Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Just wanted to take this opportunity to say a quick thank you to all of our amazing and dedicated volunteers. We are so grateful for your help and support, for sharing your time, your abilities, your knowledge, and your stories. Thank you to St. Paulus for so graciously supporting this project with your land and resources. And thank you to the land itself for the beautiful bounty we've been able to produce through the magical soil and all the creatures housed in it, the recently abundant rain, the sun that warms us and keeps everything in motion, and even the ridiculous wind that seems to mostly just knock things over.

We will be taking a little down time for holidays and rest over the next two months, please note the following closings:

The Free Farm will be closed on November 24th (Wed).

We will also be closed the last two weeks of December, on December 22 (Wed.), December 25th (Sat.), December 29th (Wed.) and January 1 (Sat.). We will re-open for our regular Wed and Sat volunteer days on January 5th.

We will also be having a special Sunday workday and greenhouse raising on January 16th, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. More to follow. Please come out and join the festivities!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Free Farm receives SFPT Innovator Award!

The Free Farm was one of the proud recipients of the 2010 San Francisco Parks Trust Innovator Award! We received $1500 in funds dedicated to building better tool storage and developing and installing a more extensive irrigation system. We're excited to move forward with this infrastructure so we can more efficiently operate the farm, and more easily host volunteers and lead groups and workshops.

Thanks SFPT, and congrats to the other Innovator Awards recipients!

Innovator Awards :: $20,000 for park projects

Innovator Awards honor Park Partners and other community-based organizations that are committed to improving their neighborhoods, parks or recreational programming in sustainable, forward-thinking ways. Awards are between $500 and $2000 for the purchase of equipment or site-improvements that will help increase park usership and strengthen programs. This year we awarded more than $20,000 to local groups.

Bay Area Ridge Trail, Lake Merced Measured Mile Project

Friends of Boeddeker Park, Tai Chi program

GreenTrust SF, 22nd Street bulb-out

Korean American Senior Services, Inc., Golden Gate Park Volunteer Program

Le Conte Mini Park, tree planting

MacCanDo Tenderloin Youth Track Club

Pennsylvania Gardens Project, 18th and Pennsylvania Garden

Produce to the People, Free Farm project

Progress Park

SF Lawn Bowling Club

SF Urban Riders, Upper Noe Youth Mountain Bike Program

Sutro Stewards, Rotary Meadow Habitat Restoration

Sunnyside Neighborhood Association, Circular Avenue greening

Visitacion Valley Greenway, Leland Avenue Improvement Project

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Congratulations to the Free Farm!!!

The Free Farm has been selected, along with 6 other fabulous organizations to participate in the first round of fund sharing from the RSF Philanthropic Services Food and Agriculture Focus Area Fund! Beginning in January, the selected organizations will meet to learn about each other's work and determine how best to collaboratively use $50,000!

We are truly honored to collaborate with these fabulous organizations:

Marin Organic is an association of organic food producers in Marin County who strive to continually improve farming practices in Marin; to promote the ethical, creative and patient enterprise of sustainable organic agriculture; and to encourage a preference for locally produced food. They requested funding to assess alternatives to current animal harvesting options; to create a sustainable apprenticeship and mentoring program for organic farmers; and to improve transportation from rural areas in Marin to the urban hubs of San Francisco and Oakland.

Movement Generation brings together key Bay Area leaders of grassroots, racial, economic and environmental justice organizations. As a collective group these leaders work to develop shared goals, strategies, and collaborative campaigns around environmental and food security initiatives to meet the needs of low-income communities of color. They have requested funding for support of their permaculture and food-systems course tailored towards grassroots organizers in communities of color. This course invokes traditional knowledge of land-based peoples and provides organizers with a methodology to resist systems of oppression through the creation of community resiliency.

Partners for Sustainable Pollination is working to help the health of honey bees and other pollinators by increasing bee forage plantings and promoting more sustainable agricultural practices. This organization requested funding to print educational materials and hire additional staff in order to expand their impact and outreach in the Bay Area.

