Faith based Farming

During the recently passed dark years of our political system something faith based was given a bad rap in my opinion. These days all I am living on is faith (and grace).  Sometimes I feel like things are way out of control in my life, that things are out of my hands. I have to keep the faith.  I love that phrase. We have to reclaim the idea that faith is all of ours and that loving our neighbor is the simple practice we are engaged in.

So the Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm are faith based organizations. I am an advocate of a faith based society and economy. Sharing the wealth and all eating at the same table is what it is all about. It is all about the heart (and maybe keeping our spine fine too).

The other day Angie hung up an orchid plant in our bathroom and it had no soil just roots. I am amazed by it’s beauty and wonder how it works. Being a gardener a plant without soil is a mystery to me. But it reminds me of faith, that it does work somehow.

I really don’t know how our Free Farm Stand works or the Free Farm either. I am humbled by the scene though. We are at the end of summer and we had the largest harvest yet in terms of weight at the Free Farm (164 lbs). It  partly had to do that we harvested a lot of squash (45 lbs of zucchini and 49 lbs of winter squash). One winter squash weighed 30 lbs. It was  from seed brought back from Peru from a friend who grew them in Santa Rosa. He called them zapallos (there is a photo of one he gave me last year in the post for November 23, 2009).   When we set up the table at 1pm there seemed to be more food on the hecka local table than the left- over farmer’s market table. For one thing, Produce to the People gave me 209 lbs of apples they picked from local trees and a friend picked about the same amount from a house on York Street. Neighbors also brought by lemons and more apples. It was too hard for me to weigh everything that came in that day. Yes it is apple season. We have a regular visitor from Vallejo who comes by and brings us fruit from her yard. This week it was apples. What is mind blowing is that she just drops off her fruit that is usually in some beautiful basket and then takes off without getting any vegetables (she did take a loaf of bread). Danny from Sour Flour brought two warm loaves of his freshly baked and delicious whole wheat bread. People dipped it in fresh salsa from tomatoes I think from Esperanza Garden that Alana brought.

So I know this is my weekly mantra by now, that I am also graced out by all the fabulous volunteers that we get every week that make this faith based operation work. And the people that come for food, waiting patiently in a line that goes down the block on Treat and around the corner on 23rd St., are pretty wonderful too.

One disappointing thing that I am trying to direct my faith to and channel some grace upon, is the Permaculture Guild run garden on 18th and Rhode Island.  I think I harvested the last four pounds of produce from that place that we will probably be getting for this year (maybe a few more pounds of cherry tomatoes). I put a lot of energy into that place (and so many others did too) and now it seems neglected and underutilized. It may take some guerilla garden action or something to get it back on track. At least most of the trees are doing well and the apricot tree has a few late apricots.

Talk about underutilized and neglect land. I suggested to the people teaching a Permaculture class at least two years ago that the land next to our community garden in the park where we run the farm stand would be a great design project for one of their students. A few student followed through with that suggestion and came up with a design for an edible landscape there. The plan has changed since then, but the basic idea is the same, to plant fruit trees and edible bushes in the neglected and unused spot against the south facing fence next to the garden in Parque Niños Unidos.  The idea behind this plan is to increase food security in our neighborhood. The organic yield of fruit will be freely distributed through the Free Farm Stand on Sundays as well as to local residents and volunteers that help implement and maintain the fruit orchard. Additionally, the orchard will be a demonstration and educational site for the neighborhood.

I am trying to apply for a grant due at the end of this week and I need a letter of permission from Park and Recreation in support of the project. I sent out a letter to neighbors last week that I needed them to send letters of support for the project, because it looked like I wasn’t going to get that letter from Park and Recreation until I hold a community meeting on the project, to get neighbors support. Now it looks like Park and Recreation is going to approach SF Park Trust about signing the grant application to indicate RecPark support conditional on the outcome of a community meeting to be scheduled shortly. One interesting thing happened as a result of writing to neighbors. A friend who runs a business in the area offered to match the grant with $1500 if we are able to apply.

I really feel like this is an exciting opportunity for all of San Francisco to move towards a more green and sustainable city, where fruit trees and bushes are more commonly planted, in backyards as well as in more city parks. Any letters of support would still be useful, especially if you live in the neighborhood and frequent the park. Please write the people below soon if you feel motivated (and if you don’t mind BCC me a copy). Thanks

MARVIN YEE, Landscape Architect
Capital Improvement Division
Recreation and Park Department
tel:  415.581.2541
fax: 415.581.2540
e:    [email protected]

Eric Andersen
Neighborhood Service Area Manager
Neighborhood Service Area 6
Mission, Bernal Heights
Tel: 415-831-6818
[email protected]

[email protected] (415) 554-6723    (Mayors Office of Neighborhood Services-liaison to District 9)
[email protected] (415) 554-5144     (Board of Supervisors for District 9-Mission)

A sample email would be something like this:

I support the expansion of the fruit orchard that is in Treat Commons Community Garden into the neglected unused space adjacent to it. Please do everything you can to make this project move forward as quickly as possible.

One Reply to “Faith based Farming”

  1. We all need to have a little faith. I’m glad you wrote this article Tree. I find your comments about 18th and Rhode island unfair though. The goal of 18th and Rhode island is multifaceted but is based in showing the potential permaculture can have on the future of our civilization. One of the main activities, soil building is coming along swimmingly there, and if you’ll notice most of the annual plants (many vegetables commonly grown by Free Farm gardens) are not doing well, while the perennial plants (trees, tree collards, perennial arugula, perennial buckwheat and more) are doing superbly well. This is a LONG TERM strategy that puts the not only the current but the future needs of our community at the forefront. It may not produce an abundance of food in years 1 to 3 or 5, but as the soil and the food forest becomes more dense it will out produce any other garden in the city as far as total output compared with total input.

    Agreed, there is much that can be done at that site to bring more life and value to it, but for the amount of energy put in, it is currently doing really well.

    Wishing you well, hoping you can see the forest through trees … Tree. :)
    -Chris

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