How could a Free Farm Stand day be more beautiful?

How could we ever have such a great crew of volunteers helping out?

On Saturday at the Free Farm and Sunday at the Free Farm Stand we had over twenty students from Stanford. Most of the students were taking the class listed below by started by one of our core people Page:

EESS 105:  Food and Community: New Visions for a Sustainable Future (EARTHSYS 105)
Service and research focused on providing healthy and environmentally friendly food for the under served in our community. Hands-on collaboration with the Stanford Glean student group, the Stanford Community Garden, and San Francisco nonprofits. Coverage of the broad spectrum from garden development to food dispersal to the needy. Design and implementation of projects that address an aspect of food and social justice, such as urban farming in low-income communities and sustainable food networks for the elderly. Service Learning Course (certified by Haas Center).
Terms: Aut, Win, Spr, Sum | Units: 3-5 | Repeatable for credit | Grading: Satisfactory/No Credit

There were a few extra students that came along for the ride, literally, to check us out. It is exciting to me to see young and old people getting exciting about the kind of work we do and the community we are building. It is truly subversive to direct the rich resources at Stanford to serve the poor and to turn academia and the center of learning on it’s head. The Free Farm Stand and Free Farm is providing participants a chance to experience real life higher learning which is equally as valuable as the learning that is going on in universities.

Another highlight of the day was when Maureen (who helps collects the surplus farmers market produce on our second shift and brings it to the stand) brought by some bags for the customers that she sewed together using recycled pant leg cloth. And the neighbor who brought some surplus tomatoes from his garden.

How could we have a better selection of fall harvested fruits and vegetables?

Pumpkins (Christy brought some from her garden to supplement our ornamental pumpkins), huge winter squash, green beans, tomatoes, pomegrantes, late figs,  and apples and pears. The apples gleaned by Produce to the People came from a school in the Bayview that had six trees that were not getting picked and I heard the garden too needed attention. Pretty sad. I harvested a big oyster mushroom from the FARM next to the California College of Arts and Crafts. That garden on Hooper Street now has some beautifully designed beds and a couple of seats made from a wood pallet.

The beautiful green, brown, and red pears also came from the amazing Lauren and her roommate who drove up to Clear Lake and picked an orchard with 800-1000 pear trees and came back with 70 boxes of fruit. She said they only made a small dent in picking pears up there and it would be great if we could find a driver with a vehicle that could go up and harvest more.  There is also an apple orchard up by Tahoe that can be harvested. What an abundant place we live in!  Stanford Glean provided  figs, apples, and pomegranates!

How could we have a more powerful 10-10-10 power day?

Our Sunchoke cooking demo didn’t quite take off (we will try again next week perhaps), but we did get a photo of the Sunchokes laid out to spell 350 in honor of the global climate change day. And the Sunchokes we harvested from Esperanza garden were very popular.

We also had a visit of 40 bicyclists on a tour visiting different gardens and food projects in the city and I spoke to them for ten minutes or so (using a megaphone for the first time…it felt like I was rallying in the masses). I only hope that with all that the talking I have been doing recently explaining what we are doing I can find people that want to help us run our programs. I would love to take a break more often.

Last Thursday we had our community meeting to discuss my proposal to plant 8 fruit trees in Parque Niños Unidos and basically extend the existing community garden into an underutilized space and create a mini orchard. I must admit that there seemed to be a shortage of permie type people showing up, but I did get a fair turnout of people that support the idea and expressed it at the meeting. Unfortunately this project would have easily sailed forward  (I had a number of people send in letters of support and the previous Sunday we had gathered 144 signatures of people supporting the project) had it not been for the handful of people who  didn’t support the idea.  Most of the objections had to do with taking away the open space where the trees would go if a fence were erected. However, Park and Recreation people that were at the meeting said there was no requirement that there be a fence around the area. The biggest problem with this going forward is the the Lower 24th St.  Neighborhood Association sent a letter to Park and Recreation  opposing the project. Here is some of what their letter said:

we feel this project is a worthy cause but in the wrong location. With shortage in
open space in the neighborhood, we feel this park should focus on maintaining the park for the youth in the area. Safety for the kids and families should be number one priority and fruit trees could become a hazard for small children if not maintained properly. A small
child could pick fruit (with seed) from the ground and swallow and create issues of liability for the city.

Another woman from that group and who also is part of our community garden had these objections:

I have never been in favor of expanding the community garden because it would reduce the open space used by small kids to run around and play.

…  some have expressed 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.

She also claimed at the meeting that in the early days of the garden when we had a low fence the garden was trashed and that kids picked tomatoes and broke windows in the neighborhood.

