All week I have been thinking about private property and have been wanting to write about it for this week’s blog. I think like the Occupy movement the subject of land and who “owns it” ties in with the work we are doing with the Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm. Since I have started focusing my attention on the issue, so much has been brought to my attention in the way of news from “electroland”.

For the last two years working at the Free Farm I have been working next to three abandoned buildings owned by Sacred Heart High School or by whoever owns Sacred Heart. One building has been home to a squat off and on and was occupied temporarily by Homes not Jail in a protest takeover of an abandoned building. When a friend looked into renting the space, possibly in collaboration with the Free Farm, we learned the rent was much too high for anyone to afford. I heard that the school has no need for the property and so it sits empty. This was originally land that St. Paulus owned and sold to the school after the fire.  The Church figured they couldn’t use the buildings either.

Then I learned last week that St. Paulus Church voted to sell the land that the Free Farm is sitting on for five million dollars, plus they get a 10,000 square foot church built for them. I heard that was the main thing that St. Paulus wanted was a church, since they have been churchless since their beautiful church burned down in 1995. I think they believe that their church is outgrowing their rented storefront in the Western Addition. And they miss having their glorious church even years since they lost it in the fire.

We have been assured that we have at least two to five years before the developer who wants to build market rate rental housing will be able to start construction. However, the news got me to thinking about private property again. I have always been inspired by the English Diggers or True Levellers of 1649 that believed in the “leveling of all estates” and getting rid of private property rights. In the case with our farm getting the boot, I understand that St. Paulus feels it can make a pack with the devil and sell the land and then use the money to do 5 million dollars of good work.

I basically believe that we can never really own something, especially land, that we are just temporary stewards and care takers. I agree with the idea that “the earth is a common treasury for all to share”.

It really disturbs me when landlords own land that is not being used or it is used rather poorly and not for the common good. So the fact that empty buildings stand vacant next to our farm when there are a record 267 homeless families on a waiting list to get in a San Francisco city-funded shelter is morally unacceptable to me. Check out this article and video:

I also believe that there is no reason for any more open space in our city to be developed. There are plenty of spaces to house people if there was the political and people will.   I would even say there are enough indoor church spaces for people to worship in and enough Churches and synagogues to share, and that really the Free Farm church without walls should not be developed, but be allowed to grow it’s congregation, which are not only the people who come by, but the wild animals that are finding it home.  For now though, knowing the state of the economy, I am happy with just continuing to farm at Gough and Eddy and see what happens, and continuing to feel deep appreciation, love, and gratitude for St. Paulus church for offering  “their land” in the first place to us. We are going to look into seeing if there is a place for us to move that is large enough and that is a little more secure, maybe in the Mission, and we will continue to pray and discern what we should do. Who know things could fall through.

Here is another heartbreaking story on the plight of foreclosed homes getting bulldozed, and here it becomes apparent that the big banks and wall street are a big part of the problem:

The inspiring news is that Occupy Wall Street movement continues to inspire us all and opens the conversation about a possible new direction we might go in.  Recently I learned about a big church in New York  called Trinity (and a large wealthy real estate corporation that owns a lot of property near Wall Street) that has empty property that the displaced OWS folks wanted to set up camp in. They were turned down by Trinity and they shut down any dialog about the subject.  So in the spirit of non-violent civil disobedience OWS and a retired Bishop and other clergy climded over the fence andoccupied the vacant land (until the police showed up). This video is awesome and really sums up the spirit of the movement so eloquently It is about taking back the commons. Here is a good write up about it:

Here is another great short article about youths in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood occupying a vacant library:Abandoned Library in South Central Los Angeles Liberated, Evicted

Here is another more local occupy event that addresses the same issue in a creative and humorous way. Aquapy:  One of the occupiers said this: “People have gotten really apathetic and turned off by typical protests…it’s important to do creative, exciting things that will get people talking.” Unfortunately like most Occupy events they eventually got shut down, this is a movement too radical for the status quo:

The Free Farm Stand continues “occupying” the park every Sunday and distributing the most beautiful and fresh produce we can get. This week Stanford Glean brought about 150 pounds of persimmons that they picked from trees on campus and also from neighbors around their school. It was pretty fantastic to get fresh organic fruit this time of year. The Free Farm continued to bring greens and we also collected about eight big boxes of fresh dino kale I think that came from Green Gulch Farm.  Another fun thing is that I harvested an 11 pound oyster mushroom from FARM on Hooper St. next to the California College of Arts. This mushroom was planted in 2008 and evry year we have been getting mushrooms from the planting, this one being the biggest yet.

this one mushroom feed a lot of people

I also brought a lot of winter seedlings and gave away a lot and also I planted some in the community garden next to the stand.

