Fresh and Free

What  is most exciting to me these day is happening over at the Free Farm more so than at the Free Farm Stand. The Stand is now in the season where things are slow and the amount of produce we have to share is limited.  We are still in the citrus season and thanks to neighbors we have been getting small donations of lemons,  and this week students from Stanford with Stanford Glean came by the Free Farm with an offering of oranges, tangerines, and kumquats that they picked on campus.   Fortunately for the Sunday Free Farm Stand the fruit was accidentally not distributed at the Saturday Stand so on Sunday we got it all.

This week we had a visit from my friend Tom from Santa Rosa.  When he comes to San Francisco to visit his daughter and granddaughter he often brings us some fruit or vegetables that he has gleaned from that land of plenty. Yesterday he came by some large banana squash and he also brought his exhibit about  his shovel project in Tijuanna. He collects used shovels from poor families there and gives them new ones and then he repairs the broken ones that can be fixed.  The ones he brought with him were too worn out to fix  and for me it was very powerful to see how much these hard working people use their tools…they were really worn down. Tom had to move from the place he was staying and is looking for a permanent home for this collection of tools or at least another place to display them.

The Free Farm Stand, even when we don’t have a lot of produce or bread, continues to fit in with the park scene really well, especially on sunny days. There is a real sense of community and neighbors hanging out with each other. Yesterday a young man named Roger who is my neighbor on Shotwell St. came by with another neighbor with a flier about the Fresh and Easy supermarket that wants to move into the empty storefront across from where I live.  I didn’t quite recognize Roger who I knew twenty years ago when he and my son hung out together. He is organizing a neighborhood discussion this Tuesday night at 6pm at 1050 South Van Ness #201 (through the parking lot). His complaints and those of PODER who is also involved with the Fresh & Easy issue, is that they don’t accept food vouchers known as WIC for poor women and infants and children and they aren’t union. I told Roger what I would like is for the parking lot turned into a farm with it’s own Free Farm Stand which isn’t going to happen. Short of that I think we need to get them to plant edible landscaping  along the perimeter and in the parking lot.   I also don’t know what the alternative would be for that lot and storefront if Fresh and Easy didn’t show interest in it. Since we live in a land where private property rules it seems it could continue to sit vacant for years or would condos be built on it?   Fresh and Easy is actually more easy than fresh, since most of their produce will be packaged in plastic like Trader Joe’s, their idea being you can tell it is fresh by the date on the packaging. At our circle that we have been holding before we open the Free Farm Stand, someone joked that we are Fresh and Free.  The question that is important is not whether we want want Fresh and Easy, but what alternatives do we want to create. Once we know what we want we need to start creating those alternatives.  On Wednesday there is a free online movie that tries to address an alternative to our current economic system.  The movie is called The Economics of Happiness and you can check out the trailer and how to view it online  here

Over at our Free Farm at Gough and Eddy we have been gearing up for a lot of great farming activity this year. We are collaborating with Alemany Farm and will be sharing the greenhouse with them and hopefully churning out lots of starts, not only for both farms, but to share with other gardeners in the city. Today I got together with Dan from Spiral Gardens in Berkeley and gardeners from Alemany Farm. He us a generous and legthy consultation on growing seedlings on a large scale and I learned so much! I can’t wait to start planting. At our last Saturday working day it was like a bee hive there with all the activity going on. I pretty much finished an accurate map of the farm and Monisha and I and Christina have calculated the square feet we have to plant in and entered information on what is happening with each bed in a newly designed log/chart.

There was the buzz of saws and drills as Byron  worked with John from Alemany Farm in building more greenhouse benches. We also had a large crew from Stanford (some of our wonderful students and interns from last year including Brittany and Timothy who also helped a lot at the Stand). Not only did they bring gleaned citrus fruit, they helped harvest and also dug trenches to bury the rest of the electrical pipe we were installing to finish the electrical to the greenhouse.  We had our first real harvest of snap peas which were planted in October (I think about 4 pounds) and the hot peppers in the hothouse are still producing peppers.

One of the most exciting things happening at our farm/sanctuary without walls is the continued appearance of new congregation members…besides the stream of human visitors we have been blessed with the visiting of a big fluffy hawk. We have seen this hawk coming down from the tall building next door or the flag pole and hanging out in the farm itself, sitting on the potato tower or on the  scarlet runner bean trellis. In other words, the bird is becoming friendlier. Here is a picture of the hawk flying just over head as it took off from the potato tower on Wednesday.

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