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: http://picasaweb.google.com/karlanjohnson/FinnyFarmBefore?feat=directlink

http://picasaweb.google.com/karlanjohnson/FinneyFarmWorkdayApril102010?feat=directlink

They even have a website with more info on the garden: http://finnyfarm.org/Finny_Farm/Welcome.html

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:  http://groups.google.com/group/afg-permablitz-sf. 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: http://picasaweb.google.com/victoryfarmer2/SeedsOnStreets?feat=directlink#slideshow/5458941637576556610.

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 Kickstarter.com ($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 ( http://www.littlecitygardens.com/) . 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.


We celebrated the Easter Sunday Free Farm Stand feast in stormy wet windy raining cold weather.  That didn’t prevent people from lining up to get some fresh local produce. The highlight of the hecka local table was the beautiful chard from 18th and Rhode Island about 32lbs. We also had a heck lot of Chocolate Mint that Bilikis harvested from the same garden on Friday. The 18th and Rhode Island Garden also gifted us a handful of spring strawberries and snap peas. Some neighbor was so excited by the stand after she finished getting some produce she went home and brought lemons that she had picked from her grandmothers tree. Being Easter I brought some calla lilies from our garden and Mexican purple sage from the permie garden and Zach brought a bouquet from his garden. I also brought trays of sunflower greens that I grew. We had a lot of artichokes from the farmers market and lots of greens.

Because of the rain I didn’t set up much of a plant/garden advice table, though I had some plants to give away. I had a flier about the free mini garden workshops starting next week that I wanted to put out and couldn’t because of the rain. This is something I always wanted to see happen at the stand is to offer gardening classes for everyone that shops for produce. Here is what the flier says (I have a Spanish translation also):
Mini-Garden Workshops at the Free Farm Stand 1:30pm-2pm April-May 2010
Date: 04/11/10 Workshop:  Vegetative Propagation
Date: 04/18/10 Workshop:  Intro to FRUIT TREES
Date: 04//25/10 Workshop:  Sexual Propagation: VEGGIES
Date: 05/02/10 Workshop:  Vegetable Focus: SOLANUMS
Date: 05/09/10 Workshop:  Vegetable Focus: BRASSICAS
Date: 05/23/10 Workshop:  Vegetable Focus: LEGUMES
The Free Farm Stand is about sharing the wealth of urban gardens and farms. “Shop” for some local vegetables and then learn how to grow your own so you too can share some surplus with those in need.
Long time mission district neighbor Antonio will be leading these ½ hour workshops for free on the dates above in Treat Commons Community Garden next to the Stand. This will be a preview to the longer 1 ½-2 hour workshop that he will hold at Esperanza Garden (Florida St at 19th at 2:30PM.  $15 donation but absolutely no one turned away for lack of funds.)
If people attending this class would like to talk about anything else related to gardening and growing food  Antonio is happy with a more informal free flowing workshop happening. A Spanish translator will be available.
Vegetative Propagation It’s not likely that you could grow a whole human body by taking off a piece of your finger, sticking it in the ground, and keeping it moist over some months time. Surprisingly, though, this about all it takes to make more plants from perennial bushes, herbs, and vines. In this class, you will learn the subtle differences in plant forms and growth, and how to maximize your asexual reproductive power! Introduction to Fruit Trees Who doesn’t love fruit trees? They bring such sweetness into our lives, and with very little effort needed to coax a bountiful crop, compared with labor-intensive annual vegetables. This class will answer basic fruit tree questions: what kind of trees are out there? Which can I grow here? How do fruit trees grow? What do I have to do to keep them alive and productive? Sexual Propagation: VEGGIES Have you planted what seemed like thousands of seeds, only to have just two weak-looking carrots emerge? If you’re getting started at planting vegetables from seed, or are just curious as to how to refine and perfect your seeding techniques, this class will help. You will leave this class confident enough to grow any major vegetable from seed, and know how to avoid the most common mistakes leading to seed death and seedling ill-health. Vegetable Focus: SOLANUMS This class will cover as much as possible on the more palatable and locally-appropriate varieties of these variously loved and hated gems of South American descent. We will discuss tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants, and how to coax a crop from the most heat-loving family in an area renowned for its cool summers. Vegetable Focus: BRASSICAS Gardeners of The Bay take note! Brassicas could be your best friend! Learn the needs of and tricks for growing the following veggies: kale, arugula, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and the Chinese choys. Come away confident that, no matter the time of the year, or your proximity to the ocean, you will be fed from your own garden! Vegetable Focus: LEGUMES Take some time out to get to know the Fabacaea family, including bush beans, pole beans, peas, and perennial legumes. Legumes are not only vital in helping you maintain soil fertility, they taste great and are easy to grow as well! Come get to know them better.

