Fruit Love

Not much to write about this week about the Free Farm Stand. It seems to be running on auto-pilot. We have such a solid volunteer crew that sorts goes through the many boxes of vegetables, mostly the unsold produce from the farmer’s market , but this week four of the boxes of produce were from the Free Farm. Sometimes volunteers have a hard time keeping the “Hecka Local” separate from the other  local produce, it often looks the same, both high quality and fresh. I tell the volunteers that the Free Farm Stand has a secret message that we don’t necessarily want to keep secret, that we are not just about giving free high quality produce away. We are trying to inspire people to grow some of their own food and by seeing the produce that we grow or that some other garden grows and brings to the stand they might feel that they can grow things too. That is why we also give out seedlings and this week according to Rachel and who was taking charge of the garden table, the starts were more popular than last week. We gave away a lot. I often wonder are people having success from the plants we give away, I get some feedback but not a lot.

I just realized it was about 4 years ago that Ariel from the Bay Guardian posted this video of our Free Farm Stand, just months after we had opened (I saw Ariel yesterday at the Stand and we have remained friends which I think is so awesome). The poppies growing in June in the garden are still hanging around and there are the same apricots growing and at the same stage of development, and most amazing the show still goes on.  A neighborhood production that has grown in size (no more a bike cart being used to bring the produce to market), but the story  line remains the same.

It is stone fruit season and we are stoners and stoked with all the fresh tasty fruit and fruit love coming our way!  (in  India I learned it is Mango Season  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/04/world/asia/mango-season-has-india-in-thrall.html?partner=rss&emc=rss)

I got an email from a woman named Helen who requested  fruit for 30 kids she is working with this summer. Luckily because we are getting this large donation we were able to help her out.  This is some of what she wrote me that got me excited:

“”I serve the youth and families in the San Francisco school district. My team works with some of the most underserved students in SF. We have organized a summer program for our high school students whose parents are either farmer workers or work in the fishing industry. Most of these families live in the Mission and struggle to survive and often work long hours to support their children. This is one of the biggest reasons we offer these particular students extended learning opportunities in the summer. The exciting news is that we have also organize another special learning opportunities for these youth. Thirty of these particular students will be learning meditation this summer as part of their summer programming. On the first four day of instruction they will learn to meditate through a program called Quiet Time. Please go to this link to understand this important work we are doing in SFUSD,  http://www.cwae.org/. On the first day of summer school, all of these students need to bring one piece of organic fruit for their celebration…””

It just so happened that Helen got to meet Pancho, one of  our local love activists who sits in silent receptiveness a lot (he and I actually were sitting in the garden before the Stand started coming to life and he was still in the same spot when Helen dropped by). I love how we can help foster connections between people and I think Pancho offered to go to their class and teach talk to the students in her class.

Pancho’s dad was visiting from Mexico and helped us set up and joined our circle

I do believe we all need quiet time  in our lives to reduce stress and to be more centered and to quiet our minds. I personally am slow at modifying my behaviors and being a bit more disciplined…but currently I am trying to take time out my life to sit in receptive silence two times a day for 10 minutes to begin with as a personal goal.

 apples on a tree in our mini-orchard in the garden next to the Stand

 The Board of Supervisors hearing on the proposed Urban Agriculture legislation was postponed and there is a tentative date of June 11th (it will probably  be the same time, same place: 1:00 pm at City Hall, Room 263). I think it would be good if we can all support this legislation though it needs some improvements. I sent in a letter to all the supervisors in support of the legislation with my ideas.  For details on how to do that go here http://www.sfuaa.org/urban-ag-legislation-2012.html. Here is some of what I wrote:

May 31, 2012

Dear Supervisors:

I urge you to support the proposed urban agriculture legislation introduced in April (Ordinance 120404) with some amendments included in a letter and report from Robert Joyce. At the end of my letter I have summarized his recommendations which I think are good ones and that I support. I do not at this time have any wisdom to know if the proposed Office of Urban Agriculture should be run by the city or a non-profit.

Besides agreeing with the recommendations by Robert Joyce whom I have met and talked to considering this matter, I have one of my own personal concerns that I think the legislation should address and that I think it is weak on. That is the issue of what is now being called “Food Justice” and “Food Sovereignty”. ..