I really appreciate and am grateful for all the support our programs have gotten since we began (the Stand 3 years ago and the Farm two years ago). I just love our volunteers as much as the people who come to get food.  I think we are unique among other farms in that we are totally free and promote generosity and sharing. We do not make pleas for money nor do we sell our honey or anything (this week we broke the rules and share some treats like honey from my backyard beehive).  We rely on magic and faith. In this season of love being born I am ready to take a break, but also want to celebrate and be joyful for all the blessings we share.

Here are some photos from both this week and last:

I baked some kale chips to help “sell” people on taking more kale…a little olive oil and salt baked for 20 minutes at 325 degrees

hush don’t tell…Santa said it was ok because it was Christmas time

Last week it was so sunny and warm…we need more people doing yoga at the Stand on days like this!

some of great volunteers with Santa who showed up





Recently I was talking to a Free Farm volunteer who told me something beautiful. She said that if we determine the value or worth of someone not based on money, but on the quality of their relationships with others, then many of us would be billionaires. I definitely feel like I am in the billionaire club. The Free Farm Stand and Free Farm has a bank full of precious social capital: Great volunteers who really make it all happen, goodwill among friends & neighbors, good work to share, and beautiful relationships to grow and cultivate.

We all need to become these kind of billionaires to transform society and invest in community building and bringing about change on a very local level. Our occupy tents may have come down, but the long term work of engaging in karma yoga continues. Some call this the season of sharing this time of year, but I think all year is the season of sharing.

An example of this kind of love work happened at the Free Farm  last Saturday and really made my day.  Rahul and Asha, friends through Pancho, brought 9 people they have been hosting who are involved in the west coast InSPIRE retreat. They put on “5-week immersion trips in India where the participants interact and work with a wide range of organizations and leaders in social change– starting with Manav Sadhna at Gandhi Ashram. “

They were some of the best volunteers we have attracted at the farm and not only did they work really hard, but they took a break after lunch and played music, that filled the air with joy and celebration.  Also, my long term friend David came by and worked with some of them, bringing electricity to the greenhouse. It was so great to be connected with all these people.

Also, another smaller group of people showed up, I can’t remember the name of the group, who works with troubled teen girls. They were on trip learning about farms and our watershed and helped out for an hour or so. I also encourage you to read my latest post at where I talk about how we are all made of starstuff.

The Free Farm Stand also rocked with great volunteer energy and it seems we are growing closer as a Free Farm Stand family. Though things are slowing down as the amount of produce we grow and collect is a lot less during the winter. We didn’t have a lot of anything except some Yacón root grown at the Free Farm.

Yacón root

I spent most of my time on Sunday at the Free Farm Stand gardening in the garden next to the Stand. Claire and some other volunteers helped and we got a lot done, including planting a whole bed with baby lettuce.


Last week Margaret sent me the link to the Stanford Gleaning Project blog that I had forgotten existed The write up of their visit to the stand at the end of November was very interesting to me, a perspective that  someone new to the scene is observing for the first time.

The Free Farm Stand will be closed on Christmas Day Sunday Dec 25th and the following Sunday as well January 1st. We will reopen on January 8th.

Also this Wednesday evening check this out:

Wed., Dec. 14, 2011, 5:45 pm Taking Root film & Resource Fair
SF Main Public Library, 100 Larkin St., SF Screening 5:45-6:45 pm Resource Fair 6:45-7:30 pm (The Free Farm will have a table!)

Free tree seedlings for those who RSVP on Eventbrite

Please join The Free Farm and a host of local organizations involved in urban restoration, farming and community gardening at this free event!

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai tells the story of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement and follows Maathai, the movement’s founder and the first environmentalist and African woman to win the Nobel Prize. Maathai discovered her life’s work by reconnecting with the rural women with whom she had grown up. They told her they were walking long distances for firewood, and that clean water was scarce. The soil was disappearing from their fields, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. “Well, why not plant trees?” she suggested. Maathai soon discovered that tree planting had a ripple effect of empowering change and the Greenbelt Movement found themselves working against deforestation, poverty, ignorance, embedded economic interests, and government corruption; they became a national political force that helped to bring down the country’s 24-year dictatorship.