It was another hot and beautiful day at the Free Farm Stand. I love the sexiness of warm days and a lot of people parading around in their summer/beach weather drag. And a perfect day for a garden workshop on Sexual Propagation of Vegees.  Every week brings surprises: I never know what will show up on the table nor who will show up to lend a hand or who will need some produce or  who will bring some produce or jam or salsa or homemade lemonade. I am dazzled by the positive energy given off around the Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm these days.

Right now I am harvesting less produce from 18th and Rhode Island, but we are now getting some produce from the Free Farm, after only a few months!  It is really challenging farming year round here in the Bay Area and finding volunteers that have the sustaining power to show up over a long period of time. An example is that the Hayes Valley Farm is attracting tons of volunteers right now, but we are haven’t attracted a regular crew at the Permaculture  18th and Rhode Island site.  So as the chard is pulled up there isn’t anything else ready to harvest there except tons of fava beans…I should be bringing more next week.

On the Hecka Local Table this week: 6lbs of collards and 1½ lbs from the Free Farm, chocolate mint,  fava beans  from 18th and Rhode Island and from Stanford garden, 39lbs of oranges from Stanford Glean, 8lbs of lemons from a neighbor, 4lbs of surplus herbs and greens (?) from Dearborn Community Garden, and a lot of chard from 18th and Rhode Island and Treat Commons Community Garden. I unfortunately didn’t meet the person that dropped off the Dearborn Produce, but I really appreciated it. There was also a neighbor who brought by rosemary and mint from their garden.  This is really the core of what the Free Farm Stand is all about, sharing the surplus. I must admit I harvested some unpicked lettuces in a private bed in Treat Commons, because I hate to see produce get planted and then it grows and no one harvests it. I know this is a common occurrence in community gardens. This week we also had a great garden table with a lot of seedlings and information. Susannah who works with Stanford Glean came by and stayed at the table the whole time. I think we will be seeing more of her this summer and she might be an intern with this project. Hooray! Again we had another fabulous mini-garden workshop and I was really happy with the turn out. Antonio and Pancho make a great team and Antonio is one of the best garden teachers around.  I always come away from learning something new from him.

The Free Farm is really taking off. There are weekly updates at http://thefreefarm.org/ . One of our  challenges right now is the need for funds to create the infrastructure of the farm (none of us involved really like having to raise money, we’d rather be farming and feeding the masses). We are also in need of volunteers who want to learn how to lead others in projects at the farm . We get a lot of people showing up to help, but we need help directing everyone (we might want to get funds to pay a small stipend to another coordinator. Right now all of us are volunteers).  Another big challenge is to stay small and beautiful…to stay personal not institutional. There was talk at the blessing ceremony two weeks ago of making the farm a church without walls. So that is another challenge we face. A church or temple in my mind is a place where people gather together in community to share the energy of love and compassion that flows through everything. To experience that divine force together.  To learn to work together to serve those in need.

In terms of raising funds to create the infrastructure,  I’m seeing how comfortable I am with new approaches besides writing grants (our last grant got rejected).  A new volunteer named Brian told me he is playing music Wednesday at a new space on Valencia called Viracoha. He offered to donate the money to the Free Farm and I said go for it. So his gig turned into a small benefit concert  this week. I was really impressed with the poster his friend Morgan created. I would go just to hear him play and the fact that he is one of sweetest men I have met recently. He even agreed to put no one turned away on his poster.

I still believe in the idea of manifesting things. Here is the list of this we are trying to manifest:

A big tool shed, 3 long (100’) hoses in good shape, a lot of wheelbarrow tires or inner tubes, someone with a huge truck that could pick up a lot manure for us,  outdoor plywood to build a stage, used redwood or cedar lumber to build a bulletin board and a welcoming area and other things, a big greenhouse or a carpenter to build a beautiful greenhouse out of old glass windows, someone to sew a large fabric tent to put on our canopy structure.

Both the Free Farm and the Free Farm Stand continue to get a lot of media attention. I read a biography of Raymond Chandler who shared with me a similar feeling about publicity: “I’m strictly the background type.”   Despite wanting to just quietly do our work , I think  growing food in the city has really caught on and so we are in the limelight. Besides a write up in last week’s  Bay Guardian, KQED was out filming the farm last week and a we will be mentioned in a show for Earth Day about farms in urban areas at 8pm this coming Friday.

The Secret Garden which has always held a special place in my heart is going through some big changes. Clara who has been the garden anchor there for  maybe a year is not going to continue in that role for right now. She was the perfect person for that job and brought a lot of beautiful energy into that place. I am really sad she is not going to be around and I don’t know about the others who came because of her bringing them in.. Good Samaritan who owns the land just got a large grant (I don’t know how much) and is planing on rebuilding the stage, build a new shed, and make other improvements. They also hired Robert who has been connected with that garden for a long time to be the coordinator though I am not sure how much he will be actually gardening or be there once the physical improvements are made. He told me he will be in the garden on Sundays at 11am until about 2pm and that he is looking for people that want to garden there or learn how to garden and who will help grow food for the stand.  His contact information is if you want to help.


