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.
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.