This is a shout out to growing cities that are truly green. Green with trees, green with gardens, green with farms, green with jars of sprouts on a kitchen counter, green with neighborhood drop off centers for compost, so we can make dark brown steamy compost locally,  green with brown sweet-smelling worm poop, green with neighbors with green thumbs or fresh soil under their fingernails,  and homes and buildings that are green with roof top gardens and living roofs,  places for the down and out that are green and tranquil and car free, and green shelter for unemployed farmers in green jeans.   The Free Farm Stand and Free Farm are good examples of  how  urban agriculture can be fun and help people in need get some  fresh organic produce to boot.   I just visited Alemany Farm to check out their new greenhouse and if you haven’t visited them please do and see how cities should be with farms like that throughout the city (minus the car noise).

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if you walk up the hill at Alemany Farm there are many more trees

and plantings in between the treeswith annuals and other perennials

 Go also to Hayes Valley Farm before it is gone and see how beautiful nature can be in the city (pick up some composting fine dark wood chips and plant your own green, even if it is in a re-purposed 5 gallon container picked up from Rainbow). Green cities make people smile, especially children who love to be in green, if not they have  beginning nature deficit disorder.

IMG_2473this boy is helping harvesting the greens from the garden next to the Free Farm Stand


our new volunteers who smile because they got a strawberry plant to grow,

but it is also fun to give the greens away to people who need a little help

We need more green to grow food for us poor folk who are getting pushed out of the city because of gentrification pure and simple. Recently in an earlier blog post a I quoted an article from the Utne Reader called  Race, Class, and Community in San Francisco’s Mission District.  The article was rather long and I didn’t read  it all, but on Sunday I ran into a friend and we were talking about the Mission and what is going down (actually all over the city) with evictions and condo conversions, and she said the Free Farm Stand was mentioned in the article.  So I went back and read the whole thing and yes we were mentioned, though I don’t know how the reporter got her information about us. It wasn’t entirely accurate.

“Gentrification is turning vulnerable residents into tumbleweed, and it’s gradually transforming the Mission. The change is slow, and mostly invisible, but you can see it in the changing food establishments…We think of gentrification principally in terms of real estate, race, and class, but I more often find that food is the thermometer reading the temperature of gentrification.” I agree with her and  a part of the urban ag movement is tied to that gentrification and unfortunately to eating fresh local organic produce (where? at your neighborhood expensive local food dinner) .

We  need to avoid green wash and foodie faddism though any thing that promotes planting gardens and farms in cities I suppose is good.  Any guerrilla gardening, grafting, or interim site gardening is ok and any occupied garden digger style (reclaiming  unused growing spaces) might be the best we can do right now, but we need to give voice to  preserving any open space left in the cities vs development, and we need politicians to show some will to make sure we really make our cities green rather that talk about making them green, or that the only green that is happening is rich people making green moola.  I must admit I have mostly not depended on government too much to really do what they say they want to do or to do the right thing, but sometimes maybe it is worth a try.

My friend Antonio is sending out a note asking for help getting the San Francisco Urban Agriculture legislation off the ground. Here is what he says:

Tree (and other Free Farmers, please feel free to forward this)-

Don’t know if you’ve been following much, but the legislation the SFUAA  [San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance] helped pass last year (to increase and improve the city’s support for urban agriculture efforts) has stalled. We were supposed to have already heard by December 31st about which agency would house the program (a crucial first decision by the city before the UA legislation can be implemented), but instead we’ve heard nothing…even after repeated inquiries to the Office of the City Administrator (the agency in charge of releasing the report).

If you could take a moment to fill in this Template letter (and read the instructions for where/to whom to send it), we’d really appreciate it. We didn’t want to be a thorn in the OCA’s side, but without this report being finished and released, any and all the programs and benefits of the SF Urban Agriculture Program will continue as ideas, not realities. And we’d like to see those benefits start being spread among the urban farming community in SF!

Thanks for your support!


How To Send Letters mar_2013        SFUAA Template Letter to Jumpstart UA Program

Here is another TED talk that Sharing Gardens  in Oregon posted on their blog. “Roger Doiron is founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International, a network of people taking a hands-on approach to re-localizing the global food supply”. I like the idea of growing potatoes in shopping carts and his idea of a garden stimulus package.


