Gift Society

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:  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: This video is even better and really inspirational: 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.

3 Replies to “Gift Society

  1. So great to see the free farm stand going so well, the free farm is amazing. This really is making the city the way we really want it. Well done Tree!!

  2. the free farm stand is totally inspirational, its been great to read about it online at the blogsite. I wrote about your initiative in my book, really excited about the free farm and hoping to come and help. Well done Tree, this is how to create the cities we want to live in!

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