Crop Sharing

I am wondering if newspaper editors come up with a homey working class theme for their newspapers around Labor Day.  Yesterday at the Free Farm Stand a volunteer said we were mentioned in the Sunday Chronicle.  So I looked the article up online and while searching the paper I came up with these articles:

We were mentioned in the article “Popularity of crop swaps is growing”.  I don’t think the reporter contacted anyone in our group about this article and though I thought what she wrote was sort of accurate, she  mistakenly lumped us in as another crop swap where you have to bring something from your garden to trade to get something. I actually just wrote this reporter to tell her my two cents about crop swapping and how that is not us:
“… In fact, although what we do support some of the same goals as crop swaps, we have fundamental differences with the bartering movement, which we see as just another form of capitalism, the “ism” that we have now that is broken and doesn’t work. While we support the idea of building strong neighborhood networks of people growing food, where we differ is that we believe neighbors should get together and share their surplus produce not barter or swap it which is just like selling.  This kind of seemingly friendly activity only encourages more business as usual, as in promoting business behavior among humans who are really all family. As a community we need to cultivate trust and sharing and that is what our program is really about. We are not charity workers, but beautiful share croppers.  Where love is the crop we are growing and we are sharing our crop with all. Yes it is about serving the needs of low income individuals and families, but it is more. We strive to educate people about  the connection between what we eat and their health (we promote a non-animal based or vegan diet) and we encourage and teach people how to grow their own food, even if they don’t have a backyard (we distribute seedlings and recently sprout kits to make it easier for people to try growing something). Most importantly we are all about free and the idea of doing things to encourage the growth of generosity in our hearts. For us having the opportunity to serve and be kind and compassionate to others in need is the most beautiful gift and experience.”
I was thinking that maybe the media attention on local food growing fad might have calmed down a bit (I mean I was thinking what else is there to say about the subject?), but it still seems like things are off the hook with interest in food, farming,  homesteading,  etc.  To me it’s a bit of a vegan hippie’s nightmare out there.  The article about the restaurant Locavore tops the cake of where sort of good intentions go wrong (good intentions like wanting to have a restaurant that serves local organic food and creating a space “that has the right vibe”   by “artfully surrounding the bulbs hanging from the ceiling with chicken wire…a recycler’s dream”.)  I am so out of it I didn’t even know we had this restaurant in my hood (though I do know the owner of another restaurant around the corner from me called the Local Mission Eatery).
We also got written up in Mission [email protected] again without being contacted by the reporter ( What? Free produce!), though I remember him coming out and talking to some of our volunteers and taking pictures. He actually didn’t say much, but it did make us sound like another trendy food trip in the Mission, which I guess we are in many ways.
Not surprisingly, we have, at least during these abundant summer months,  become way more popular with the lines this week and last now going around the block onto 23rd  St., despite it being Burning Man week. Maybe it’s the economic times we are in, because a lot of the folks coming are families and seniors from the neighborhood.  Someone suggested we hand out numbers so people can wait sitting on the grass and not having to stand in a line on the sidewwalk  and I am thinking we may have to go to that system to make things better.
The quality of the food we have been giving out is pretty amazing  too. We had a lot of beautiful lettuce from the Free Farm this week and I brought 22 pounds of potatoes from my backyard.  We set an all time record of gleaned fruit with 1000 pounds of plums from the same orchard we picked last week and believe it or not there are more plums there that can be harvested.  Also, we managed to give them all away. Several mothers collected plums for their schools where there kids attended, because the schools have no money to provide healthy snacks for the children (or is it they don’t also have the will to provide healthy food?). Here is a slideshow from the trip:
a sample of the 22 lbs of potatoes I grew in my backyard
Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) from the Free Farm. It is fun to give out odd food plants and everyone learns something new.  This plant also known as Indian Borage is used in cooking  and has medicinal properties (used for tea for coughs and  sore throats).Two new wonderful volunteers.
It’s funny how you can start a project and if you nuture and love it, the project will grow and become its own self and what it wants to be. The bread table is an example of that, how it started off as just a bread table at the Free Farm Stand. At some point it has involved into a beautiful free food cart, sort of like the food carts or trucks that have become really popular everywhere now,  that sell hip street food from pies to soups. Our table varies from week to week and serves all different kinds of spreads from hummus to jam, kim chee, or pickles. The ingredients are often selected from produce on the table that week or jams or sauces from previous overloads of over-ripe produce. It is what makes our scene hip as the article in Mission [email protected] picked up on. But our food table is free for the masses and people without money can get something delicious and hang out in the park with new friends and nosh. This week our illustrious Mike was absent, drumming away at Burning Man, so I tried to fill in his role and made my version of hummus. I also brought a jar of marmalade that someone gave me and I brought sprouts and sprout kits complete with a cartoon how to book. The idea is to turn people onto growing sprouts so anyone can grow food at home or on the street. Another thing that is fabulous about our food table is that others can bring their creations to share.  One volunteer brought fig jam this week and spicy marinated carrots and Cristina, one of the gleaning gals, brought a delicous plum salad and a sample of plum jam, of course made with the bounty of plums from last week.
Plum salad with olive oil and basil
sprout jar with red clover seeds

When I got home from the stand a friend showed up with a pick up truck loaded with pears he had picked from an abandoned orchard in Moraga in the east bay. Fortunately the pears were hard and they won’t ripen until next week…I should have two boxes for next week. I would love to help organize others to go pick more (the word is there are a lot more to pick).

Last week I got a beautiful letter in the mail written by our friend Richard who died last month of ALS. He wrote the letter for his newsletter “Seasons” for the Auroa Dawn Foundation  & Marty’s Place,  his house for homeless men with HIV. He wrote it several months before his liberation.  He ended his writing with this:
I’ve always felt that despite all the dogma, morals, control, power and bad example that organized religion has shown the world over the centuries, the real messages Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, and other prophets brought us are these two thoughts: first do not be afraid and second, always live in Love.”

One Reply to “Crop Sharing

  1. Tree – really like what you had to say about the difference between barter and true sharing. The buy-sell mentality is so all-encompassing in our society that people don’t even realize they’re looking at the world through that filter. Your insights and reflections, and the model you have created are always inspiring. Keep ’em coming! Llyn – Sharing Gardens – Oregon

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