People's Grocery works to improve the health and economy of West Oakland through a local food system. Their vision is for a just food system in West Oakland and for all people. They requested funding for one of their projects, the California Hotel, which has a working greenhouse, active volunteer program and weekly visits from community members who become connected with People’s Grocery from their visibility at this hotel. They are seeking funding to grow their program at the Cal Hotel, which they feel is a perfect microcosm for achieving new outcomes in movement building and improving resident health through food.

Pie Ranch is a unique food system education and advocacy non-profit and a thriving, sustainable farm with the goal of bringing together urban and rural citizens to promote sustainable farming, create a healthier food system, and protect our natural environment. They requested funding in order to support the salary of the Urban Youth Development Coordinator who has launched a new partnership with the John O’Connell High School. Through this partnership, approximately 115-130 students will experience hands on education through visiting and working on the farm. This experience is then linked with class lessons in community supported agriculture, food entrepreneurship, resource and energy conservation, land stewardship, and community and environmental ethics.

San Francisco Waldorf School (SFWS) has partnered with The Little Sisters of the Poor and Laguna Honda Hospital to combine biodynamic agricultural education for their students with service to these two residential communities. On each site, SFWS operates a small urban farm which students visit and work on weekly. They requested funds for gardening supplies and materials to help increase food production in the existing space, thereby increasing the size of the food donation that is made to each partner organization. In addition, they will seek training in horticultural therapy to deliver meaningful agricultural programming to improve the lives of their underserved host communities.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Little Farm that Could

It has been a busy end of summer with a new crop of  volunteers, many  Stanford students,  plus we have been harvesting pumpkins, green beans, collards, cherry tomatoes, and giant squashes. We have harvested over 2,000lbs since we started harvesting in April and this is only our first year. If you go to http://freefarmstand.org there is more written there about the Free Farm with more photos.
There are rumblings about building a greenhouse/sacred space and working with Temple Emanu-el to have a day of service on Martin Luther King Day January 14 next year  where we would have a barn raising to erect a structure we build ahead of this date. This is very exciting news and I look forward to see how things develop.

Our first cover crop of fava beans have popped up as we move through this Indian summer. Leanne the muralist who did our beautiful murals dropped by  and wants to paint more starting in November. We will need donations of house paint (white and primary colors). Lots to do, got to get out into the field.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Friends and More

I recently wrote about the Free Farm on the Free Farm blog athttp://freefarmstand.org/2010/09/20/diggers-and-digger-bees/. I mentioned a story about one of the many volunteers that came by and Pancho just sent me a link for another story: go here. A week ago Justin who teaches the gardening course at USF came by with 14 of his students and took a tour and helped us get a lot done including helping us to plant our Kale and red Bok Choy seedlings, sowing peas, and finishing terraces. The students were checking out various places they may want to do an internship at this fall. The same day a contingent of friends from Berkeley came by to bring us a big truck load of manure. I met Basje and her daughter Wren and she took a lot of pictures (see below). Also, this past Saturday Feel the Earth put on a dance performance at the farm that I unfortunately missed and hopefully it was caught on video.
the Berkeley folks

a lot of the students biked to the farm
lunch and the class brought extra food too
apples that a neighbor brought by to share

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

the free cart!

Saturday, August 28-- a bountiful harvest at the Free Farm. Zucchinis, beans, tomatoes, yellow squash, broccoli side shoots, collards, and heads of lettuce were plentiful and abundant--we even heard from the odd strawberry, pea pod, mustard green, and arugula!

our tomatoes have been loving the warm weather...

We spent the morning harvesting, and after lunch "the cart libre" was out in all its colorful glory, and neighbors came to share in the bounty.

Signs of things to come...pumpkins are starting to form in our pumpkin patch...

lots of good leafy greens (bok choy, kale, and chard) growing strong in our temporary greenhouse...its all a big circle, from seed to harvest and back again...

