Diggers and Digger Wasps

I wasn’t at the free Farm Stand yesterday because I was at the Free Farm working with an architect and others developing a master plan for the site and more specifically seeing if we could come up with plans for a greenhouse, shed, and multipurpose space..

I do know that the van was loaded with forty boxes of figs that were left over from the Ferry Building Farmers market and a lot of Acme bread. Plus we had the usual summer produce from the Free Farm.

I can report on the Free Farm. We are rapidly moving into fall and the harvests are getting smaller. Most of the collard greens we planted got eaten by the Cabbage Butterfly caterpillars and I also think we might  have Cabbage Loopers too. I just learned from Pam Pierce’s excellent book  Golden Gate Gardening, that the Cabbage Looper is the larvae of the Brown Moth and it moves like an inch worm or loops. The Cabbage Butterfly larvae is a caterpillar that looks almost the same,it  just crawls. Anyway  we have been kind of laid back about pests so far in this farm and as a result our crop is mostly gone. I think we need to put reemay plastic (spun polyester cloth) over the baby seedlings in the future).

One of the accomplishments of the farm, besides growing 1,849 pounds of produce in 6 months time, is that more wildlife has started visiting the site. Besides these pesky moths and butterflies, hummingbirds are visiting and I just took a photograph of a native bee that lives at the farm and is nesting in the sandy paths. She is called Bembix sand wasp or digger wasp.

She is a digger wasp and we are a new generation of diggers:

“We come in peace, they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the land in common
And to make the waste land grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it can be
A common treasury for all.”

sunflower pollinator plants

We are also building soil with the tons of manure we have brought in and the beautiful compost we are making.

I also have been loving the visitors that walk in or come by for some produce on Saturday. On Saturday I joined a conversation Pancho was having with Mohammed, a man who lived nearby who is from Morocco.  When I told him my name he told me a something Mohammed said. That if you are planting a tree and the end of the world comes, keep planting the tree, don’t stop. I read this quote online which is pretty similar: When doomsday comes, if someone has a palm shoot in his hand , he should plant it.

It seems every week we get new helpers too. They come and go and come back again and they all enrich our lives as they enrich the farm and we all enrich each other. I just read an interesting article in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/magazine/12food-t-000.html) about how summer internships on farms has become very popular with young people these days and the interest in farming has really grown.  Like us, these farmers have been depending on this labor volunteer force to really make their farms successful. I would really love to have an urban house to put up some of our visiting volunteer crew.

Here is a beautiful article by Jason Mark who helps run Alemany Farm:  Bullets and Beets: Murder at the Farm Stand (http://food.change.org/blog/view/bullets_and_beets_murder_at_the_farm_stand).  It made me think about what we at the Free Farm are doing. Jason says, “Distributing food in a low-income area is a nice initiative for an urban farm —and nice is about it. The Alemany residents that pick up organic fruits and vegetables at the stand appreciate and value the food; I know this because they’ve told me, and because they keep coming back. Yet our modest accomplishments to boost food security are wholly inadequate to address the crisis of violence that grips a poor community. No one is under the illusion that growing beets can stop the bullets.In trendy, foodie San Francisco, however, many people seem more interested in the beets — and would prefer to ignore the bullets.” Our situation at Gough and Eddy is different and  I am not aware of the bullet kind of violence in our neighborhood. There is the poverty kind of violence and hardship, and food insecurity. There is also loneliness, isolation, and mental craziness that many struggle with.  People come by all the time wanting to make some kind of connection with what is going on at the farm. Sometimes it is just curiosity or wanting some fresh vegetables. Sometimes people on the street walking by just want to talk and we seem to be a safe space for that to go on. I think any project that serves the poor and disfranchised should contain a component that helps serve the spiritual needs of the people seeking help. Just being closer to nature or gardening can often provide that kind of comfort.

We had a lovely Design Charette led by the architect Vivek Anand and four others where we explored questions like:

Why should we build anything besides what we have on site?
What is your wishlist?
Most important item to build?
Which other groups can we learn from?
How do we need to distinguish ourselves from other groups?
What does the neighborhood need that we can provide on this site?
What can be a spiritual aspect of our design?
What could be an interfaith aspect of our design?
What should be the qualities of the design/landscape/architecture/construction?
What are the important elements of a masterplan for this site?
How should the edges of the site be designed?
What about parking and road access?

We did at the end get into some specifics of shed and greenhouse/multipurpose space design. We came away with the basics of a master plan for the site and plenty of projects we could work on in the future to implement the plan. I think our next month or so will be exploring what we kind of greenhouse/shed can we get built on the site and moving ahead with that project.

One last thing is that a community meeting has been organized on Oct. 7 at 6:30 pm to talk about putting fruit trees in the park where the Free Farm Stand is held every Sunday. The more people I can get to come to that meeting and speak in favor of putting trees there the better. Especially people who use that park (I guess that would include people who come to the Free Farm Stand) or live in the neighborhood). I say this because there is at least on woman who is encouraging people to come to oppose the project. Below are some of her objections:

“… it would reduce the open space used by small kids to run around and play.

…concerns about putting fruit trees in the space where railroad tracks once ran through this former industrial-use site. [she is saying that the fruit from the trees may be contaminated]

…concern about flies and odors from the fruit on the ground. There is also a good possibility that fallen fruit could attract more rodents that already can be found in and around the compost bins. Also, the open space feel of the park would be lost if the area behind the gazebo is fenced off.

Here is the information about the meeting coming up:

The Recreation and Park Department invites you to participate in a community meeting regarding a proposal to expand the community garden at Parque Ninos Unidos for a fruit orchard.  Parque Ninos Unidos is located at 23rd Street and Treat Ave.  Your input is very important!  Everyone is invited to attend!  Pass the word around! The meeting is scheduled as follows:

DATE: October 7, 2010 (Thursday)
TIME: 6:30 P.M. to 8:00 P.M.
PLACE: Meeting Room at Parque Ninos Unidos – Clubhouse
At 23rd Street and Treat Ave

One Reply to “Diggers and Digger Wasps”

  1. Hi,
    I didn’t comment earlier because couldn’t do it on my blackberry so now I’m on a regular computer and am. Two comments:

    Hummingbirds are so cool! I love that some of the wildlife has a good place in the hood to go. They need food and shelter too.

    I’ll be at the meeting about adding an orchard to the park. I think the woman who is against it is misinformed about a few things but she has a point that the orchard would fit in better without a fence. She does have a right to her opinion but the more of us who want a more natural park that meets more needs who will be heard, the better. Hopefully the time I volunteered in the park gives me some kind of voice.

    Yay Tree for doing this!

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