After lasts week personal dilemma that I wrote and cartooned about, I was lucky that some clarity came to me sort of out of the blue. I did wind up going to the Food Bank to pick up more Mandarin oranges and though they were not organic or I wasn’t sure, I knew they were not one of the dirty dozen  ( foods that should always be eaten organic ( they are number 24 …lower numbers = more pesticides).  Though today when I looked up What is on My Food  (I have this link on my blog “, I did find it has a lot of two chemicals that are a problem to our bodies. When I was there I saw a huge amount of potatoes that were not organic and so I passed them up , because they are on that dirty dozen list. Then as I was about to leave I discovered another stack of potatoes that were organic so I snagged them…500 pounds (though I must say they were still industrial organic). It was one of those cosmic messages telling me I was on the right path sticking with organic.

I know as a person that gives away free food, I want to be a responsible person and give away only what I would personally eat, but I also have to consider that many people who come to get produce may be more susceptible to the dangers of non-organic food like pregnant moms or people with compromised immune system. When it comes down to it distributing local organic produce, that is the safest way to go (and organic and sustainable is  best for the environment and for the bees and pollinators if you have to buy your produce).  I also know that there is such a thing as harm reduction, and encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables even if they are not local or organic is a step in the right direction.

My clarity came when I was packing the van to bring produce to the stand.  Besides the large amount of mandarins and potatoes from the food bank, we had collected little organic produce from the farmer’s market. Though we did have  almost as much fresh produce that we collected not only from our Free Farm where we grew it, but a lot of greens from the permaculture garden on 18th and Rhode Island. Plus some lemons I picked from my neighbors tree and some tree collards from my backyard and some rocoto peppers. Later during the Stand  a couple of neighbors brought by more lemons and Pam came by with New Zealand spinach, plus I also harvested surplus produce from the community garden next to the Free Farm Stand.

What I realized is that what we are doing is pretty far out though most people who come to the Stand do not get it yet.  We are growing food here in San Francisco, on a few small farms and gardens and from backyards and giving it away to people in need.  This is pretty special and I feel so grateful for having the opportunity to do this. Many people are giving out free food in the city and doing harm reduction in some sense, but we are going into another dimension and growing our food here in the city and giving it away. Hopefully, we can educate people at the same time about where the food comes from and why it matters. So I am feeling pretty good about this and I know that this is not a thing about quantity, but quality and going in the direction we need to be going.
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plum blossoms still blooming

IMG_2441Dominique and I with lettuce just harvested from the garden


freshly harvested Oxalis flowers for salad…all parts if the plant can be eaten,

but I think in moderation because it is high in oxalic acid

IMG_2455Lily is one of are regular fabulous gardeners

IMG_2445So is Andy…the garden is a great way to connect and be part of the Free Farm Stand

please join us on Sundays while waiting for some produce

IMG_2456the apricot trees in the garden are blooming too

Last week someone  posted a link to a fantastic video in our comment section that I want to post again. I know this video is circulating around  among our network of people interested in growing food, and it inspires me no end and there is an article here with the video too. This guy Ron is pretty funny as well as getting a strong message across. The article sums it up nicely “Ron Finley talks about gardening in the inner city, the ‘most therapeutic and defiant act you can do.’ In this TED talk he says  “If you want to meet with me, come to the garden. With your shovel. So we can plant some shit!”. We at the Free Farm are not using shovels as much perhaps (trying to disturb the soil structure as little as we can), but we do want you all to come down to our farm and plant some shit too! Another thing is that Ron says Los Angeles leads the United States in vacant lots with 26 square miles of land. In San Francisco we are not so lucky and unfortunately all the vacant lots are being eaten up with development here.  Somehow we have to rise up and voice a displeasure to further development of our open space. We also need to form our own group  like   L.A. Green Grounds that “grows connections between people and gardening…Growing, working, teaching: changing turf into edible gardens…”. That has always been one of the goals of the Free Farm Stand, but we have always been short of the volunteers to make that aspect of the project take off. But the growing spaces are still there, especially in people’s backyards.

One thing that really tickles me these days is that we have some new young folks connected with Occupy that have been improving the scene at the Free Farm Stand. Not only are they helping give out seedlings, but they also have started a really really free market of sort,  where people can give out or pick up some free shit they want to share with others, and this week they were making seed bombs and showing others how to do it.


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A new person showed up at the Free Farm Stand named Tony and he made and posted a short video about his experience. Like I said many people do not quite see all the many facets of our project and only see the free food, but it is a sweet movie from a sweet guy