Thanks to Kris for the lovely photos!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Farm life without our summer interns

Two of our fabulous interns are gone, at least for now, and Hannah and Case will be taking off soon. I already miss them all, they have become part of the Free Farm family. I have been so appreciative of all of their help and actually I have been appreciative of all the help we have been getting making this farm happen. It is truly a miracle when I think about the transformation this once pretty much barren lot has taken. There is so much more life here now. Yesterday I observed a hummingbird visitor checking out the hummingbird sage. Our visits from our neighbors who come by to chat also bring a community of life to the place. I am waiting for us to build more real soil and the micro life to flourish. It is also a blessing to share our produce with people in need and to see neighbors faces light up when you talk about collards and greens.
Things are moving ahead in terms of just getting the Free Farm built. Most of the planting beds are made. We now have a beautiful bike cart and bulletin board. All the beds are labeled, the labyrinth is finished, we have two new hose bibs, and we have a somewhat enclosed area where we can grow warm things. Phil just planted another sweet potato plant and a kiwi. The tomatoes are growing crazy and need to be pruned and tied up. We have a lot of baby seedlings that need potting up and will be ready to plant in a few weeks. We are harvesting mostly squash and beans right now and are saving lettuce to give to the Friendship Banquet dinner on Tuesday nights for people with HIV and their families (Griff harvested about 30 heads of lettuce for our first donation). Talking about gratefulness and appreciation, we are deeply appreciative of St Paulus Church for so generously allowing us to use this land to serve those in need in our community.
When I was closing up on Wednesday our dear comrade and farming buddy Pancho dropped in with his family. He has been gone for over a month doing beautiful love work in Arizona and then went traveling to Seattle with his family from Mexico. I can’t wait to hear more stories from him. I really enjoyed meeting his family and his dad likes to give hugs as much or more than Pancho. Lucky for us we will be seeing him Saturday.

We can really use new interns or at least some people to help us with a few regular tasks: blogging once a week, cooking a vegan lunch once a month, either Wednesdays or Saturdays, an artist to help us make a new flier and possible business cards, greeting visitors at the gate, weighing and distributing produce on Saturdays, or record keeping in our newly designed planting log binder. We are also currently looking for lumber (like 2 X12’s) and re-bar to help us finish our two new terraces.

If you want to see a history of the farm through photos check pout Griff's previous post.

Photo Gallery: Building the Free Farm, Jan 2010-Present

click the photo for gallery

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Just a few of my favorite things

For those of you who don’t know, I have been interning at the Free Farm over the summer and unfortunately this is my last week here. To say the absolute least, being at the farm has been magical. In my last blog post I thought it would be appropriate to go through just some of my highlights.

Regardless of the tasks or projects at hand, the one constant thing about a workday at our farm, is the trademark free vegan lunch. Not only is the lunch without exception delicious and healthy, the time away from work offers volunteers, new and old, an opportunity to build relationships. We share stories, debate ideas, and marvel at the progress the farm has made. Some call it community building, but in the end it is those relationships that form the sacred fixture that holds the farm together.

In the same light, I am constantly reminded that the entirety of my working here was based on my learning from the other volunteers. From teaching me why we need to inoculate the beans before we plant them to learning about why beehives swarm to hearing the richness of each volunteers’ individual journeys that brought them here—my experience here obviously and completely out did the traditional office internship.

Each workday will inevitably include planting and/or harvesting. Naturally, these activities are fundamental to farming, yet, for someone like me (I have only taken care of one plant in my life before this summer) I have taken great pleasure in the chance to directly connect to creation, care, and giving of food. Now, I actually love to get my fingernails dirty (reminding me of my childhood when I didn’t care a bit about coming home with a white shirt turned brown from mud). And kneeling down to put seedlings in the soil or picking ripe crops also takes my eyes down to the plant-eye-level. It is only from this level that I can truly appreciate the miraculous world that exists down there—how incredible what a little change of perspective can do.

