Manna on My Mind

Sometimes my mind is as stormy as it was yesterday at the Free Farm Stand. I heard a song by Sad Brad Smith that has become my mantra, that I need to “lay down my mind”.

All in all it was a pretty fabulous day. Lauren or should I call her Saint Lauren, agreed to help pick up food once a month on Saturday afternoons and  I gave her a lesson in running the stand. Just having her and all the others around took a big weight off my shoulders.  All the volunteers were saints  as we were really cold and wet out there. Even the people coming out for produce and bread were pretty saintly braving the rain.  We had a large amount of chard from 18th and Rhode Island and a fair amount of produce from the farmer’s markets. We started early because it wouldn’t have made sense for people to stand in line in that weather and we had a continuous crowd of people for about an hour or so and we ended around 2pm. One of the first people who showed up early was a man who said he was unemployed and the food was really helpful to him.

I was disappointed that we had to cancel our first garden workshop because of the downpour. Hopefully the series will begin next week. Check the calendar for more information.

The day before we had another very productive workday at the Free Farm.  Angie my wife came by for the first time to see what is going on and I gave her a tour. We looked at everything and I felt amazed myself at all the work we have accomplished in such a short time. The vegetables are growing well under the row cover plastic, the potatoes are looking good in the trenches, the labyrinth is now finished and just needs more herb plants, we have a good selection of trees planted, eight kinds of scarlet runners are up, strawberries forming, sunflowers growing on the hillside, lots of seedlings started, pathways mulched, we have an outdoor dining room of sorts made with stumps from the huge tree cut down in my backyard, some drip irrigation installed, some big planters set up on top on the concrete next to the fence and planted with passion fruit, hops, and chayote, and we starting putting together a free funky small greenhouse.

This Saturday we also had our real first harvest (not just a tasting for volunteers) and Hedi and another volunteer named Sean  (who is writing a story on the FF for an online magazine called the Bold Italic) cut some baby lettuce from our lettuce lawn and picked lettuces (2 pounds and 3.6 pounds of lettuces). The food went to Welcome’s Saturday Community Dinners that happen the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month. The guests are community members who are homeless or formerly homeless, seniors, and low income folk.

There is just so much going on with urban gardening at the moment it really spins me around. So many projects I have been promoting are starting to grow like seeds planted. I am excited to get emails that Esperanza garden is starting to blossom and may get some new garden stewards. Then there is Karla, Jay, and Sean, and others who have been taking the project of promoting more backyard kitchen gardens and running with the idea. I just got an email with photos from an event Saturday where they started working on a new garden called Finny Farm: We moved 20 yards of mulch, across the street, down steps, through a narrow breezeway and across 20 feet of cardboard, AND we did it in 5 hours.” Check out these photos of before and after:

They even have a website with more info on the garden:

I do think this was real super human effort. If anyone wants to help install gardens in people’s backyards and/or possibly be an anchor or garden steward or mentor I think you can join their Google group and join in the fun and at the same time help make San Francisco more food secure: I know a number of people interested in help in turning their backyards into gardens.

On Saturday another great event happened and this one I think was pretty revolutionary. My friend Jonathan and his non-profit Feel the Earth, who directed the fabulous Pea’h garden before it was shut down for a rest this year, put on the “Seeds on Streets” event which was a big success.  His idea which I thought was brilliant, was to take seed planting to the sidewalk, to get passersby engaged in learning the art of seed planting. Then grow the seeds and give them away to schools and community groups and gardens to increase food production in the city. The Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm is working with him to help make this happen. Specifically, the Free Farm is going to help grow the seedlings until they are ready to distribute.  Jonathan told me people were coming by all day and from the photos it seems a lot of children were engaged in the fun. Not only were a lot of flats planted (42 flats or I think something like over 2,000 potential seedlings), but his great team gave away individual six packs to people and I think seeds as well. Check out these pictures to see the event in all it’s glory:

Right now we are going to do the best we can with growing these flats with the minimum of greenhouse space (and a funky one at that). I just got a letter saying we were turned down for a grant for building a greenhouse at the Free Farm so we need to work on writing more grants or think of another fundraising strategy. Last week I read on craigslist about 10 greenhouse frames 20’ x 100’ being sold for $500 that need plastic and to be disassembled and then moved. I was thinking if my friends at Little City Gardens can raise $17,199.9 on ($1,000 less than what I tried to get for a grant) maybe we can do the same thing. My problem is that I am not a sales person and am not sure if I could sell what my crazy ideas as well as they do. I have always relied more on faith and the universe providing.

Brooke and  Caitlyn do challenge my free philosophy and there latest blog entry is pretty interesting and I am still tossing this around in my head ( . I enjoyed reading about how they are celebrating the land use contract they just signed for a new market-garden site. And then when you scroll down their defense of capitalism is pretty interesting. “Why a business and not a non-profit?” I just watched the new movie by Michael Moore called Capitalism: A Love Affair which is also got me thinking. How about this for making a business growing food in the city:  “Michael Score, president of Hantz Farms, has begun purchasing abandoned properties around the city in order to turn them into commercial farming operations. His company plans to obtain as much as 5,000 acres within the city limits to use for growing organic vegetables for food and trees and shrubs for biofuels. His company has other agricultural projects that it wishes to pursue as well. With his initial investment of $30 million just two years ago, Hantz hopes to take full advantage of the fertile land within the city. Next spring, his company plans to begin growing crops on 30 acres of land and has plans in the works for other nearby parcels.” I found this on the Permaculture-sf listserve.

Yes us new diggers/old free faith based hippies/old farmers have our ideas competing with the new generation of people seeking a “right livelihood” and nothing is new under the sun. The Free Farm Stand won’t sell out, but hopefully the funds will rain down like manna someday so we can build greenhouses, get a couple of new hoses, a few wheelbarrows with flat free tires, a dump truck or two of manure, more expensive salad mix seeds, some parts for our bike cart collection,a shed to store our tools in,  a compost tea brewer, gloves for our volunteers hands, and a few more  hand tools. Or how about thinking big and us winning the lottery or getting a Stanford size endowment (a sugar mama?) to acquire a building to run an urban kibbutz with farm and a communal house of hospitality and home of love and prayer?

Oh on Wednesday April 14th Tamara will be leading a free yoga class at 9am at the farm…I am not sure if we know how this will happen, but bring a mat. It should be yoga that anyone can do or at least under stretched me. And then on Saturday April 17th from 10am-11am we will have a blessing ceremony at the Free Farm. The ceremony will have Christian elements since St. Paulus Church will be involved, the folks who  own the site and are letting us grow food there. But all blessings are welcome and encouraged.

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