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Small things mean everything to me.  E.F.  Schumacher said that “small is beautiful” and I take that to heart. Small sexy smiles turn me on. Even non-sexy smiles are great or just some kind words are adorable.  The ideas behind the Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm were always small and simple.  Grow food, share the surplus,  encourage our neighbors to grow food and share their surplus as a way to make sure that everyone has access to fresh, organic, local produce. Since the beginning we have slowly taken small steps to achieve our goals.

Last week I almost did a back flip out of happiness when a small woman who only spoke Spanish brought me some chilies she had grown to share. She had gotten the plant from our stand!  That was such a great example of how small is beautiful.

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It is things like this that make me want to keep working to make the Free Farm Stand more than just a food giveaway program. We are now starting to set up an information booth that will hopefully be able to help answer peoples questions about growing food, eating and cooking healthy and vegan, and the meaning of life. We have moved the “hecka local” table down  past the bread and  are trying to explain why that produce is different from the rest of the produce and how everyone can do it themselves… not just grow your own but a little for someone else that may need help. The free seedling table  will be there too, though if we don’t find a local place to move our large greenhouse to we will have to get creative about growing seedlings…maybe grow them in my backyard like I used to do.

I also love it when the Free Farm Stand can be a place for neighbors to share something about themselves and their culture. It was also last week that we caused a lot of excitement by bringing a box of pineapple guavas to the Stand that were grown at Alemany Farm. One woman came by from Bolivia and called it by one name and then a man came by I think from Mexico who called it another name. He was very happy to see them and talked a while about the fruit.

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20131013_ffs_0073 (Medium) 20131013_ffs_0070More photos of the hecka local table:

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 beautiful chard from Alemany Farm

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beautiful and tasty lettuce…big heads! Most from Alemany

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rocoto pepper season

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not as much this week, but a lot of peppers including

3 lbs rocotos from my backyard

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last week with lots of Alemany Farm produce

I also love it when other people show up and contribute something to our Free Farm Stand weekly neighborhood event. Alex and Tierney  created a wonderful Free Store or Really Really Free Market this week and the week before an people took home a lot of things (I even picked up some mason jars which I will use to can the apple sauce I made from the wormy left over apples from the Hecka Local table).

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The apples in all those boxes (over 300 pounds) were picked from a friend’s orchard in the Sierra Foothills and they were really yummy. And there are more to pick if anyone is going up near Tahoe with a truck.

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More local produce:

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Figs from Mollie from down the street

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sunchokes from Treat Commons next to the Stand

This lettuce was harvested and shared at the Stand:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa lot of lettuce in a small space (baby gem)

This lettuce being planted (from seedlings from the Free Farm):

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These avocados from our tree at the Free Farm will not make it to harvest. We have to move the tree off the property in two months and I was told that the best way to do it is to cut it down leaving some wood above the graft and start over:

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Talking about the Free Farm, we had some students from Stanford come out last Saturday and helped us harvest and dig up plants for the move:

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To sum it up:

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community

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making new friends

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I just read about the singing revolution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vGItG3Xznw&feature=share…”singing together is our power”

Community and Food (just like the motto of Bi-Rite):

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blowing our trombone squash

Please keep in touch with us at the Free Farm. We only have two months to get off the land we are on and we have a lot of stuff to move and give away. We have a lot of community groups coming out in the next couple of weeks to get stuff, but I have a feeling there will be plenty to give away and a lot of work digging up stuff. We really want to see the Free Farm replanted in many other spots around the city.


Just kidding.  After I got some rest from helping organize the Celebration, Blessing and Closing  Ceremony of the Free Farm,  these words actually bubbled up inside me from somewhere. I have let go and am ready to give away the 1/2 acre of stuff at the Free Farm. Soon we will begin the process of finding good homes for plants and things and we are hoping people will send us their wish lists soon (and or drop by during our regular work days on Wednesday and Saturdays 10am-2pm) to get an idea of what we have. In about a week we will look at the lists and start contacting people. The uprooting began on Sunday when an interfaith youth group and Congregation Emanu-El starting digging up plants in the labyrinth:

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 I still believe that we have created a beautiful model of how our city could be better, based on generosity and focusing on serving needy households and people in San Francisco. We have proved that you can grow a lot of food on a little bit of land and do it with a minimal budget with lots of fantastic volunteer help.; that we can grow great soil and plants and make a lot of close friendships along the way. I had hoped we would find a home in the Mission where I have been based since 1974 and where our Free Farm Stand community resides. That isn’t happening so far and it is bit frustrating, but it is time to move forward and I am continuing to operate in prayer and dream mode. I will always find places to get my hands in soil.

I have considered a career change in being a full time stoner , fueled by an e cigarette and liquid THC, doing some fun vaporizing,  maybe with some art activity on the side. In all seriousness though, the world still needs a lot of repair work and I hope to continue to do may part.