Also working at the farm has given me the many occasions to talk with members of the community beyond the chain link fence lining the farm. It has been a great pleasure listening to the praise of those who pass by. It seems as if at least a dozen people stop by the fence each workday staring in amazement at what we have done here. It is a delight to see people so excited when spotting a favorite vegetable of theirs on the farm. Likewise, every so often a neighbor will come by to tell us the stories of the church, when it burned down, and what the lot was like before January.

On one hand I have been wondering that perhaps the farm’s presence in the community has initiated a dialogue with the city. I don’t know why each of them stop but for me I hope that the farm tells people that at the least it is possible to take care of each other and our shared space in a different way. But on the other I also wonder that if I never tried farming, I could have easily been one of the many who pass by the farm plugged into their headphones in and enthralled in their phone without even glancing at the vibrant color and completely failing to notice the magnificent beauty below his feet.

It seems kind of strange asking you to come by the farm just as I am saying goodbye. But if you haven’t in awhile, make an effort to come back. And when you do, bring a friend, spouse, neighbor, and/or child. Who knows the visit might end up giving them the gift of seeing the world from a plants-eye-view.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Digging It!

Last Saturday at our workday there was a lot of digging that went on. Besides the two new terraces that were being finished, we had a great crew digging up the potatoes (53.5lbs). Then on Sunday the Temple Emanu-el crew was out doing some more shovel work, helping to create new beds. They come out to volunteer the first Sunday of the month.  Here are some great pictures taken on Saturday.

potato harvesters
from left to right Mountain Rose, Russian Banana, 
Nicola, Peruvian Purple, French Fingerling
rainbow of vegetables
vegetable swordfight with St. George runner bean 
and Purple Haze Carrot

Thursday, July 29, 2010

so much growth

Yesterday we were blessed to have a large group (20+) of volunteers of all ages from Mt. Vernon, Washington. I am sure I can speak for the rest of the Free Farmers when I say that we were all so very impressed by the work they accomplished. After the morning gathering we swiftly made small teams for different tasks and projects.

First, a group joined Page in putting terraces on the slope between the community area and the bulletin board. From afar, it looked like a tremendous amount of work. In the middle they placed concrete blocks to make stairs. (It’s hard to imagine, but does this mean more room for new beds?)

Second, a team of very capable men moved half of a dozen concrete boulders, some of which likely weighed hundreds of pounds. The concrete blocks were transformed to create a staircase to the tool shed. And in the process of doing so it appears as if we have created another potential bed.

Additionally, another group amended the bed behind the labyrinth where some unhappy pumpkin plants used to be and planted new lettuce. Meanwhile, I spent some time planting more beans and amending another bed with a wonderful group of volunteers.

Every so often this summer, I have to force myself to take a step back and take notice of the incredible transformation that has taken place at the farm. I remember at my first workday at the farm back in early June, John (who has volunteered here since the very beginning) told me that the farm was only 15% complete. While of course there is no way to precisely calculate this progression, each time I step back I am in amazement at how we collectively always find room for growth, especially when we find room for new beds and new ways to beautify the farm.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gray day, bright people

I guess I don’t realize that we have great weather sometimes until it doesn’t show up. Since I started working here in early June the sun has never failed to come out at least once during our farm workdays, until yesterday. It was grey, overcast, and quite chilly (especially when most of us expected sunshine) on the farm. Who knew, but I think cold affected us. Without the sunshine to photosynthesize and energize us for our individual tasks, we were left relying on each other in different ways. Instead of many simultaneous tasks worked on with a few volunteers apiece, yesterday we stayed in larger groups strategizing about the details of our projects and teaching each other along the way.

Early in the day, John took a group of us to check out the beehives. He showed us a thick layer of hundreds of dying and/decaying bees on all sides of the beehives. On a closer examination we could see them being eaten by ants. John reminded us that an opportunity to see this is usually reserved for National Geographic or Discovery channel shows.

