Fuck Farming!

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



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


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.


One Reply to “Fuck Farming!

  1. Know that my heart both smiles and sheds tears after reading your words. Your words chosen carefully from the heart it’s very clear as they speak to a complex problem from a place of practical truth. Mindful are they not to judge,shame nor are they harsh or unkind. My heart so wants to believe that somehow you will get your land in the Mission Dist, And will put that energy out to the universe each day holding that intention on my altar as well. Your work nourishes the community in ways equal to none,nor can they be bought or sold in any store.
    They must be shared one soul to another your willingness plants seeds with every action that ultimately will be what heals the planet.. Much gratitude to you for your willingness to live your life in the ways that you do.
    Blessings, Mark Peterson-Estrada

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