Yesterday I was reminded of the importance of connections, starting with the mycelium in our soil. On Friday I harvested a 2 pound oyster mushroom in the FARM garden next to the California College of Arts. These oyster mushroom I think were planted a year or so ago when Robyn started the project and they have been producing mushrooms there for a while. Jeff who knows mushrooms has been keeping an eye on them and alerted me to the fact that the mushroom had come up again and I might want to pick it (even though it could probably double in size) since there was a snow warning.   On Sunday he came by the stand for the first time and I got to meet him in person. He reminded me that mushrooms are responsible for making the soil we grow food in.

It was a slim pickings day for produce on Sunday. I felt so thankful that the Esperanza garden, though needing a lot of attention right now, still had a lot of unpicked kale (10 lbs), a lot of oregano, and I also found some trombone squash that had gone from summer squash to winter squash and was hanging happily on the vine, its hardened skin making it ideal to store outside on the vine. Unfortunately my camera died while I wasat the stand so I have no photos. I tasted one and it was sweet and orange inside. A new friend Melissa who has just moved here from Seattle helped me harvest the garden and she may help open the garden on a regular basis.  I am still waiting to hear from others who have shown some interest in the garden and it is just a matter of making connections and finding people with some time to anchor the garden.  We are just like the community of ‘shrooms that depend on each other and the networks we create.  We can grow a lot more food and feed those in need if we just work together and grow food wherever we can and share it with each other.

The Free Farm is at a low point right now in terms of the produce it is producing, due to the distractions of building greenhouses and sheds. This week most the harvest went to the Free Farm Stand there on Saturday. The donations from the Farmer’s Markets were also on the low side. Again it was the connections that our stand has made with friends, neighbors, and other gardens that to me saved the day. Maybe because it was the end of the month and the day was sunny and beautiful, we seemed to have a long line and I knew we were going to run short of produce.  Right at the beginning Kim dropped by with some produce harvested from the Secret Garden and that lifted my spirits. Also, Niru harvested a bit of kale and chard from Treat Commons. Then right when we were running out of what little we had, Pam showed up with more produce from her garden. I also appreciated the variety she brought and it was a perfect example of what is available this time of year in our shady backyards:  A collection of edible flowers, miners lettuce, New Zealand spinach, corn salad or mache, some baby beets, and I think arugula. Here is a shout out to arugula, which like I mentioned last week, we seem to have a lot of this time of year. What a heroic plant to feed us our bitters in the cold season. The San Francisco Permaculture Guild had a Tree Collard Green Cook-off last month that I heard was a big success at their monthly 1st Wednesday meeting (how about a shout out to Tree Collards too!).This month they are doing an arugula cook-off.   Everyone that came seemed so appreciative for what we had, even though we were giving out such small amounts.

Mike continues to make his delicious hummus to serve on bread and I have been brining jars of fruit jam that I made last summer with the left over squished fruit we had.  Wayne also has started bringing his amazing homemade vegan spreads, so the Stand seems fun and cheery and more than just about getting produce, but also about people connecting with each other.

Please check out the Free Farm blog for lots of pictures from last Saturday’s work day. I think Wednesday we will be planting more seeds in our newly finished greenhouse and there might be some carpentry action on the second greenhouse (anyone skilled in framing or hanging doors please drop by). Also, Wednesday there is a meeting of the Capital Committee of Park and Recreation,  and my pet project of planting trees in the park is on the agenda. I think the expansion of the garden will be approved, but anyone with the time can come and speak in favor of it at 2pm in room 416. I think we are 1st on the agenda.

The controversy over the Dervaes Institute copyrighting the term Urban Homestead continues as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has gotten involved and they wrote a very impressive letter to the Institute. You can read about it here and their letter: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/02/riding-fences-urban-homestead-trademark-complaints. Again this is not the way we build our soil, by entering the legal world of copyrights and warning letters, and take down requests.

