After 15 years the Free Farm Stand is still going strong, although it has changed since the big bad COVID outbreak 3 years ago. I am now working in the background and the program is run by a very loyal crew. I was there shortly last Sunday. Seeing the food spread out on all the tables, I kept thinking how the old farmer’s market style was better, but I am not into micro managing. and it still has a magic and is pretty wonderful.
On Sundays I am one block away in the All in Common Garden working with volunteers and talking to the many visitors who come by.
We are approaching the summer season and the garden is full of spring flowers. The sweet peas, planted in the fall last year and the poppies that pop out of the ground miraculously every spring are the glamor queens of the garden. Visitors are able to get a small bouquet of fragrant flowers to take home.
I am also surprised how many seedlings we were able to grow without a greenhouse, using a homemade grow-light set up on a shelf where we store food for the Farm Stand. We were able to grow a lot of seedlings to be given away on Earth Day and also to plant in the new Greenway garden (missiongreenway.org), Treat Commons Community Garden, and the All in Common Garden. Also, many visitors from the Farm Stand and neighbors come by and have picked up plants on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Yesterday I picked the first zucchini of the year, but the other summer vegetables are at least a month away from being ready to harvest and the summer annual flowers were just put in the ground. We have been getting a lot of lettuce, kale, parsley, and a ton of fava beans, all planted in the winter here.
Here they say something that I love: “A Sharing Garden differs from the usual community garden in that it is one large plot, shared by all, instead of many separate ones rented by individuals. All materials and labor are donated. The food we grow is shared amongst those who have need, whether or not they have contributed time, materials, or labor. All surplus is donated to our local food bank and other charities. No one is ever charged money for the food that is grown.”
They started in 2009 a year after we launched our program and we have been in touch since. Actually visiting them in person in Monroe Oregon (between Corvallis and Eugene) was such a thrill. Llyn and Chris are the most beautiful and generous people and doing amazing gardening work (I would say more like farming work) on 3 acres of land. I think besides growing a lot of food and giving it away, they eat about 40-50% of their food out of the garden. They grow veganically and use no fertilizers or animal products. They make compost in between their rows of vegetables and they save all their own seeds. Their whole scene is so inspiring and we both felt a heart connection sharing a philosophy of how to grow food and how to share it once it is harvested.
I have been busy at the All in Common Garden down the street and miss being at the Stand. I am still amazed at how the Free Farm Stand has a life of it’s own and the beautiful produce keeps on coming! My most recent project, that I and friends have been working on for a long time, is putting a greenway on the old railroad right-of-way across the street from the park where we are every Sunday. This land has no known owners and has been vacant for over 30 years. We have been researching this property extensively and are working with neighbors who have formed a non-profit called Friends of the Mission Greenway to turn this lot into a “A public pedestrian pathway surrounded by trees, pollinator habitat, and edible landscaping for the benefit of neighbors and San Franciscans and that honors the Ohlone peoples on whose unceded land we live.” We hope someday neighbors will be harvesting fruit like they do in the small orchard in the park. Right now, a pop-up garden has been put on the space and others have taken on the job of maintaining the garden and even putting on events. P.S. the Mission Greenway is a working title for now.
For the first time in maybe a year, I as the backup driver for the Stand, had to pick up produce on Saturday for the Free Farm Stand. I love doing this work though and it has been hard to keep out of the fun and excitement of the Stand. I was told that we are short on volunteer drivers. One of the many tasks to make the Free Farm Stand happen every week is to drive on Saturdays to pick up the produce at Martin’s soup kitchen on Potrero Ave and take it to our home where we store it until Sunday (it has been collected already from the farmers market). For the last two years I have mainly been gardening down the street and not involved so much in organizing the Stand nor being there on Sundays. I also haven’t been keeping our website and blog up to date. So, it seems like I should give a shout out that we need help to keep going.
Our all-volunteer program has been operating miraculously for ten years by people committing themselves to at minimum one day a month to drive our van to pick up produce from various places and bringing it to our garage or to the Free Farm Stand. There are also other tasks that need regular help.