It is amazing how so many people are afraid of trees and see them as a hazard (either to kids or neighborhoods where criminals could lurk behind them and kids could climb them). Recently I spoke to a friend from the Czech Republic who told me that one of her fondest childhood memories was going to a public park where they had cherry trees planted and she would climb the cherry tree and eat cherries. Our modern playground lack these climbing trees because of fear of lawsuits and liability and codes. And I am not even suggesting planting trees that could be climbed.

Fortunately at the meeting a number of non-obstructionist people spoke  and thought that open space and planting fruit trees were not incompatible. Now I have been invited to a meeting with the two big opposition people and Recreation and Park to review the public comments  and figure out the next steps. They said that people who were too shy to speak at the meeting could send in their comments. If anyone that couldn’t make it to the meeting and hasn’t already sent in a letter of support wanted to write them that may be helpful (especially addressing the issue of open space and also the safety of kids and the neighborhood). I think Park and Recreation needs to see there are way more people that support this project than those who think it should be somewhere else and who believe that the open space can be preserved by either having no fence or a low fence. Please send me a copy of any support letters that are sent.

MARVIN YEE, Landscape Architect
Capital Improvement Division
Recreation and Park Department
[email protected]

[email protected]

Here are some recent photos from our Free Farm:

Long lines and a lot of food. The beet does go on and the squash, tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, sunchokes, and all the summer fruits and vegetables parade on our table. Five and a half tons of hecka local produce distributed that I have weighed starting in 2009,  and the Free Farm, the little farm that could, produced 2 tons of produce since the start of this year.

It was nice that I got a call from Alana from Esperanza Garden telling me they had surplus produce to harvest so we got some squash, tomatoes, and kale from that garden. Also, I found a few ears of corn. We also harvest quite a bit of produce from Treat Commons Community Garden. The runner beans produced a whole new crop of delicious flat green beans. A neighbor brought some apples and lemons. That garden and the Secret Garden really need people to work there. Alana is leaving town for at lest six months and  the Secret Garden needs gardeners. People thinking about the 10-10-10 day of action (see below) should consider going all the way and take over a garden not for just one day, but for six months or a year. More food grown means more food to share at the Free Farm Stand.

Next week is 10-10-10 which is a global action day for climate change.  Hayes Valley Farm and Kitchen Garden SF are hosting a 350 Garden Action Day and organizing a number of events ( The Free Farm Stand will be open as usual. As always, we encourage people to bring surplus produce to share with other others at the stand to share with those in need. We will also have some seed planting going on and perhaps some seedlings to give away. I think as much as we are focusing on climate change we also have to pay attention to the food justice issue and make sure we are supporting those in need. Recently I have been thinking  about how difficult these times are for people who don’t have much money or a place to live because they can’t afford the rents in the bay area. This issue has hit home personally because I have two friends that I have known for a while that are both couch surfing (one is staying with Angie and I for a couple of weeks). One friend is undergoing chemo for breast cancer and also has to deal with being somewhat homeless. I imagine that having to come up with money to eat healthy is a challenge for a lot of people (especially people on fixed incomes) and families, so it is hard for me to ignore this reality and concentrate on just the issue of climate change. I am thinking now of a song by Bertolt Brecht from the Three Penny Opera:

whatever you may do whatever you aspire
first feed the face and then talk right and wrong
for even saintly folk may act like sinners
unless they’ve had their customary dinners

I was visiting another friend last week who just got diagnosed with lung cancer and is undergoing chemo. Fortunately he has a beautiful home to live in. On his wall he had one of the original sixties diggers poster with the words 1% Free. The idea behind the poster was that Haight Street merchants and Rock Bands should contribute 1% of their profits to fund various free projects. I was thinking with inflation it should now be 5% Free (even some credit cards give a 5% rebate for purchases).  Then yesterday in the park I ran into a man named Yaron who once came into our community garden to possibly join it. He is the guy who opened the hip new restaurant on 24th Street called Mission Eatery, part of the rapidly expanding hipster gentrification scene going on here. His eatery is like us in that it is all about local and feeding people…though with him it is for people who can afford to eat there. He is actually a really nice man and I love his young son  Cruv who helped me pick up and sort a box of spilled okra and cucumbers. I was thinking I should have told him about my 5% Free idea, but I was not so bold. Anyway, I am sure like small farmers, small businesses are struggling to survive too (until they become really popular and successful). But we could come out with a 5% Free poster.

This coming Thursday evening at 6:30pm is the community meeting about planting a community orchard in the park where we set up the stand. Pancho helped collect a lot of signatures in support of the idea and I am hoping we can get a good showing at the meeting that supports the plan.  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
For more information or to request translation services for the
meeting, please call:
Eric Andersen at (415) 831-6818, Recreation and Park Department