The Free Farm Stand is now supposedly legit. Yesterday we had a surprise visit from an Environmental Health Inspector from the San Francisco Department of Public Health. It was a surprise because I was told that they would call before coming out according to the head person in Environmental Health at the SFDPH. The woman who came out spent over a half hour writing up a 3 page report and gave me a carbon duplicate which was a bit hard to read. She said this report was the equivalent of an interim permit. At some point I will get the real copy which I will have to post in a conspicuous location. I assume I still have to get a permit from Recreation and Park which will come automatically after this permit from DPH.
I must admit I got pretty upset with the visit as I thought it would be a simple matter of doing two things that I were told would satisfy the health department. To not put boxes of produce on the ground (so we got pallets to put things on) and have a bathroom available (which we do). Instead the inspector had several other things we have to do to comply. What upset me is the Kafka nature of the process where no one can give you a list of the rules you must obey and the boss says one thing and then the inspector comes out and says something different. It also just totally annoyed me that the city is spending money on inspecting activities like ours when the money could better spent elsewhere. It is pathetic that we are just barely being tolerated by the city rather than being supported for the work we do. Below are some of the things we have to do to meet the conditions to get a permit to give away produce and bread in our public park:
- Provide overhead protection above all foods (originally Recreation and Park told me not to have any structures like canopies but we have been using the two we have anyway). So the question is shall we try and get another canopy to put over the bread and do we have room to store another canopy?
- No sampling allowed
- No cooking demonstration allowed
- No distribution of value added products (eg honey, jams, jellies, and etc.) allowed except donated bread produced from a permitted facility if the following conditions are met: a. distribution of only whole loaves of bread or bread sliced/cut from permitted facility allowed. We may not slice bread at time of operation. b. maintain make shift handwashing station which includes a; a container capable of producing a continual stream of water from approved source that leaves both hands free c. catch basin (e.g. bucket) for liquid waste d. liquid soap
All bread must be displayed in approved manner and properly covered from contamination. Use of reusable utensils not allowed. We have to discontinue displaying the different kinds of bread we have on a linen tablecloth since we have no sneezeguard or cover.
I am still trying to decide what we are going to do about complying with everything requested of us. The inspector did say she may be coming back before the end of the year when we have to apply again.
Other than that and my getting upset (which I mostly got over by working in the garden next to the stand and planting perennial leeks and strawberries), the Stand went off without a hitch. Again we didn’t have much produce (nor bread which is why we were cutting loaves in half). We did have some nice greens and leeks from the Free Farm, a neighbor brought by a 5lb bag of greens, and Pam dropped by some produce from the City College garden. Pam who has retired from teaching gardening for over 20 years at City College, told me there would probably not be much more produce coming from that garden because the college is not replacing her. In fact it sounds like the college is getting some big cuts by the state, who wants city colleges to replace the State universities…so that the middle class will have more affordable places to go college and pushing out those with less money. So vocational jobs like gardening are on the chopping block. Pam sent me a link to a youtube video where the Chancellor of City College explains what is going on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJtajLeQxyo&sns=em. Someone else dropped off fliers for a free university that is happening in the neighborhood. Also there is an Occupy Education happening on March 1 455 Golden Gate Avenue 3-6 teach-in and a rally in support of the “Millionaire’s Tax” to fund education and social services at the Civic Center 4-6. Aloe is always popular
Flowering bok choy…you can still eat the baby leaves and flowers
I have more leeks if you want to try growing some
When the second load of produce from Stonestown Mall Farmers Market arrived friends from Produce to the People showed up with 93lbs of lemons they harvested from two trees in the neighborhood (and I believe the trees have more lemons on them).
Today is the Global Day of Action to Occupy the Food Supply. In San Francisco among other things there will be workshops and skill shares and a march. Then “Starting April 1st, Occupy SF plans to expand Occupy the Food Supply actions with occupation of empty lots, growing organic community gardens, connecting gardeners with land owners and renters to start growing nutritious food for our community, occupying a farm, and preparing to grow food everywhere.” I like the spirit behind this, but to grow a garden or a food forest, to really challenge the food system takes a big time commitment. For things to grow roots must be put into ground. It takes more than a one day demo to be a digger. Here is a link to a news article about an inspiring project happening in Seattle that has been three years in the making so far: http://crosscut.com/2012/02/16/agriculture/21892/Nation-s-largest-public-Food-Forest-takes-root-on-Beacon-Hill/. We should be doing this here in San Francisco in conjunction with any Occupy action. Also, I know of at least one project in the Mission where the city is changing a parking lot into a park and it needs some serious radical design input. Like making it an agricultural park/farm instead of your normal San Francisco Park with lawns and a token community garden with private beds.
It was funny yesterday at the Free Farm Stand I was approached twice by people wanting to start Free Farm Stands in San Francisco. They asked me how we started and wanted to get more information. The truth is any project is not hard to start, but what I have been saying all along is that one needs to be stable and consistent to make things successful and to last. I am obsessed and passionate you might say about the work I do and I show up every week to make it happen. I decided to retire when I was in my youth and devote myself to service. It is a challenge in the city right now to do this, because rents are so high, everyone supposedly needs to work and most people find it hard to volunteer a lot of their time to projects that really need it. That is why I often encourage communal living and income sharing as one solution to getting by and having time for service and creating alternatives in our world.
Again I want to report about the excitement going on over at the Free Farm. On our last work day we had a massive seed planting day and got around 400 tomato seeds planted. Plus we planted a lot of greens and some flowers. There are plenty more seeds to plant. Check out http://thefreefarm.org/ for photos.