Others spent time to find space in our existing beds to plant lettuce and mustard greens. Also, when starting to re-amend a bed for beans and mustard greens, many of us noticed that the bed was uneven and the soil was sliding down. So, it seemed like each volunteer had a different proposed solution and strategy, but rather than competition, cooperation was the guide to our problem solving. Eventually all of us easily agreed that the quickest and simplest idea was to prop a 10 foot piece of lumber against the end of the bed with stakes, and then we all got to work. The rest of the amending, prepping, planting, and watering were all done with an unusually high attention to detail.

In the spirit of sharing expertise, Griff took sometime and taught me and Susannah how to make compost by layering sticks, “brown stuff”, “green stuff”, pee’d on hay, and “cooked stuff” (very scientific, huh?) with straw laid on top.

And near the end of the day Lauren led a group of young volunteers in starting to dig out a place for an underground pipe to transport water from one end of the farm to the other.

All in all, although the day was chilly and the cold may have slowed us down, it also gave us a chance to be more attuned to the little things at the farm. It was a day of teaching, learning, and trying to stay warm. Even though the sun didn’t show, our fellow volunteers shined bright.

Free Farm

. . .

UPDATE: On Sunday and Monday two of our long-time and super dedicated volunteers opened the farm for two outside groups to see what the Free Farm is all about. On Sunday morning Shandra gave SF bikers who were on the Lots of Abundance Bike Ride (http://sfpublicpress.org/events/2010-07-18/lots-of-abundance-bike-ride) a tour. And on Monday Griff led an Episcopal youth group from traverse city Michigan and they built a new bed, planted new collards, cleaned up, and walked the labyrinth.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

circling up... with renewed purpose and community

Yesterday, we tried what I thought was a new process: to start our workday, we circled up at 10am and went over the day’s tasks. Not only did circling up clarify and organize the projects, I think it actively created a renewed sense of involvement for the whole group—veteran and new volunteers alike. After we broke the circle to start work, the day seemed to move forward with even more purpose than usual. And then to end our workday shortly after 2pm we circled up again to tour the farm and acknowledge the progress we made on each project. Too often, I forget that this place has grown into what it is today from individual volunteers coming together for a day at a time to transform this empty lot into a full-fledged farm! After touring the farm, I could very concretely see the growth that happened after just one day of work. I was very pleased with how this simple practice reaffirmed and tightened the bonds within our community of volunteers. Thus, I will do my best to give you a condensed blog-tour of our work yesterday.

First, just as you enter the farm the previously bare welcome bulletin board, has recently been transformed with lush shades of blue and green and a painting of beans. Yesterday it began its actual function as the primary place to find information and news about the farm. We posted two press articles as well as some newly found pictures of the church that used to stand where our farm now stretches out its roots in the soil.

Page and Susannah began construction on The Free Cart, which will be a mobile cart to transport and present the free farm’s Saturday food giveaway.

We also had a group of five beautiful women transplanting newly sprouting seedlings into larger temporary home all day.
I continued the ever-evolving project of organizing and cleaning up the so-called ‘outdoor shed’ in the bottom left corner of the farm that was bravely started last Saturday. Next Saturday Hannah will help us start labeling the sections, which will help to keep the area neat.

The outhouse also went through quite the transformation. What started out the day as just a bare structure, gained a colorful door (painted by Jason and Jamie), a window to allow for some ventilation near the roof, and half of a covered wall.
 Hannah and Coco have been working hard recently on painting colorful stakes to label what is growing all over the farm and when it was planted. This is all a part of Hannah’s ambitious project of creating a crop plan for the farm to monitor the plants.

Lastly, for the past week John and his team have been working on remodeling and extending the plastic covering over the tomato plants and the new beds to their left.

That is all I can recall for the moment. I hope this gave you an update on how much we (the community and the farm) are growing each day. Yesterday confirmed for me how the beauty of the farm doesn’t just grow over night; it is planted, painted, transplanted, watered, cleaned, fed, built, and cared for with the hands and hearts of our volunteers each day. If you haven’t been by the farm in awhile, do yourself a favor and drop on by to see for yourself.

