Sink or Swing

On Saturday night I went to a swing dance birthday party and enjoyed the music, the band and their singer,  the moves, and especially the footwork. The Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm is a swing dance of sorts (Swing Beans, Lindy Hops,  and our Hive Jive on the Free Farm). We definitely swing as our volunteers jitterbug around schlepping boxes of produce, unpacking them, loading up baskets, and setting the stage on the tables for our main event  of distributing for free high quality local organic vegetables and fruits. It is a weekly celebration with neighbors and friends. And it don’t mean a thing if we don’t got the swing.

This week it was quite a lot of foot and heart work  going on, as we had 20 Stanford students come to the stand to lend a hand.

We got a lot of garden work done and we sheet mulched the small orchard that was planted this year. We also gave out a number of seedlings and strawberry plants, and iris bulbs.


One thing that I thought was really swinging were the pears we gave out. I picked them up last week from a neighbor named Fred who lives next next to the Little City Gardens ( They were the most handsome russet type and tasty pears, and Fred was so generous in offering us four boxes that were surplus from his tree. I also finally got a chance to swing by Little City Gardens for the first time run by Brooke and Caitlyn who are dear friends . Brooke told Fred about us which was great. I have admired Little City Farms from a distance since they started (I had first visited Brooke at her lovely garden on Guerrero St. years ago and was convinced she was serious about growing food when I saw that garden). It is my contention that art and style can almost trump one’s personal philosophy or politics. Everything these two women do is not only well done, but simply beautiful. So I had to put aside my belief that  everything should be  be free and just take in the wonderfulness of their farm while I was there. I think it is the ideal place for a city farm and is just so perfect in so many ways. They are in the situation where a landlord wants to sell the land to developers (they are now on a month to month rental agreement). If it were sold, maybe unlikely in these hard economic times, that would be the end of a great open lot with a gorgeous farm growing on it. I really think all San Franciscans should get together and somehow figure out how to save this land from development. One problem beside the cost of the land are the property taxes which are too high for the women or a land trust to pay.  If they were a non-profit they might have more opportunities open up. Anyway I always learn a lot about farming and growing food when I talk with them and I get totally inspired which is the best we can hope from friends. Also, they gave me some of their salad mix and some lettuce which I brought to our Free Farm lunch and it was so flavorful and delicious.

this photo I took from way in the back of the Little City Gardens…they have more room to develop, like plant an orchard if they had this land more permanently…see how much land there is!

Things are running smoother every week the stand thanks to the organizational talents of a volunteer named Cat. Though it seems we are somewhat cramped for space, things are working out. I am still working with the Recreation and Park Dept. and soon will fill out an application for a permit from the Health Dept.  According to the Health Dept. I technically don’t need a permit to give out produce or day old bread, but the Park’s department wants us to have one. So I will most likely send it in. What that will mean is that I have to have the bathrooms open every week which they are and I have to keep the boxes of food off the ground by 6”. If anyone has any milk crates, or ideally any folding crates or pallets that are small that we can put our boxes on that would be helpful. We do have a bit of a storage crunch, but I think we can manage.

the smooth orderly running stand

two of our best volunteers with name tags

Another piece of news that is mentioned in our Free Farm blog (a fun read) is that I learned last week that developers have offered 5.4 million to St Paulus Church to buy the land the Free Farm is on to make it into housing (I think the idea is to build 90 rental units of which 18% or 16 units will be “affordable”). I heard the latest design is to include a rooftop garden and also 10,000 sq.  ft of undeveloped space would be given to the church. Even if the church goes ahead with this offer it will take at least three years for something called an entitlement phase, which is part of the City’s review process, which might also include an environmental report. St. Paulus is really gracious in supporting our farm and now they must go through the discernment process of what to do with such a tempting offer and balancing that with their desire to do the right thing for the community. I have always known that the Free Farm has been on temporary ground and like in most places I have gardened there has been a similar situation (Esperana and the 18th and Rhode Island site are also places where gardens are with no written contract). I trust that the universe will take care of us and give us good work to do. I encourage us all to meditate on this situation and put out prayers or good thoughts to bring clarity and vision to all involved in this discernment process.

I also continue to voice my support for those people Occupying Wall Street that are dissatisfied with the status quo. I feel like I am in the same boat (I guess we are called the 99%).  If we move towards a society more focused on the common good perhaps we will see the day where city parks are growing food for hungry neighbors who are in need, where more truly affordable housing is built (equivalent to section 8 housing) to shelter the record numbers of families and homeless on the streets or sleeping on couches or cars, where health care is available to all, and where education is a top priority also. Not to mention a day when cities will have more open space, more trees, and less cars, and the environment and nature will be on an up turn.  I think the time is now for us to either sink or swing.

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