I have had a couple of meetings with our city government trying to get their help in long term leasing or purchasing the vacant railroad land across the street from the park where we have the Free Farm Stand and where Treat Commons Community garden is located. This land has been vacant for years and now has huge trucks parked on it and roofing equipment like tar machines and according to the railroad is not authorized use. Years ago in the eighties I actually got a lease to put a garden there but a neighbor who happened to be a lawyer got the railroad to rescind the lease because he didn’t want a garden there. I have dreamed forever of seeing this space planted with fruit trees and now maybe even our greenhouse that’s being stored. I recently thought it would be a great place to put a free neighborhood garden center, a place that would help and encourage neighbors to grow backyard gardens. The city recently passed legislation to promote urban agriculture in the city and created a new Department of Urban Agriculture to carry out several goals, one of which was to create a number of garden resource centers in different neighborhoods. I suggested to the new director Hannah Schulman, who has been very active with San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance and is very supportive and friendly, that we meet with the Supervisor’s aide (I don’t get to speak with the Supervisor directly) to create a center on this land. So we had a meeting and they like my ideas, but since they are new to all this they have to figure out how to do it and what the next steps will be. I came away a bit discouraged and thinking that it will take forever to get the city to make this happen. If the land didn’t have big trucks on it I would consider squatting the land. For now I have to go through the bureaucracy and be patient. Perhaps a huge number of neighbors getting together to put pressure on the city would help it move forward, but me organizing something like that now is not going to happen. In the meantime I have been cleaning up my big backyard and getting it ready to plant more food for the Stand. That is where the Free Farm Stand began in the first place.While weeding I had a realization that I should really apply myself to growing as much food as I could in a small and somewhat shady space. That as time goes on sunny vacant lots are going to become a thing of the past (and a large farm like we had or a food forest in the Mission is a long shot) and that the average backyard is the most likely place to grow food in the city (besides roofs). Following that logic, and after watching hours of videos from one of my garden heroes John Kohler (go to http://www.youtube.com/user/growingyourgreens), I thought I need to build some good garden raised beds or boxes. He tells you how.
I also thought why wait for the city to create a neighborhood garden resource center, I should just create one myself. If the city gets that railroad land that would be awesome, but until then I will see what I can do myself (and just check in with the city people on a regular basis). I have approached my friends who have a large garden kitty corner to the park on 23rd St and talked to them about creating a center there. I actually helped create that garden and worked there for about 25 years and then I left. At that time it was like a neighborhood garden center, though I hadn’t really quite realized it. . Right now it could use a lot of help and I have a green light to come back. I am now trying to figure out a schedule and hoping to find some other committed volunteers that could keep a neighborhood garden center open a number of days during the week. I have a serious problem over committing myself to projects and all my time gets taken up with wonderful things to do. In the last few months Alemany Farm has really saved the Free Farm Stand by providing it with our main source of Hecka Local produce, produce that is even more local and fresh than what we get from the farmer’s market at the end of the day. I have been feeling guilty that I haven’t been volunteering there to help them grow or harvest this super high quality produce, so I have plans to get over there soon, another project for me (again I am on the hunt for people that might want to go over with me on a Friday afternoon). Though recently we haven’t had huge amounts of produce like in the summer, the Free Farm Stand continues to be exciting! I love all the new volunteers that have been showing up and that they are taking on more of the responsibilities like loading the van and doing food pick-ups. Plus every week we have been having some awesome “free store” set up across from the farm stand tables (this week a volunteer brought 10 bags of nice children’s clothes that were very popular). Then there is our new information booth that is still trying to get off the ground. This week a new friend named Max brought a handmade garden tower that he wants to set up at the stand in two weeks. His idea I believe comes from a company selling these units, that grows food vertically for those with little space. Growing Your Greens actually has a video about setting up one of these towers, though the one in John’s video is a costly tower that he purchased online. And this week several people from a meet up group came and volunteered and two of them made vegan sandwiches from produce from the Stand. I don’t know if I should be sharing this here as we technically are not supposed to be doing things like this. Here are some photos:
Messages from India that came in my inbox:
I might add: Feed All Break Bread Together Stop the Evictions Free the Land
Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering, especially if you are interested in gardening and learning about urban food production in a back yard garden and helping to create a free neighborhood garden resource center.