There is planing going on to combine the Free Farm web site with the Free Farm Stand. Right now I am trying to keep both sites up-to-date and sometimes I am more inspired to write about what is going on at the Farm than at the Farm Stand and vice versa. So having just one place where people can go to find out about either of our projects I hope will be better

Today, for example,  I am thinking about our last workday at the Free Farm where we had a number of guests and Urban Ag celebrities visit us.  Our first visitors were  a group of about 8 or more Methodist pastors visit us from different churches in Georgia. They were on a tour of different groups doing various service projects in the city and had just come from visiting  the food pantry at St. Gregory’s Church on Potrero Hill on Friday.  It is run by my friend Sara Miles and has always inspired me as far as food pantries go. They put the food they distribute around their altar and above the food on the ceiling are beautiful murals of dancing Saints (see an online version here though to really be inspired and feel their power you must see them in person). Sara writes on their web site “on Fridays, our sanctuary is a vision of God’s ridiculous, over-the-top abundance.” Sara suggested that the group come and visit us and help us out. I enjoyed meeting and working with them  and they seemed very interested in what we do.  One pastor was telling me he was going to send me seeds from his grandmother who grows some mustard greens that have been in his family for generations.

Our two Urban Ag celebrities that dropped in were Novella Carpenter and her beautiful 10 month old daughter Francis and Willow Rosenthal.  Novella I have never met though she spoke at the Free Farm for some event that Welcome Ministries put on when we first started.  She wrote a very popular book Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. I have to admit I tried reading the book but was turned off by the what seemed her glee or at least her comfortableness in killing animals to eat.   She wrote on her blog here in an essay on why she eats meat:  “These meat-avoiders don’t want to kill animals. They love animals. Thing is, so do I: I love animals and I love to eat them.” I know I am in the minority here  in always bringing up my vegan views on things, and I know everyone has to figure out which choices to make in life, but I just don’t enjoy reading books promoting meat eating…also I am more into promoting community self-reliance than the idea of everyone having their own urban homestead and doing it for themselves.

I know Willow Rosenthal from City Slicker Farms (she started it though she has moved on from the organization).  I visited City Slicker Farms when I was first  looking for inspiration to start a new project, and that is partly why the Free Farm Stand was born.

Both the women were giving a talk at the main library which is nearby our farm and I told Cristina who was going to the talk to invite them over to join us for lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with both of them, it is great when gardeners can get together and talk compost or plants. Plus at lunch Willow and I shared our ideas for community farms. Both Willow and Novella just got back from a trip to Venezuela where they visited community farms that got their inspiration from Cuba (they showed slides at the library). I love the model of having a community farm in every neighborhood that grows food for the neighbors.

The only thing that was a drag at the farm that day was there were too many people I wanted to talk with that I didn’t have the chance to.

One other highlight of the day was giving Novella’s baby a fresh picked strawberry still warm from the sun.  Francis really did more than just eat it, but totally got into the whole experience of eating it, smearing it and feeling it on her skin and face, sucking it, and spitting it out. I thought if only adults could enjoy a strawberry so much and really enjoy each moment of life like that! I know I have a long way to go in that regard, though I  try to remind myself all the time how grateful I am for the abundance of blessings in my life.

I finally got a chance to meet the woman Janet who has been dropping off pounds of rocoto peppers on my doorsteps for  the past month. She and her husband Ian came by the stand this time with her bag of peppers and she said there was more. From talking to her, I learned that her plant is really big, it sounds like it takes up a lot of their backyard, but she does grow other things, including other perennials like Walking Stick Kale (we both got our plants from the same source Annie’s Annuals) and annual vegetables.

On Friday I went to Esperanza Garden and from a space about 2 feet by 3 feet I harvested 35 pounds of Sunchokes that I brought to the Stand. Alemany Farm supplied us with some of it’s surplus and I will be helping them harvest some more for the Stand this coming Friday if anyone wants to help (just let me know for details). They are also having their 8th annual harvest festival on Saturday October27. Beware if you are sensitive about meat eating at events, there will be a pig on a spit (though they are offering vegetarian burgers).lemons gleaned from a tree in Berkeley

We  had good luck with the few Brussels sprouts we grew at the farm

our new sign

parsnips and celery root from Alemany Farm

one big round zuchinni and pineapple guavas from Alemany Farm

I recently read this inspiring article online about Russian’s small scale organic gardening model for producing food for the country here.  “In 1999, 35 million small family plots produced 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk — way to go, people!” There is an article here too.  “According to The Bovine, Russia’s Private Garden Plot Act, which was signed into law back in 2003, entitles every Russian citizen to a private plot of land, free of charge, ranging in size from 2.2 acres to 6.8 acres. Each plot can be used for growing food, or for simply vacationing or relaxing, and the government has agreed not to tax this land. And the result of this effort has been phenomenal, as Russian families collectively grow practically all the food they need.” Here is another great quote:  “Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.”

If this is all true it is amazing and makes one wonder if we can  in this country move in that direction? There is definitely some youthful energy here wanting to garden. Before I left for the farm stand yesterday, I saw a  group of men and women cleaning up the weeds and garbage from the empty parking lot across the street. Then when I got back much later they were still at it, with a huge pile of weeds, making a space to plant trees along a south facing fence, so ideal for growing fruit!

Access to free land is the issue at least in the bay area and I don’t see this as happening in the near future.

The Free Farm Stand though is a way for us to imagine a movement like this. Can we  see in our dreams more and more people coming to the stand with small surplus gifts from their gardens? I met a man who goes to our church who this week brought me a small bag of radishes and arugula from his backyard garden. This is exactly how we can make our dreams come true even on the tiniest scale and it is the movement forward towards our goal of feeding our neighborhood one garden at a time which is important.

we still get Trombone squash from the garden this late inthe year and you can feed a family with each one

wearable  squash as ornament

I wanted to give a shout out to Rainbow Grocery Cooperative who has given the No Penny Opera who runs the Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm a generous grant of $1,000.   We will use this money to keep our workhorse van maintained and  buy seeds and supplies for the Free Farm and  the small amount of supplies we use at the Stand. We really appreciate the great work they do supporting  small grass root projects like ours.