Right now I feel like I have to share some thoughts that may alienate me from friends.  Yesterday there was a meeting of the San Francisco Urban Ag Alliance that I thought I should go to and I even put it on my calendar. I got this in an email: ” Just wanted to put out a personal plea–we really need lots of good people and ideas on Tuesday to create and form the new directions and faces of SFUAA.” After thinking about it for a while I realized I didn’t really have any positive suggestions. When SFUAA first was launched I attended the earliest meetings. I think it is a great idea to have a group advocating for urban ag in the city. Now I am somewhat discouraged about the direction urban agriculture has taken in the city. The first victory for SFUAA  was getting legislation passed to make it legal to sell your home grown produce from your garden. That mainly helped out one farm in the city that I know of, Little City Gardens, who grows food to sell to restaurants and they also run a CSA I believe. I am not sure if any other people are selling their produce in the city, I don’t know maybe it is a very useful piece of legislation, I guess commercial agricultural use of vacant land is better than development.  Then the SFUAA was instrumental getting legislation passed to create a city run agency coordinating  urban agriculture. They just sent out a job announcement looking to hire a coordinator of the new program paying something in the $500,000 to $70,000 range. No money in the budget yet to go to Urban Ag though. The latest victory of SFUAA is that AB 551 got passed and signed into law. “A new law promoting community gardens and small farms lets municipalities lower property taxes on plots of 3 acres or less if owners dedicate them to growing food for at least 5 years.” This quote is from the Los Angeles Times that wrote this article that also writes about Little City Gardens: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-urban-agriculture-law-20131003,0,3253879.story. Again I think it is great that this law was passed, but I really have my doubts that it will help the situation in San Francisco or Oakland and it probably will not help the Free Farm get a new place. It is too late for Hayes Valley Farm and also HANC community garden (though that has been replaced with a two million updated community garden now open) and I am not sure if it will help Esperanza Gardens.  I am not sure of the fate of the Growing Home Garden at the end of this year (I heard it might close that the city is selling the property). The Bee Farm on land owned by Clear Channel is downsizing because the corporation wants some of the land back. There are still some vacant lots around that haven’t been paved over yet, and I know of two in the Mission that have been vacant for years, and it is doubtful that the owners will be interested in getting tax breaks to let their land be used for 5 years for gardening.  For one thing, since the land has been vacant so long their taxes are probably already very low. Again I may be wrong.  Plus I can tell you it is no fun having a garden for just five years and then being asked to leave (10 years maybe so, but after the experience with the Free Farm, I wouldn’t enjoy having a garden without some perrenial plants like trees that will bear fruit and then you have to somehow move them. In our case we have a large avocado tree that is finally after five years bearing fruit, big avocados and we will have to cut the tree down to move it). To sum it up about Urban Agriculture in the city,  we have advanced to the point where we will soon have an edible organic garden in center field in AT &T Park that will supply produce to a concession stand. Hooray locally grown arugula on our $10 veggie dog with mustard. What happened to the strawberries growing on bus stops or was that my imagination?

So this Friday there is a big celebration and press conference over the passing of this law: Friday, October 11, 10:30 a.m. at Little City Gardens, 203 Cotter, San Francisco. RSVP: Walt Donner, 415.557.2312, [email protected]  I don’t want to promote negativity, but perhaps the news organizations there and the politicos should be told that some of us think that this is only a small victory not a milestone. That San Francisco is under attack by developers and that not only are farms getting the boot, but low income people too (Ellis Act evictions up 80% and every week I hear of another low income family or artist  getting evicted from their home). These issues are related because we are making the city more difficult to live in without open space nor housing. This law may help Little City Gardens secure their land more, I would hope so,  but what about the groups like ours who are focused on serving those in need?  And it doesn’t help my friends in Fruitvale across the bay who have started a Free Farm Stand and want to start a Free Farm on a nearby vacant lot. They had a meeting with I think 45 neighbors who were all for the idea, but the land is so wrapped up in bureaucracy, it is former Redevelopment land that they can’t make any progress getting the city to help them. They have started a petitionSocial Justice Learning Initiative) “has 40 gardens in Los Angeles that donate the food they grow to needy families…” I am so grateful that we at least have a few farms that I know of who are doing something similar in San Francisco.

Here are a few photos from our latest Free Farm Stand and our Saturday event:

These two sisters and their mom brought tree collards and sunchokes from their garden to share. This is so right on and truly makes me happy!

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It is sunchoke harvesting time, these from Treat Commons Community Garden next to the Stand

with Poppy posing with them (notice the two different varieties)

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they took one of the seedlings we had left over from the ceremony  planting in a handmade pot with the label “Replant the Free Farm”

(I am using a gender neutral pronoun here)

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lots of guacamole

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Addie singing the very appropriate song “Big Yellow Taxi” by

Joni Mitchell:

They took all the trees

And put them in a tree museum

And they charged all the people

A dollar and a half to see ’em

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

They paved paradise

Late last night I heard a screen door slam

a big yellow tractor came and took away my farm and

they took away my land

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Some our great volunteers (including Loren who drew the poster and took many of these photos) and guests from the Free Farm Stand

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We want to thank all the volunteers and everyone that made our ceremony special. I don’t have photos yet of all the friends of Pancho who came early and celebrated with us by helping clean up the farm before things began (I think about thirty karma yogis). And also, almost all the food was donated thanks to businesses who are promoting sustainable agriculture including Rainbow Grocery, Earl’s Organics, Veritable Vegetables, and Bi-Rite Market. It is funny that Bi-Rite Market says they are” building community through food” and I guess that is what we are doing too.