My friend Megan from Welcome Ministry and the Free Farm is posting this job announcement. It seems like a really good opportunity to make some money while doing good non-profit work and having some free time to volunteer with us: http://sfcare.blogspot.com/.


Yesterday was such a turnaround day.  To really get what is going on with the Free Farm Stand and to understand  my total excitement, you must check in at the Free Farm blog once in a while (http://www.thefreefarm.org/). Especially right now we have some fabulous bloggers taking photos and recording the workdays.  It was a turnaround day because after getting totally soaked the day before (despite working in a greenhouse a lot of the time), the sun came out in all its gloriousness and blessed us with her warming rays.

I think we should call this season the arugula season, because it seems a lot of farmers are growing this now and they seem to grow way more then they sell. I was really pleased that the Free Farm provided 23lbs of kale and 5 lbs of lettuce, all harvested in the rain by our great team of volunteers.

Last week there has been other urban agricultural news.  One thing that caught the attention of probably all of us in the food growing world is the controversy around the actions of the Dervaes family (http://urbanhomestead.org/), who patented the phrase “Urban Homesteading”. This family early on has been an inspiration to me and I am sure many others in their work of growing so much food at their small Pasadena home. I myself wouldn’t say I am part of the urban homesteading movement. It reminds me of the days when the back to the land movement happened and there seemed to be a lot of attention to individual and self-centered survival.  Not that I don’t think it is great to get off the grid and feed our own families, but I think there also needs to be a focus of creating networks of sharing with our neighbors, especially those in need. How about an Urban Sharing Homestead or Farmstead?

It did bother me though reading that the Dervaes family did approach Facebook and asked for sites to be shut down that used the phrase Urban Homestead. In particular, Ruby who is a longtime friend who I admire for her great work across the bay, the Institute of Urban Homesteading (http://www.iuhoakland.com/),  had to change the name of her Facebook page to the New Institute of Urban-Home-steading (with a hyphen).  It is funny that everyone (the Dervaes family and the urban homesteaders who sell classes or homestead products) seems to be against the corporatization and commercialism of our emerging culture. They want to protect it somehow from the capitalists, from there being corporate owned homesteading jingles on TV or in Newsweek. The only way I see that happening is for us all to go free since it is harder to make a buck off of something that is totally free and promotes sharing.  Here are two links about this silly  but deep controversy and there is even now a Take Back the Urban Homestead page on Facebook.

http://www.baycitizen.org/food/story/oakland-homesteading-school-caught/

http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/2011/02/urban_homestead_drama.php

The good news is that there is always something beautiful growing in our garden we call daily living. Tomorrow the San Francisco Seed Library opens at the Potrero Library (https://sites.google.com/site/sfseedlibrary/home). I went through their 31 page catalog with 374 plant varieties. One can check out seeds anytime the library is open for free! A big thank you to all the people and Transition SF that made this project a reality!

Two last things.

From reading our Free Farm blog I learned about a new website administered by our San Francisco government, SF Food–http://www.sfgov3.org/index.aspx?page=753 . Some of their links seem out of date and there is no mention of us on their site (maybe that is a good thing). I did like seeing the SF Food Security Task Force’s “Hunger and Food Insecurity On the Rise in San Francisco” report dated November 2010.  They claim that over 17,000 lbs. of fresh produce and honey was contributed by the urban agricultural community in San Francisco to needy San Franciscans in 2010. I wonder if they got those figures partly from us (we distributed almost 13,000 lbs. of hecka locally grown produce since we starting recording weights in 2009).

Here is news from the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance  (http://www.sfuaa.org/ ). The Planning Commission approved the urban agriculture zoning proposal last week. However, “The Commission did not support waiving permit fees, changing fencing language or pooled produce…” So if you grow food to give away other rather than just for you and your family consuming it on site, you supposedly need to pay a fee to do that, if I understand things correctly; and the fence around your farm can’t be chain-link, and you can’t give away bowls of homemade guacamole from your avocado trees without a permit  fee. Or maybe that is only if you start a new farm. Still permit fees discourage doing things for those without much money.