A Peachy Keen Scene

The berries are ripening on Bernal Hill and yesterday on a warm sunny Sunday the line was snaking down the sidewalk for the Free Farm Stand, another sign of summer here. I counted sixty people in line just when we opened at 1pm and at 2pm there was still a line, but less people in it. We were running low on produce by then and around 2:30pm another huge delivery of leftover produce arrived and the line grew large again. Leftover produce doesn’t really describe the unbelievable amount and quality of the produce that Maureen and her sisters collect at the end of the day at the Stonestown farmer’s market. This week she told me how they might need help collecting it all there is so much. At the end of the day we served at least 150 people and all but a box of bitter melons was left (anyone know of a delicious recipe for these things which are actually beautiful to look at?).

We have already distributed over half a ton of produce that was grown or gleaned hecka locally and this doesn’t include the hundreds of pounds of leftover produce we collect and distribute from the high end farmer’s markets. And now we have a farm which is a lot of fun and it is growing a lot of food for our project. I must admit I am feeling good about all this, but at the same time it is a lot of work and I wonder how sustainable it is, especially for me. Sometimes I am feeling like I am running on empty or running on low. It really takes a community to run a free project like this that is all volunteer run. That is why I am always so grateful for the great team of helpers we have, especially this summer. The dream is that some of us will eventually pool our incomes and resources and start living communally together. I think that is the best way to run service projects, modeled in part on Catholic Worker Communities or kibbutzes or just old fashion karma yoga communes or ashrams. I see the question of sustainability as a big one, especially in projects like gardens run by volunteers.  Right now the Permaculture project at  18th and Rhode Island is a good example of a garden that could use a lot more attention, but it seems to lack a stable group of people keeping it going at its full potential.

We had a pretty good summer spread this week. It always seems to be the story that we often get in the hundreds of pounds from the farmer’s markets of the same thing we get in the handfuls from some of our gardens. This week it was peaches. One of the peach trees growing at 18th and Rhode Island was loaded with peaches (this is the second year in the ground for the tree) and I picked some that were a little hard on Friday and by Sunday a few of them were already soft. It so happened that we had boxes and boxes of organic peaches and nectarines that we collected. While I am talking about fruit I must give a shout out that we need some people we can call last minute who can come and pick up left over fruit that is soft and that needs processing (cooking into compote or jam or juice or blended and made into frozen fruit Popsicle or sorbet). We also need canning jars and lids. This is no joke , some of us have maxed out the capacity of our freezers and refrigerators processing some of the leftover soft and mushy fruit from the stand, plus it is a bit of work. Though the work is worth the delicious reward and good fruit is not wasted.

I harvested the first trombone squash from Esperanza garden and a lot of runner beans from 18th and Rhode Island and Treat Commons.  We also had a lot of zucchini from the Free Farm (and other gardens as well), plus the last of the collards for now, green beans, a handful of the most beautiful carrots, and more potatoes. We had boxes of cherry plums gleaned locally by Produce to the People and their two summer high school kids.  Griff brought by a grab bag of produce grown at Holy Innocents Church, including a most handsome cauliflower, Elizabeth brought peas and herbs from her garden,  Kevin brought some surplus garlic from a garden on Russian Hill (he said he got the original bulbs from our stand), and a neighbor brought a bag of lemons from Bernal Heights.

Our peaches

Susannah wearing bitter melon vine (I am actually not sure what this vegetable is)

The Free Farm is progressing and more and more of the infrastructure is getting finished. We can really use more manure and continue to look for a large truck that can pick up a load or two for us. The free compost we got from Recology I think is less desirable than the manure which seems to be more alive with microbial activity. We may have a slowdown in our next harvest while the new seedlings continue to grow.

One Reply to “A Peachy Keen Scene

  1. Recharging: An Ode to our Volunteers

    I’d like to second Tree’s words on our team of volunteers. It has been such a joy to work at the Stand these past weeks. From my first visit, I was quietly stunned at how smooth the Free Farm Stand ran. Each volunteer fills the needs to make the Stand work with apparent ease. No one is trained, there is no manual—one just watches, follows, and asks questions. Each week we seem to have a nice mixture of veteran volunteers and new comers. Although I do not know much about what the rest of the team does between Sundays, the bond we build behind that bounty of produce is rather extraordinary. We learn from each other about the obscure greens that we regularly give away, we share cooking recommendations; best of all we get the profound pleasure of sharing the experience of giving away straight from the ground, free food to grateful visitors every Sunday.

    Yet, on the other hand I must acknowledge Tree’s additional concern about sustainability. After just working with the Stand for two months, I have found it quite draining at the end of the day. While, as I have mentioned before, the Stand fills me up and brightens my Sunday in ways few other experiences can, my body usually has just enough energy to take me to my BART train, just to fall asleep when I find my seat.

    The Stand is too special of an entity to dissolve, and I don’t believe it will. But I cannot deny that there is a challenge to constantly recharge and sustain our energy as individuals and a group. Lets make sure to save a little energy to give to ourselves, so we can do it all again next week.

    Until next time-

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