In San Francisco, 1 in 5 adults struggles to feed their family (http://www.sffoodbank.org/about_hunger/local_study.html- A look at hunger in San Francisco: neighborhood profiles of hunger and foodpantries).  Through the process of being disconnected from our food and our communities we have become disempowered and often disenfranchised…

So any legislation that encourages urban agriculture should also strongly address the issue of hunger and poverty in our city.  That an effort should be made to make sure that people without much money have access to resources  for free to grow their own food if necessary. In other words, the neighborhood garden resource centersshould be free. That the city should encourage the creation of not only more community gardens, but also farms that feed people in need like ours does. For example, I have been involved in the creation of a new park in my neighborhood at 17th and Folsom on a PUC owned parking lot that the city is buying.  This would be a great opportunity to create a non-profit farm there that is run by volunteer neighbors and is modeled after Alemany Farm which gives away it’s produce to its low income neighbors. However, I see no effort by the city to encourage this kind of enterprise. Another great example is Growing Home Garden that shows how gardens can be healing for homeless people and also people with mental and emotional issues.Urban Agriculture legislation needs to address that as well.

Sincerely,

Tree

Project Coordinator

Excerpt from REPORT FROM AN URBAN FARMER

May 31, 2012

…To sustain these projects and to create more like it, a fully funded Office of Urban Agriculture with dedicated staff members is appropriate.  I recommend that this new Office be staffed as following:

One full-time staff member and one half-time staff member to oversee the Program.  They will staff “a “one-stop shop” for Urban Agriculture that would provide information, programming, and technical assistance to all San Francisco residents, businesses, and organizations wishing to engage in UrbanAgriculture” that is described in the proposed legislation.

Four half-time staff members, to act as Resource Coordinators at four Resource Centers to be located on existing urban agriculture sites that are on public land, “that provide residents with resources such as compost, seeds, and tools” as described in the proposed legislation…

The goals outlined in both the SPUR report and the proposed legislation are admirable.  However, I question whether some of those goals are appropriate at this time, and for this legislation.  How was the goal of ten new urban agriculture projects reached?  Are new sites the appropriate focus when there is so little publicly-funded support and staff for existing projects?  I would welcome more rooftop gardens, but is an audit of public buildings (listed as the first goal in the proposed legislation) the best use of limited resources at thispoint?  Fundamentally, I question the wisdom of legislating goals and timelines in the absence of any funding or staffing parameters.

Finally, a brief report back from the immigration hearing for Pancho held last week in down town San Francisco. First of all the place where immigration hearings are held is by nature scary. You have to go through a metal  detector  to get in to the waiting lobby and  personally these machines make me feel uptight and nervous.

Despite this initial wave of nervousness, it turned out to be an amazing experience for me.  First of all the little courtroom was packed not only with other people there for their immigration case, but with the community of people that love and support Pancho. There were probably twenty people there, including his father and a man visiting from India, Jayesh Patel, who lives at the Gandhi Ashram  there, and many people I knew. It was like a family reunion.

Seeing how the hearing  process works was interesting and sad. The legal word that is used for people being deported is “removal”. So one after another, lawyers of all kinds (women and men and  different races and all with different styles some buoyant and upbeat some seemingly more business like) came up with their clients who were to be removed.  Most of their clients were Hispanic.  One case after another, so efficiently they were asked the question which country for removal would they like to choose if things don’t work out. Another question was what is their preferred language.The judge seemed nice enough though it seemed every case was sort of the same, seems like everyone wanted and got extensions or more time, some until 2015! When Pancho and his lawyer got up, his lawyer asked for more time to develop his case.  He was given an extension until December 18th of this year. When asked about his country of removal he replied with something like I am from Planet Earth so that question doesn’t make sense.  When asked which language he perfers English or Spanish, he said he likes the language from the heart. The judge surprisingly didn’t think he was wisecracking and seemed to come more alive and friendly. The whole uptighness of the place for a moment was transformed, like a bright light was shined into the room. He tried to give the judge a gift, an Earth Flag, but she couldn’t accept it, but let him deliver a message. He said very sweetly his acknowledgement of all the people who were there in support, including his father and all the love warriors and how he supported all the others who have to come before the court. The judge at one point said she cannot change immigration policy and can only deal with one case at a time and they both were in agreement. After the brief  meeting with the judge was over we all left the courtroom and the lawyer and all met in the lobby to talk about what was next. I noticed one of the big burly security guards was standing still watching the scene in amazement and it seemed the love vibe from all the beautiful people again transformed the scene there. Then some little boy who was there not part of our circle, went around   as an ambassador of kindness, shaking everyone’s hand. It was really beautiful!

 

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