The Hecka Local table looked pretty good at the Free Farm Stand yesterday. Yacón root,, lettuce, chard, and kale from the Free Farm, more sunchokes from Berkeley, Haas avocados from Kali Garden (almost across the street from the stand), fava bean leaves from 18th and Rhode Island, greens from the Secret Garden, including the most beautiful tree collards with purple stripping on the leaves, San Francisco oranges picked by Produce to the People, and oranges from Stanford Glean.  We also had a lot of  left-over produce from the Ferry Building farmer’s market and Noe Valley Farmer’s market, considering it is supposedly  winter time. Despite all the produce we ran out around 1:30pm! More left over farmer’s market produce showed up at around 2:30pm.

I am on the Feeling Grateful bandwagon again, though I don’t think I ever hopped off. I am so grateful for the lovely rain we had, precious water that quenched the thirst of our plants, like the bamboo and lemon tree we just transplanted at the Free Farm on Saturday. Then it was a miracle that the sky mostly cleared up for the Free Farm Stand. I am feeling grateful for all the beautiful volunteers we have that make the stand something special.

Mike's yummy and popular homemade hummus

Yacón root..the root you divide for propagation

Yacón root...the root for eating

Yacón root...sliced for tasting raw

Garden Anchor Kim and her friend from with Secreet Garden Bounty

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden

 I did bring sprouting potatoes for planting to the stand but only a few people took them.

Potatoes can be grown almost anywhere outside where there is sunlight for part of the day. At the farm we have three methods of growing them demonstrated. I know not everyone wants to be a gardener or farmer, but it is a fun and  valuable life lesson to grow some of your own food and to be connected to that mysterious and pretty amazing growing power

I am also feeling grateful for the fact that we got the plastic covering one of our newly built greenhouses and it is looking likely that we can start growing more seedlings soon. It is fun to have a dream and run with it and to see it becoming it’s own thing over time.  This dream of sort of opening a free nursery is getting ready for takeoff, though I am convinced I don’t really know what I am doing. I am just taking one step at a time. Please check out our sister blog for lots of fabulous photos from down on the farm. These days thanks to the Getup grads who are interning with us now, the blog is being updated weekly and they are doing an excellent job

For people that do want to get more into the dirt and garden air there are places to do that all over the city.

 The Esperanza garden for example, on Florida and 19th Sts. is looking for a garden anchor, someone to open the garden at least once a week and keep it watered and weeded.  I will train anyone that would like to take over that responsibility and help grow food to give away at the stand or other possible places. Community gardens like these are the way of the future, places where neighbors can garden together (not in separate plots) and share their surplus with other neighbors in need.

Vanessa one of our beautiful volunteers

On Thursday  February 17 at 1pm in City Hall room 400 the Planning Commission will hold a hearing about an Urban Agriculture zoning proposal they are going to vote on and make law.  I haven’t really studied the issue in depth , but there are a couple of things that I don’t like about the proposal that I am hoping will be changed if enough people go to the meeting or sign a petition. One silly requirement of the zoning proposal is that gardens with fencing have to be made of wood or be ornamental. The other is “change of use” permit fees for larger urban farms. The San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance (SFUAA) has a lot of information on their site and a FAQ section, plus copies of the proposal on line, and lettters to sign to fax or email in (

Between the scionwood exchange, the Free Farm Stand, and the fabulous weather, I would say it was a great weekend.  I loved the Free Farm Stand this week. Again we were low on produce, though that is a bit relative, we had more than last week, and it is amazing we had so much considering it is winter. I liked the produce we did have to give away. A neighbor came by with 10 lbs of lemons and Robert who helps run the Secret Garden brought surplus Sunchokes from the school garden in Berkeley where he teaches gardening. I harvested some Yacón root from the Free Farm. We didn’t have enough to give away so we sliced it and gave out samples. It is known as Bolivian Sunroot,  but is grown in the Andes of  Peru and Ecuador. It was a real hit (everyone liked the sweet juicy taste) and we were lucky that Spike dropped off a root she had at her home that was sitting in water and sprouting. It was nice to  to show people how they grow (each plant has the root that grows and that you divide to replant and the storage root that you eat). I hope to propagate more of these plants and give them away in the future. The Sunchokes that Robert dropped off are a relative of the Yacón root (they are in the daisy family) and they were very popular as well. I believe that roasting the Sunchokes in a little olive oil is the best way to cook them.

I must mention that Mike has his own “performance” every week at the bread table at the Free Farm Stand. It is quite a delicious show and recently he has been making the most yummy Kimchhi. I really appreciate Mike and the energy he brings to the stand every week, coming up with delicious prepared foods to share on the bread he gives out.

It is exactly what I imagine  the stand should be: a number of tables with people sharing what interests them or in other words sharing themselves with our neighbors. My longtime friend Jet was also there handing out surplus Maya Arte calendars for 2011…they are produced by a mutual friend Joe who is supporting Guatemalan artists by making these calendars and also selling their paintings.

Some of our great helpers this week

I hope I am not too much of a hippie when I say this photo sums up our Free Farm Stand

I mentioned the scionwood exchange, a yearly event I enjoy going to where people who like to grow fruit trees gather and share wood from their trees for grafting. Like if I want to grow a Santa Rosa Plum on my Satsuma plum tree I can get a Santa Rosa Plum branch and graft  or splice it onto the Satsuma plum tree I have.  The event is more than just getting the wood, it is connecting with others who are passionate about growing fruit (and gardening in general) and it is a good place to talk fruit and meet some  great people. I for example learned that a friend of mine in San Francisco has a Gwen avocado tree in his backyard and I got some wood from him from his tree. Another person I met on a garden tour two years ago told me what his favorite pear is—the Passe-Crassane variety.  This is knowledge you really can’t get anywhere else.

Guesss which fruit in the picture below is planted at the Free Farm? It hasn’t born fruit yet and the name is Pepino Dulce.  I see another fruit growing at the farm too…called Passion Fruit  (and we got fruit from it this year).

I continue to be excited by our greenhouse project, especially as we move closer to finishing them. I am hoping we can get them finished being built soon.  It is feeling like an early spring at the moment and that exciting projects are rumbling below, ready to burst up and sprout.  I will be doing some grafting of trees probably Thursday at my home and Saturday at the Free Farm if anyone wants to see how I do it. We will also be doing more construction on the greenhouses Wednesday and Saturday, and also Wednesday I will be helping prune some avocado trees and cleaning up a garden I worked in for years in the Mission. Please contact me if you want to join in the fun.