The Free Farm is growing quickly. One thing is that we are getting a lot of attention from the media. As a result of the Chronicle article I was approached by KTVU_TV 2  was asked to be interviewed. I suggested they interview Megan with Welcome who we are partnering with and she was on tv for 6 minutes (I didn’t see the show). Then last Friday a woman from San Francisco State came out Saturday to film the farm for a tv show they produce called State of Events. Then on Sunday she came out in the rain to shoot the Free Farm Stand. I fortunately didn’t have to be interviewed at all though she probably caught me on camera. Aside from news attention, we the free farm is getting a lot of attention of volunteers and neighbors. We had also had a visit by Girls Inc. in Oakland and about 13 8th grade girls who volunteered. We are getting so much done and we actually had our first harvest of baby lettuce from our lettuce lawn (3 weeks since we planted it) and we also picked a head of lettuce from our first planting of lettuce. We served the lettuce at our volunteer lunch. I really think the row cover is speeding up the growth of the plants. Case started planting carrots and the labyrinth is getting finished and planted. Next Saturday we hope to build a temporary greenhouse to help us grow a lot of seedlings to distribute. We are working with Jonathan and his group Feel the Earth who is planning an event next Sunday and is planning to plant fifty flats of seedlings to distribute all over the city. (see the calendar for more information).

Here is a link I got off the permaculture guild listserve that I enjoyed withan update of the White House Garden. If they can grow a garden during winter we can too: http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/03/26/exclusive-video-white-house-garden-survives-thrives-in-washing/

One result of getting publicity is that I met online a couple in Oregon who have the same philosophy as me in terms of sharing and the idea of living communally and sharing all things in common. I was very inspired seeing their web site for one of their projects called the Sharing Garden http://www.alpinegarden.blogspot.com/. Here is what they say: “We think of these as ‘Stone Soup’ Gardens, where if each of us shares a little of what we have, whether that’s time or materials, that we’ll be able to grow food for all of us to enjoy.” And here is more: “These community gardens are unique. They are each one large plot instead of many separate ones. All labor and materials are donated. The harvest is for people in our community who are in need and any surplus is donated to the Monroe Food Bank.” This would be my ideal for community gardens of the future and what I originally envisioned for Treat Commons Community Garden of which I am the current garden coordinator. I had to compromise when we created that garden and we do have some private beds. Their website also has a lot of practical garden information, like about planting potatoes or carrots. They also have a website that has a beautiful vision and again is something I am interested in, but in an urban center like San Francisco: http://www.fullcirclefamily.blogspot.com/.  “We are a ‘community of two’ adults, living in rural Oregon near Corvallis. Our vision is to demonstrate the efficacy of sharing ‘all things common’ in a sustainable manner. It is our intention to create a rural, communal village and eventually to have other branches – both urban and rural. We are looking for partners to assist us; either through donations, or by moving to this area and living together to expand the demonstration.”

I do think this is the time to shake things up in the way we live our lives and move towards a society of sharing and caring for the earth and for all it’s inhabitants: trees, plants, animals, people.