I just got an email from an international publisher of art and design books who wants the Free Farm to be included in a new book to be called Urban Farming. They want to “celebrate the energy, attitude, and creativity” of “committed amateurs” like us. It often feels like we are committed amateurs trying our hardest to grow a lot of food to feed the masses and to do so in a way that fosters community and sharing.
We are still working on maintaining a regular weekly supply of farm grown produce. Our biggest challenge is coming up with a constant supply of seedlings to replace the plants when we harvest them. I need to take a chill pill on this, because no matter how much food we grow, it will never be enough to supply to everyone we would like. What transforms our project from a food giveaway program to a special community event is that we encourage people who come to “shop” to consider growing some of their own produce and bring their surplus to share. To be honest only a small number of people who come by understand what we are really about and bring something to share like extra fruit or produce that is growing in their backyard or community garden. So it makes it all the more special and exciting to me when people come by Sunday to the stand with a bag of something to share with others.
This week I didn’t meet the person who brought the cucumbers (18lbs!). Also, someone brought 15lbs of lemons, Produce to the People brought 23lbs of cherry plums, a neighbor also brought plums. Pam brought a small amount of produce, but more exciting is she brought me a half dozen broccoli plants and she showed me how to identify the eggs on the back of the leaves that turn into caterpillars that destroy the plants. Plus she brought some florist tape and showed me how to wrap the stem with the tape to prevent root maggots. A blind neighbor and her lovely children, who were some of the first people to come to the stand two years, came by to share with me some granola they made, and on the lid of the plastic container they put it inwas a “label” on it with a drawing by one of her sons. Actually I think the kids made the granola too. I cherish all these people who bring something to share with others, it just makes the stand a lot more fun and wonderful; it is like a secret part of what is going on that you have to be in the know to know it is happening.
More on sharing: Mike continues to amaze me with his contribution to our free farm stand performance. The bread table is like a beautiful side show and this week besides the hummus he brought, a number of people, including myself, brought samples of our jams and compotes. Phil and Robyn brought jam and I think her apricot jam (one of my favorite fruits) was out of this world.
The amount of leftover stone fruit from the farmer’s market has probably reached it’s peak in the last few weeks and again this week the amount we got was almost unreal. I am cooking more jam as I write, made from the over soft leftovers of the leftovers. We need a fruit processing team who can be called on in a moment’s notice to pick up leftover fruit and process it. We also need more canning jars and lids and a food dryer would be awesome. It would be great to store some of this bounty to give away during the winter when there is little local seasonal fruit around. Let’s turn loose on the world free jams and chutney’s (and hard ciders and wines for our celebrations)!
I noticed that the Hayes Valley Farm and the Wigg Party had another produce giveaway on Sunday. From the photo I saw they had a truck load of stone fruit also. I wonder if they have a need for jam makers too. Morgan who is one of the organizers wrote about how easy it is to do, to collect the waste from the farmer’s market and give it away. I would agree to a certain degree, but the hard part is to sustain a regular project over a long period of time. How many of us are in it for the long haul? I wonder if this is going to be a weekly event and what their hours will be. Also, there is a lot of food going to waste out there and how do we all work together and not duplicate efforts collecting it and sharing it, and not compete for the free resources out there?
Talk about running a project that really needs a reliable volunteer crew every week, I feel that the Free Farm Stand has been so lucky so far to cultivate such a crew. Though I do need to find some people interested in learning how to coordinate the stand so I don’t have to be there every week. For example, coming up Sunday September 19 I need someone to run the stand that day because I have to go to a design meeting for a greenhouse at the Free Farm.
Last Saturday Finn took over coordinating the Free Farm so I got a much needed break and spent some time getting my own backyard garden in shape. This Wednesday Griff will take my place again at the farm. I really appreciate being able step away once in a while.