Picture Perfect Produce

I returned July 5th from my week in Illinois and am glad to be back. One of the highlights of the trip (which was primarily to participate in my yearly pilgrimage to visit in-laws and attend a family reunion) was talking to a family member who is a small farmer from around there who grows corn and soybeans with his father. He and a couple of others told me about “walking  beans” as kids growing up on a farm. That is where you walk down between the rows of beans a mile long cutting down weeds, and it didn’t sound fun in the muggy heat of the day. I was told no one does it any more, probably because of the chemical warfare the farmers use these days. Ah the land of corn and soybeans! When I was talking to this farmer he also told me how far apart they plant their corn (field corn is planted every seed 4” apart), and if I ever get a chance to grow a big plot of corn (maybe next year), I will plant it a lot closer than I thought you could. But then again they probably use lots of synthetic fertilizer.

I of course feel grateful that I had a lot of wonderful help running the stand while I was gone. We now have three summer interns and they are super helpful, especially dealing with all the summer produce that is coming in.

Our farm stand seems to have taken on a new incarnation. First we set up at noon and give out produce at 1pm. We have both a hecka local table and also a table with left-over from the fancy farmer’s markets. Yesterday we had 15lbs of green beans, kale, collards, onions, and lettuce from the farm. We harvested zucchini, runner beans, and ground cherries from the 18th and Rhode Island garden and my backyard yielded a pound of baby lettuce mix from my lettuce lawn.  Produce to the People supplied us with about 93lbs of fruit, mostly small cherry plums. We also got a donation of cured olives that we put out the bread table (it looked like an olive bar with all the samples of olives), Susannah brought a pot full of homemade fruit compote that we put in small cups for people to sample, and Cynthia who works in the garden brought some of her homemade Kombucha drink (she has a business I think called Mission Culture). From 1pm until 2pm there was a continuous line for produce and then a lot of the produce was gone and there were few people left. Around 2:15pm the second load of produce arrived and it was like bringing the farmer’s market from Stonestown Mall to the Mission.  The quality of the produce is outstanding and there has been a lot of organic summer fruit. We tell people to line up as we put all the produce we can on the two tables (and this week I put boxes of things on the lawn because we ran out of table space).  At the end of the day the produce was mostly gone except for soft fruit  which Susannah took home to cook down for more compote. If there are any folks out there that want to make compote, jam, or pies to give away please keep in touch either by coming by at the end of the stand or contacting me.

While I was away most things at the farm went smoothly, though the bees swarmed and there seemed to be some emotions that were stirred up as well. I have been thinking about the work we do a lot and realize that we are more than just trying to make sure everyone has access to healthy local organic produce.More than trying to promote a local gardening movement, more than addressing the issue of global warming, or peak oil. More than educating people about making healthy food choices. More than encouraging people to share rather than buy, sell, or barter. We are working on our relationships and connections with people and our community. We are also working on our relationship or connection to the spirit within and without. In his Restorative Justice work Dominic Barter talks about what Restorative Justice is restoring. He says that what is restored “are connections within people, between people, and in community.”  So our work is similar. We are doing preventive maintenance work in a sense, learning to work and worship together to keep our connections going strong and deep.

Some of the beautiful harvest our volunteers picked went to the stand we set up at the farm.

One Reply to “Picture Perfect Produce”

  1. I am a little jealous of those who have seen the stand grow over the past two years. What used to be a small cart of produce (attached to Tree’s bicycle) has ballooned into two truckloads full of veggies, herbs, bread, and fruit.

    Although each Sunday is wonderful and special with new visitors and volunteers, they also begin to blend together. Now that I can no longer count on one hand my visits to the free farm stand, I thought it might be time to offer a few reflections and ideas.

    Each time I work at the stand I try and allow my imagination wander to imagine what the stand will grow into in the future. The first idea I had was to have music at the park during the stand’s operation. I believe music naturally goes well with sunshine and food and having it at Parque Niños Unidos would bring the stands visitors (the new ones and regulars) together.

    Additionally, before starting my summer work with Tree I have heard of and done research on an idea called a “gift economy.” (side note: this was a key inspiration for me in choosing to do free farming.) And in my research I have come across something called The Really Really Free Market, which turns the traditional ‘free market’ on its head—all attendants are free to bring, give, and receive gifts of all forms. Some bring items (t-shirts, cds, books, etc.) some bring services (massages, haircuts) and others bring their expertise (cooking, relationship advice). Like I have said before, I am well aware that neither this nor the free farm stand is going to solve any or all of our contemporary crises. In any case, I am in favor of experimenting with a different kind of social interaction without money to dictate how I see another human being. Between the rush of visitors and the stand, I often think that we could bring this experiment to the grass. Who knows giving away just food, could be just the beginning.

    I would love to hear your comments on my thoughts as well as your own ideas on where we could go from here.

    Cheers!

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