Farm Daze

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 . 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.

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