This past weekend felt packed with activity. Starting with the blessing ceremony at the Free Farm on Saturday to the Free Farm Stand on Sunday, with visits to the Hayes Valley Farm, the Growing Home Garden and then the Angel of Light reunion later in the day.

Since the Free Farm is such a big focus of the work I am doing it seems to be getting more attention here on this web site. On Saturday at the farm we had a Blessing Ceremony that I really enjoyed. Pastor Dan from St. Paulus Church, the owners of the property that are “loaning” us the land, led the ceremony which also included the Bishop from the Lutheran Church and the Bishop from the Episcopal Church. It was beautiful that the clergy were all on board the idea that out of the ashes of the burned down church is rising a church without walls…a garden to feed the poor. Different people took turns blessing different parts of the farm and when it came to Pancho blessing the murals he explained that he was giving a secular blessing and that the space was all about spreading the love. After he spoke I think Pastor Dan was really moved and gave Pancho a big hug.

our potato crop
Whenever I stop what I am doing and just look around, I feel amazed that things are not only growing (I must admit I had my doubts when I realized the soil here is all sand), but most of the plants look like they are doing well.  On top of that we had our first  harvest for the  Free Farm Stand ( 61/2 lbs of lettuces and  2 ½ lbs lettuce mix (from the lettuce lawn).

The hecka local table looked hecka cool this week with all the pretty lettuces on it and other produce brought by friends and neighbors. Besides the produce from the Free Farm we had another harvest of chard from the 18th and Rhode Island garden and a nice basket of greens from the Secret Garden, including some very handsome carrots  This week I have started getting a little more produce brought and shared by neighbors. Robyn brought a dozen big heads of lettuce from a student farm at UC Davis. Another friend brought some left over Eatwell Farm CSA produce and some extra kale and chard from her backyard. Towards the end Nosrat who lives around the corner brought a handful beautiful of red rocoto peppers.  A nearby neighbor brought some beautiful Meyer lemons (9 ½ lbs) and Page brought about 100lbs of oranges from Stanford Glean (check out this great article about that project here: http://www.stanforddaily.com/2010/04/19/fruits-of-their-labor/).  One of the highlights for me at the stand this week was Antonio and Pancho held the first in a series of garden workshops. It was supposed to start at 1:30pm and I think it did, but a lot of people left by the time it started. But after a little chaos of trying to get people together it finally happened and there was a good turn out that included a good mix of people. Antonio and mostly Pancho translated in Spanish and the talk seemed to hold everyone’s attention. He mostly spoke about the basics of growing fruit here and there was also a tour of the fruit trees in the garden. People got to see some of my efforts at grafting, including my plum that I put on an apricot.

To me this was almost the perfect kind of Farm Stand Day. Bringing some produce grown just for the stand, neighbors bringing some extra produce to share, a lot of surplus left over from the farmer’s markets, some seedlings to give away, and a workshop on how to grow some of your own food.

I had to leave early to go to a reunion of the Angels of Light which was happening in Hayes Valley (that is a whole story in itself). It was so great that I had volunteers to keep the stand open for a little while longer and then close up. Pancho wrote me this “at the very end, a woman came with her partner and her kid and she gave us in small box (a couple of lbs): at the bottom fava beans, on top rosemary, then beautiful green mint decorated with orange edible flowers. Everything was super fresh.” How beautiful, this is not the gift economy, but the gift society we are creating.

On the way to the reunion event I stopped by the Growing  Home CommunityGarden on Octavia and ran into my friend Renata who is involved there. This garden is a good example of how you can turn an empty space into a very utilitarian garden space for growing lots of food. I love that we are creating these food centered spaces, like something out of Havana (here is a good website that has a good video on Havana Homegrown: http://kitchengardeners.org/blogs/roger-doiron/havana-homegrown. This video is even better and really inspirational: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRz34Dee7XY). I also like the  focus of the garden on building community and addressing the issues of malnutrition, homelessness, and  unemployment.  I wish we could also create spaces a little further away from car traffic and make spaces with less rectangles and squares and more jungle, places that really provide those who are stressed out a place to get away from the urban harshness we are always bombarded with. The Free Farm has that challenge too.

I then dropped by the Hayes Valley Farm and David Cody graciously led me on a quick tour. Since I have been there last I was totally impressed with all the work that has gone on there. My initial impression was rolling hills of mulch and manure covering the “poison ivy” that took over the place (and fields of fava beans interspersed with donated lettuce seedlings from Green Gulch). Plus the huge number of volunteers all breaking their backs hauling tons of mulch everywhere and hacking away at ivy was impressive. I saw a few of the same volunteers that work at the free farm helping out there. It’s like China and the army of peasants  creating the Green Revolution. I was very envious of their piles of manure from Mar Vista stables and understood why we are having a hard time getting any from them right now.

Wow what a weekend of being immersed in the new sixties movement focused on growing local food.  The article linked above to Havana Homegrown said something that I think is right on target: “Unlike with most people in the US and other wealthy countries, growing their own and doing it organically were not really choices for Cubans: they did it to survive.”  I wonder if for us (though most of us don’t know it) if our spiritual survival is linked to growing food and building community. If we really have a choice or not to continue on the status quo lifestyle most of us live.  Or if we must today drop into a new way of living that is more in harmony with not only nature, but with the power of creation.