Holy Ground

Everything is about connections. Perhaps this sounds like something from the Godfather movie, but I love knowing how the plants have their connections with the soil and to the life growing underneath our feet. That we are connected to the soil too and how we can get high from our backyard  compost pile (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/how-to-get-high-on-soil/251935/). That trees talk or communicate with each other in a forest.  That we are even connected to the stars and that we all share billions of years of history with each other… yes we go way back as friends.  We are all connected to the divine and we walk on Holy Ground.

So when two neighbors walked into the park  yesterday with a basket of oranges to share at our Free Farm Stand, I had to run over and take their picture, because  they capture so much what I am thinking about here.

I only took 3 photos yesterday, but they capture the connections I am describing. This is what the Free Farm Stand and Free Farm are all about. A neighbor and his wife have a huge orange tree in their backyard and want to share some of the harvest with their neighbors who could use some free produce. They come by the Free Farm Stand with their bounty.  Those neighbors turn out to be friends with Clara and Jay and their lovely children. I used to work with Clara at the Secret Garden before she and Jason moved to Oakland. They showed up at the Free Farm Stand yesterday too and  hung out with their friends that brought the oranges. It was a warm sunny day, a day for making connections. There was even a small picnic on the lawn and another friend was sharing some of their homemade hummus with other neighbors.   I brought some sweet potatoes that we grew in the hot house at the Free Farm to share and also I brought a flier about a new project I am excited about in the neighborhood (see below). So it was a full day of sharing and making new connections and strengthening bonds of friendship.

one of the girl twins who is so adorable her sister is behind her

sweet potatoes from our farm

Last week I got this email about the progress of the new park down the street from me:

Dear Community Members,
Since January 2010, the City has been working with the community to develop
a park on a portion of the parking lot at the corner of 17th and Folsom
streets. Concept designs were developed with the community and submitted
for a State grant in 2010.
We’re excited to announce that we have received this grant and have funded
the development of this site! We will be hosting an upcoming community
meeting on March 11th 2012 to update you on the status of the project. At
this meeting, staff wants to finalize the concept design and begin work on
the details of the design.
Stop by to get an update on the process, help us further design the park
and test out some of the exercise equipment!
When:
SUNDAY, MARCH 11th 2012
3:00PM to 5:00PM

Where:
Marshall Elementary School
1575 – 15th Street (cross street Mission St.)
For more info, contact:
Mary Hobson
San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
(415) 581-2575
[email protected]
Please subscribe to our email mailing list
to continue receiving project updates
on the 17th and Folsom Street Proposed Park!

I posted this notice at the Free Farm Stand (I was thinking we need a bulletin board that we can put up every week that has local news on it or other things) and added a note from myself:

Hi friends and Neighbors,

Does anyone want to see something different than just another regular park at 17th and Folsom? This is our chance to express it.   I am hoping to find people like myself that are dreaming of something that is new in San Francisco for a park, a park dedicated to agriculture and food justice, rather than a park with mostly lawn and play equipment and a few token  individual garden beds (a community garden with a long waiting list) or a  few fruit trees.  Would you like to see a park/ farm that grows food like we give away here for people in need? A park that teaches our children where their food comes from and have a small farm in their neighborhood where they could be farmers and serve their community?   Please share this with anyone who may be interested in these kinds of ideas and would express them at the meeting. Thanks Tree

Here is a proposal I wrote about this idea:

RECREATION AND AGRICULTURAL PARK FARM

The idea of the Recreation and Agricultural Park Farm would be to  showcase an edible, community landscape in urban park intended to achieve the following goal for the Mission Neighborhood:

  • ·Food Justice: To provide healthy food to people who otherwise cannot afford it.
  • ·Education Outreach: Working with the land, neighbors both children and people of all ages can enjoy the sense of security one earns while growing food that will sustain communities. Educational activities in the Park Farm will be centered around urban agriculture. General areas of learning will focus on the environment (including info on where our water comes from and the importance of conserving it, learning about waste and reuse and recycling), food and where it comes from, the connection between diet and health), soil and why dirt matters, gardening and how to grow food, including how to grow both fruit and vegetables, the animal world including learning about pollinators and creating habitats.
  • ·Tranquil Space: Green spaces filter out the chaos of urban environments, providing much needed serenity for people and animals
  • ·Sustainability Lifeboat: A repository of perennial vegetables that are rare and otherwise difficult for San Franciscan’s to get that grow well in the Mission (to be freely distributed to Mission Neighbors)
  • ·Building Community: An ecological resource to be proud of. A green space for needing souls to linger. Returning surplus to those who need it most.

Some of the features of the park could be interactive recreational activites relating to agriculture: teeter-totter pumps for children to pump water for the farm, solar panel energy stations like at Hayes Valley Farm, observational beehive, beds to plant and grow food in, chicken and duck care, vertical farms, and container gardens to demonstrate ways of maximizing urban space for food production,  plant propagation in a greenhouse, composting and worm stations, swings and bicycles that generate electricity, meeting space and kitchen to offer classes and workshops for urban agricultural programs, including healthy cooking and food preservation, habitat for pollinators and birds and other animals (there could be special habitat for attracting, bee, and butterflies, one for humming birds, a pond for tree frogs, etc.), a small nature preserve, a small orchard and edible landscaping area, a free farm stand for run by neighbors to distribute produce and flowers grown on site for low income neighbors.

The Recreation and Park Farm would be run by a non-profit or a collaboration of non-profits and all workshops and events would be free or at least by sliding scale and no one turned away for lack of funds to make the farm as accessible as possible to all neighbors, especially those with low incomes.The long term benefits of a Recreation and Park Farm:

Increased food security

Beautification

Community Participation and Connection

Decrease in violence and fear in our neighborhood by engaging adults and kids of all ages in service learning activities that benefit the whole community

This may all be a crazy dream I have, but I thought I should put it out there to see if there are any people, especially neighbors around the potential park and parents with you kids that would be interested in making this happen. I also know how things work in the city. I helped work on the creation of Parque Ninos Unidos and we got a pretty nice playground for children, but there are few trees to shade park goers on hot days and there isn’t a tranquil spot in the park (the garden there isn’t even very inviting as a spot to sit in and enjoy the space or to hold a gathering in). I guess it is what the community came up with at the meetings. What is ironic too, is that the community wanted a clubhouse and now we have one which was quite expensive to build, but I just got word it is closing because of lack of funds to staff it. A group that is renting the space will continue to use it, but in my opinion what is happening with the cluhouse is the privatization of our public spaces. I am not sure what the solutions are, but I know they are structural.

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