Until next time…

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Carling's Post

It was on Wednesday of February 3rd, 2010 that I first experienced the giving spirit and passionate vision of The Free Farm. During my visit, I was pleasantly surprised to recognize so many friends that I had met through other avenues such as the Free Farm Stand, the Metta Center and the Mobilization for Climate Justice. Upon cycling up to the soon-to-be urban food oasis for the first time, I knew instantly that this was not only just a project that I wanted to be a part of, but also a community and a movement with which I was ready to connect.

I've been regularly volunteering at The Free Farm ever since my first experience there. Every week I'm lured in by the thoughts of getting my hands dirty, harvesting a bounty of beautiful produce, meeting new volunteers and enjoying a delicious home made vegan lunch.

This past Wednesday was my first day on the farm in a month and a half. I just returned from a bicycle journey along the Pacific Coast starting in Vancouver, British Columbia and finishing back home in San Francisco. The pedal powered tour was an opportunity for me to explore the northwest without relying on a fossil foolish machine. In addition to experiencing the stunning scenery and meeting wonderful people, I was able to visit a few food production projects along the way. In Olympia, Washington I spent an afternoon at GRuB (www.goodgrub.org), a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to nourishing a strong community by empowering people and growing good food. GRuB has an amazing youth education and employment program and a well-developed internship program with Evergreen State University. Last year they grew over 12,500 pounds of fresh produce at their farm and donated more than half of it to the Thurston County Food Bank and the farm volunteers. While taking a rest day in Arcata, California I stopped by Deep Seeded Farm (www.arcatacsa.com), a 2 year old farm which runs a 160 member Community Supported Agriculture program on only 4 acres. I was welcomed by a family style farm fresh lunch with Eddie, the head farmer, and 6 interns. We spent the meal discussing how to deal with snails and slugs in the garden.

Both GRuB and Deep Seeded Farm were full of positive energy and inspiring people, which made me miss The Free Farm even more. After only one day since returning from my bike tour, I visited The Free Farm eager to see how it had evolved and blossomed in the past month and a half. What a transformation! While I expected to be shocked and refreshed by the beauty of the farm, I was amazed by the bounty of food and dedication of the community. It was great to share smiles with old and new friends and as always lunch was superb! I can't wait to return on Saturday.

[this was sent to me by Carling...Tree]

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Crop Planing and Bee Swarming

 [Jacob, one of our summer interns from the Metta Center for Non-violence in Berkeley, is going to be writing about the farm every Thursday. Just before I published this I was sent this article in Mission Local about the Free Farm:  http://missionlocal.org/2010/07/feeding-the-mission-in-the-western-addition/  Tree]

At our regular weekly Wednesday workday our volunteers had plenty to do and to help with. Hannah, one of our two super cool interns from Standford, began to prepare for building a comprehensive crop plan. The crop plan will map out the existing beds and label their crops with important information and statistics. This should make our farming much more efficient and improve transparency between volunteers. The other intern, Susannah has been painting our soon to be bulletin board, and very quickly she has given the wooden structure color and life. When finished it will be the primary location for information and news on the farm for new visitors and returning volunteers right when they walk in. In addition we planted broccoli where our recently harvested bed of potatoes used to be [thanks to Green Gulch Farm for supplying us with starts]. We also built a new bed (right when you thought there was no more room for a new bed we found one!) in the walkway behind the vines and at the end of the protruding old pipes.

For those who were not at the farm last Wednesday, we had a very exciting event. Our beehive in the back corner of the farm swarmed at about 2pm. According to our beekeeper the hive was looking to split and form a second hive with a new queen. The swarm was a sight to see. The swarm ballooned to over 20 feet high and extended the length of our farm. Some estimated there were about 300,000 bees flying over our farm [more like 30,000 bees]. Luckily after a few hours, they calmed down and began making a new hive by the raspberries bushes. By this week, the temporary hive was relocated into a more permanent box and location next to the original one.