The All in Common Garden and even Alemany Farm where we get the bulk of our “hecka local” produce are both thriving with the rain, despite the cold. Here is a recent video about Alemany Farm shot last year:
video made by Lori Eanes June 2018
There is still plenty of bounty to share and every week I have been giving out avocados from our trees to volunteers and visitors alike. It is winter and there is less produce to give out, but every week I am happy that here in the bay area we have some fruits and vegetables to distribute.
cold hardy bananas growing in our garden since December
Starting around 2008 there was an explosion of interest in growing food locally and we were just part of the wave of people interested growing urban farms and gardens and sharing our excitement we were experiencing. We have always seen this movement as a way of building a community of love activists dedicated to transforming society by building alternatives to the world of commerce and dollar exchange. In other words, promoting “free” and doing things for free. Creating a world where we trust the universe to guide us and nurture us. To practice generosity and compassion in our work and in our community. I think this excitement has died down in the city somewhat, but I continue to find inspiration in beautiful projects sort of hidden here and there. These feed my soul in these times when open space seems to be disappearing in our cities and urban farming is becoming less common.
Here is an example of a great project happening south of us in the Los Angeles area. In 2010 we created a Free Farm on land lent to us by St. Paulus Lutheran Church, where they once had a beautiful church which burnt down years previously. We thought of it as a church without walls, that our garden and its spirit rose from the ashes of that church and continues a ministry of sowing love and vegetables and fruits. One of our visitors was Rev. Anna Woofenden, an ordained minister in the Swedenborgian Church of North America. When I had dropped out of college in the sixties, I wound up living in a draft resistance commune in a big house owned by some Swedenborgians who were our landlords. I have always felt that they were good people. Anna went on to start the Garden Church
(https://gardenchurchsp.org/ ) in San Pedro in 2014, a year after our Free Farm was evicted from our site. I have been following their work since they started and it has always inspired me. I think we need more “churches” or places to worship and places to build community like these. Their garden is the Feed and Be Fed Farm (https://www.feedandbefed.org/). Here is a movie they recently made about their work. I especially like the part about making compost.
The other day I visited with my love warrior friend Pancho who is about to take off from his home in Oakland on March12 to go on the “Camino para la Familia de la Tierra / Walk for the Earth Family 2019 a Beginning, with No End [a walk from the Bay Area to the so called border of Mexico and the U.S.]. In his own word he says
“We are living in times of unprecedented global awareness. It is becoming increasingly more evident the different ways in which we impact each other with the choices we make, from the obvious, in our actions, all the way to the subtler level, in the thoughts we have. Unfortunately, we are often surrounded by habits of disconnection and a culture of fragmentation that have great repercussions in the ways we live, and influence our mostly reactions to pain and harm, as opposed to respond with equanimity, love and compassion…Take the example of the current humanitarian crisis at the so called “border” in the parts of the Planet we call Mexico and the U.S.. Unless we address the root causes of the diaspora forcing our sisters and brothers and their children to migrate, we are going to find ourselves reacting to a never-ending loop of emergencies. In the meanwhile, it is our moral responsibility to treat each other, at the very least, with respect to learn each other’s stories.
But what if we engage in a long term vision to take fierce care of our grand human family and the Earth Community as a whole? A kind of Overground Railroad** facilitating the collective liberation of each and everyone of us. A path so beautiful that strongly calls our heads, hearts, hands and spirits to participate in a small way to bridge our lives with more joy and harmony. stories. ““ I asked him what will happen with the Awakin Circle at his home in Oakland (http://www.awakin.org/local/city/oakland) and he told me it will continue. Also Fruta Gift will continue on Sundays. We wrote about this project on January 7, 2016 (https://freefarmstand.org/2016/01/07/heart-to-heart-resuscitation/). Pancho sent me a link about their love work written in Yes Magazine in 2017): FrutaGift article. It is so wonderful when others can step up and help projects keep on running when the main anchor is away. These days we hear politicians talk about a revolution, but the basic revolution starts in our neighborhoods, building communities where neighbors learn to work and support with each other. Where we can harvest and share the bounty together.
The world of the internet is amazing: Here is another Free Farm Stand in Poughkeepsie, New York.
I am still working on creating the Mission Greenway on the old railroad right of way between Treat and Harrison Streets. It seems magical that this strip of vacant land would be ideal continuation of the park where the Free Farm Stand is every Sunday. After a year of pestering the tax assessor to figure out who the land belongs to (and no taxes are being paid on it), our neighborhood group Friends of the Mission Greenway, is still in the dark. You can visit our webpage and blog https://missiongreenway.org/ for more information. We could use some help in figuring out what to do next….any occupiers out there or should we start tearing the asphalt up and planting trees?