We all know the words from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
This week I was thinking about money and I was reminded of Coleridge’s poem. There is money money everywhere nor any drop to drink. People out of jobs, services being cut and constant talk about cutting the deficit, homeless individuals and families, good friends of mine who are couch surfing because they can’t afford the rents here, our line at the Free Farm Stand getting longer. Yet there is money money everywhere for wars and prisons and prison guards. On a local level I am aware how much money is around too. Last week I read that City Slicker Farms, one of the projects that inspired me to start our farm stand, was awarded $4,000,000 for a “West Oakland Park and Urban Farm” project. I also got an email from the planning department that “the City has been awarded $2.7 million from a state grant to fund the development of the 17th and Folsom Street park.” On a smaller scale Hayes Valley Farm just raised $20,660 for their project through Kickstarter, and combining the three projects that I know of that have raised money through Kickstarter, (Little City Farms, Produce to the People, and now Hayes Valley Farm) $51,277 has been raised for urban agriculture projects. I am assuming this is just raising money from friends and family. The Free Farm as I mentioned got a fund sharing grant for $50,000 (the Food & Agriculture Focus Area Fund is “an innovative form of grant making that invites grantees to learn about each other’s work and collaboratively use a pool of funds to support their missions”), and the Free Farm Stand just found out it is getting $3,000 from the The Seed Fund which was totally unsolicited on my part. Oh I forgot to mention that I found out the church on 19th and Dolores that housed our soup kitchen Crumbz years ago and got turned into the 10 million dollar Castle on the Park, was finally sold and a lot of local Lutheran Churches got $20,000 each after the sale. And some rich person got some a two bedroom castle across from Dolores Park
I find the situation not only surreal, but it drives me a bit crazy thinking about aall this money. Sometimes I am jealous of other groups that get lots of money. I would love a large chunk of change to buy an empty lot in the Mission (I know one in particular I would love to buy) or maybe a large cardboard shredder. I can’t really be jealous though because I don’t really put the effort into getting that kind of money and I guess I am more a happy camper who lives on faith and SSI. Though I would love to buy a house that I could run my version of a home of love, prayer, healing, and hospitality. I once wrote about the idea of an urban kibbutz that I still dream about. The Free Farm Stand is all volunteer effort and actually uses little money. The money we are getting will go more into the Free Farm and some into vehicle maintenance and gas. The thing with me and money is that I have an allergic reaction to trying to sell myself and would find it hard to run ad campaign on Kickstarter for example, trying to convince people to give us money. I personally would get turned off if I would write something like “every $25 goes into feeding two hungry kids a week and $100 would also bring a Kobacha squash into one low income home in the Mission.” It would make more sense for to me to write something like “for every million dollars donated, one wall of a house could be purchased and if you donate 2 million we could score an empty lot suitable for free farming.”
So my craziness comes from believing the earth is a common treasury for all to share, saving no to private property, we are just earth/property stewards, that we should never become landlords, that we should do things for free, run projects with all volunteer staff and possibly small stipends, keep poor and small and humble. The reality is it is hard to run projects and hang onto your ideals in San Francisco or the Bay Area just because the costs are so high here. I recognize we do need money to run our projects. The RSF Social Finance organization (the group that provided the $50,000 grant mentioned above), wrote something that I really agree with: “We encourage all parties in financial transactions to be awake to the needs of the others involved, to activate a high degree of altruism as a counter-balance to self-interest, and to make decisions in this framework.”
It was such a beautiful day at the Stand yesterday and some wonderful sharing going on. What a difference a sunny day makes. We had a great showing of Stanford volunteers who brought seedlings they grew to hand out at the Stand and they brought for the second time some delicious bread from an artisan bakery in Palo Alto. Pam brought more apples and a neighbor brought some really handsome turnips he grew that his wife doesn’t like to eat. I work with someone at a soup kitchen who also doesn’t like turnips and I always wonder what the deal is with turnips…I love them in a hearty soup. The prize of the day were avocados (maybe 20-30lbs…the scale only goes to 10 lbs) that came from the Kali Garden that I wrote about in my last post. Unfortunately the avocados came from a mistake of over pruning on the part of an overzealous gardener. I love avocado trees so much, I am looking forward to someday propagating avocado trees and giving them away. So one day there will be avocados for everyone in the Mission to share. They do grow well here. Talk about money, we should all live on the new gold standard, the avocado.
Here some more tidbits: I have been enjoying reading the blog from my friends at Little City Farms, http://www.littlecitygardens.com/. They have some great timely information about garlic and we have been enjoying the photos of their greenhouse. We had our greenhouse meeting and we can move forward with the design we have. On the Free Farm website (http://thefreefarmstand.org/) keep looking for more information on how you can help and what we will need. Our goal is to have a greenhouse raising day on January 17th, Martin Luther King Service Day and we will have other activities and a celebration of one year of the farm. I have also decided to close the Free Farm Stand starting December 12th and we will reopen January 9th. This coming Saturday November 20th I plan to package some special items to give away at the Free Farm Stand the next day, to have a special give away before Thanksgiving. I have some olives that need packaging and some homemade jams. If anyone wants to help please contact me. I of course am already in the holiday spirit and am feeling more than Thankful and Grateful for all the blessings in my life.