas, member of San Francisco Parks Trust, Architect that helps design farms, staff from Garden for the Environment, chefs, Oakland Soul, Urban farm coordinator at Treasure Island, Free Farm representatives, Produce to the People, Alemany Farm, Secret Garden/Free Farm Stand, Welcome, Little City Gardens, Enviro journalist, Feel the Earth, Eco-SF, Kitchen Table Talks, Hayes Valley Farm, SF Glean, teen garden program at Mission library, , Urban Forrest Coordinator, Cultivate SF, School Lunch Program, Department of public health, San Francisco “Bee cause”, Green House Project—Portola neighborhood, Center for Food Safety, Growing Home Community Garden, rooftop garden at Glide, Raise the Roof, Urban Sprouts, professor of community studies at UCSC (writing book on the history of SLUG), Community Alliance for Family Farms (CAFF). At least three breakout groups got together: Policy work, movement building/organization, backyard gardens promotion, and Food Justice. I went to the Backyard Kitchen Gardens meeting where we talked about what is needed to get more backyards in the city growing food. It seems like the backyards represent a lot of potential growing space and we looked into what we need to make a backyard garden movement move forward. I also popped into the Urban Ag policy discussion where there was a lot of talk about what is needed in term of city policies that will further our goal of having move food grown here. Someone suggested we try to get Park and Recreation to grow more food in its parks. Kevin talked about Toronto’s Community Orchards. Like community gardens but fruit orchards on public land like parks. That is what I am trying to do next to the Treat Commons Community Garden. I didn’t make it to the Food Justice discussion group, but it sounded like it was mostly attended by people connected with the Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm. It will be interesting to see where things go from here. Another meeting is being planned with the idea of seeing if we have some goals we can prioritize.
The Free Farm Stand went by so fast. I decide to help only a little bit at the beginning setting up the table. I decided to give out seeds and some Stinging Nettle Plants that I dug up. The amount of produce in total was skimpy though I brought 20 pounds of mostly greens from Rhode Island garden. There were also some snap peas that I harvested. The Secret Garden harvested 3.6lbs of produce for the stand. Steve and Shelly brought by a lot of produce from their plot at Potrero del Sol Garden and a few others brought some produce to share. I totally missed the person who brought tea and shared it with people. We were done giving away most produce by 2pm.
I realized that I really need an apprentice manager to learn how to run the stand without me. Everything for the most part worked out, but some things I would have done differently. Also, there was a lot of bread left in the van that I brought out after the stand was taken down and I stayed for a short while longer and gave most of it away…the rest wound up at Food Not Bombs.
The “Garden Table” went really well though there was one unfortunate incident. I had a lot of seed to give away. I had the packets on the table with envelopes so there would be seeds for everyone. I had almost 1/2lb of broccoli seed that I wanted to share with everyone, but some guy came by and while I was helping his friend get some seed he walked off with the whole package, perhaps enough to plant a whole field. I wonder what he was thinking?
Our last Free Farm workday which was pretty awesome. More beds got dug and planted, including uncovering another huge piece of rubble. Lauren started working on the irrigation and also set up a temporary pee station tent. It is especially exciting the connections we are making with our neighbors. Some woman brought by seeds to share and Wiley another neighbor came by to help. I also met two women from the Catherdral Hill Neighborhood Association who are excited about what we are doing and may provide some help to our project.