From Free Farm Stands to Free Pot Stands

It was one of those Free Farm Stand Sundays where when we were finished I got home and was exhausted, but felt it was such a great day. You can’t go wrong when the sun comes out and it turns out to be a beautiful day. In the early morning Griff arrived at my house when I was loading the van and dropped off surplus greens (chard, kale, and collards) from his community garden plot at White Crane Community Garden. Then when I arrived at the park, sitting at the garden gate was a small brown bag of lemon cucumbers with a note that someone dropped off. That felt really sweet. I haven’t gotten around to putting up a sign explaining what the Free Farm Stand is about for all the new people arriving, that it is more than your typical produce give away. Right when we started setting up, some  neighbors and people starting showing up with surplus to share from their backyards. Lemons, oranges,  apples and pears (from Vallejo!), Calamansi fruit, apples from Produce to the People,  and later some rue from Lisa’s garden (I saw people taking it). We seem to be getting less produce from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, but we are still getting a good selection of “hecka local” produce mostly from our farm.  The only other two places I have been consistently harvesting produce from are the permaculture garden which seems to be neglected and not getting replanted and the Esperanza garden which just notified me that they want to save their harvests for their volunteers and they might possibly set up a stand there on Fridays.  We had a lot of green beans and we are still going strong with zucchini and the new collards we planted are just starting to yield. We also had a nice collection of potatoes that are one of the most fun things to grow and harvest. Another nice touch at the Stand is that Michael brought some beautiful ginger flowers that he picked from his backyard garden that he put up for display and then later gave them away to some folks getting produce. Below are some photos from the Stand and the Free Farm.

One of the things that made my day is having Pancho back from his Ahimsa work in Arizona. He actually came to the Free Farm on Wednesday and I got to meet his family from Mexico. I love meeting my family of my friends; it just brings me closer to them.  By the way, Pancho’s dad likes giving hugs too. His stories about the immigration battle going on there were really interesting.

Pancho is really our best diplomat at the Free Farm Stand. I asked him to handle crowd control when people were lining up for the second round of produce. The lines were already long the whole day. I counted 64 people in the first line that went down from the gate down to the corner of 23rd St. and we estimated we served maybe 200 people and that is being conservative in the count! We were really fortunate to have a woman show up to volunteer named Jamie who spoke Mandarin and Cantonese. Pancho and Jamie explained to the crowd in Cantonese, English, and Spanish that for the second shift we would like to give first priority to people who didn’t get produce already and that they should be at the front of the line. They pointed out that things here are run on the honor system and that we wanted everyone to feel like family rather than an institution, and that is why we don’t give out tickets. A young girl translated what they were saying into Arabic for her mother. Later Pancho and Jamie talked to some of the Chinese women and they expressed some criticism of how they were treated last week, like they were being singled out as a group and that they felt hurt. We apologized and I felt it was really great that because of Jamie we were able to initiate some dialog about these issues. It seemed like once we started handing out the produce things went more smoothly and were less tense than the week before.

At some point Jacob came by with his parents who were visiting from Los Angeles and that was also fun meeting them and seeing Jacob. They came just before the second round of produce arrived and Jacob pitched in to help sort it and get it on the table.

I just ran across a video on the internet made by SFSU students about the Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm. It was made on a day that we were serving in the rain and also there is some footage of a sunny workday at the Free Farm. I uploaded it to our section of “Free Farm Stand in the news” on the right sidebar. Also, if you check out the Free Farm blog at I uploaded a slide show that Jacob created about the history of the Free Farm.

I guess the most exciting part of the day is just taking to all the old and new friends that stop by. I was thrilled for example to see Maggie, a former volunteer, who dropped by who is now living in Nevada City working on a CSA farm. She always fills me in with great stories. We got to talking about marijuana (you know I have never grown it even though I love the plant). She was saying a lot of strange stuff is happening in Oakland now with the marijuana industry there. With the possibility of it becoming legal in California I think the challenge is to keep marijuana growing and clubs in the hands of small growers, just like we want to support small farmers. The large corporations are out their waiting and prepared to step in to take over marijuana production and distribution and steer it in the direction that the alcohol, tobacco, and large scale organic  farming industry has gone now. Maggie said she heard of a marijuana grower in the east bay who has started diversifying what they grow to adapt to the changes coming. So they are the first CSA to offer besides fruits and vegetables, a marijuana option. It makes sense drug and food “medicine” in one basket.  I think that the best way to keep things from going corporate is to run a business with the built in safeguard of being free. Maybe once things are legal I will grow pot and give it away at our stand (with a free cottage industry making free vaporizers).

2 Replies to “From Free Farm Stands to Free Pot Stands

  1. Just to clarify, I was thinking of Northstone Organics, which is up north in Ukiah. It’s a non-profit cannabis provider to medical patients, that is also a mixed vegetable farm, and if I’m not mistaken I think they also do pasture raised eggs….

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