Lastly, just after we finished up our tasty vegan (as always) lunch, a resident from our next door building came into the farm and in gratitude for the produce we had given her in the past, she give us a box of crackers, a bag of vegetable chips, and many grocery bags to use at the farm stand.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sacred Heart Visits Free Farm!

25 incoming freshmen and 2 of their teachers from our neighbors at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep visited the Free Farm today. They did a tremendous service, cleaning up trash, weeding, potting up kale and mustard seedlings, and turning the compost pile. The students were from a summer Health and Nutrition Class. We closed the day (and their course) by silently walking the labyrinth, reflecting on a healthy intention for the rest of the summer. This summer 3 more groups from Sacred Heart will visit us, we can't wait!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Works of Mercy on the Free Farm

One highlight of yesterday's Wednesday workday is that 15 summer students from Sacred Heart High School came to visit the farm and give us a hand. They were taking a class called something like the Works of Mercy and so their teacher Jim wanted his students to learn about  growing food for the hungry. Jacob our new intern from the Metta Center and Shandra were their hosts and there was plenty of work to do, including planting more herbs in the labyrinth, creating new beds for the warm season crops, and some other tasks.

It was great having their help and getting to meet them all, especially since we want to work more with our neighbors and schools. I think more Sacred Heart students are coming next Wednesday and Friday.

Also, Steve and Griff finished framing out the outhouse (maybe we need a better name for this structure which will serve to house our composting toilet...the Poo Palace?). There is a lot going on next Saturday June 19, but if you are interested in the subject of composting toilets consider attending our free workshop mentioned in a previous post below from 1-4pm.

I think we are still looking for bright primary colors of paint to paint the bulletin board Page built. And we have a bunch of other needs as well, like a big shed to store our tools and more gloves for volunteer hands.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Free Farm on the HomoHomestead tour this weekend

June 13th, HomoHomestead Tour 3:30 - 6pm FREE!
Meet up at the Free Farm at the corner of Eddy and Gough in SF
end at Dirt Star - 6pm: African American Cultural Complex: 762 Fulton, SF - tix $12-20

RSVP to gurlshare@gmail.com for bike tour- space will be limited

Western Addition, The Fillmore, Hayes Valley...
The names and borders of this area are ever changing and ever impacted by the whims of the wealthy and powerful in San Francisco. But it's rich history and robust resistance to marginalization and complete gentrification is alive and thriving. We will check out how some local queers are continuing those roots of resistance through their community DIRT PROJECTS! From Free Farms to Community Gardens - we will catch a glimpse of queers in dirty revolutionary action.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Upcoming Composting Toilet Workshop 6/19

As many of you know, the Free Farm has no toilet or sewer connection. Laura Allen, of Greywater Action, will help us solve this problem by plumbing a composting toilet to be used by volunteers. Come help and learn about ecological toilets, that use no water and return nutrients to the earth. We'll finish construction on a urine-diverting composting toilet, discuss health and safety, codes and regulations, the benefits of composting toilets, and how to maintain a well-functioning toilet.

Date: June 19th
Time: 1pm - 4pm.
Cost: Free.

RSVP: Please send a brief email with the number of people coming to help Laura plan: info@greywateraction.org

For more info on composting toilets check out this video:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Free Produce Distributed at Free Farm

Recently, my best friend Julie sent me a New York Times article describing the labors and challenges surrounding a group of freegans in Buffalo, NY and their evolving relationship to a squat started years ago.  Check out the article here.  Note that the author has researched freeganism's philosophical genealogy, tracing it back to Gerrard Winstanley and the English Diggers.  The author also mentions the Digger's 20th century San Franciscan reincarnation which, I think, The Free Farm's spirit is deeply connected to.  Please do check into the history of the Diggers, it is infinitely fascinating.  I promise.

And so my mind is set to work. How can I help but make connections to the Buffalo freegans and the work at the Free Farm?  I can not, and don't really want to, speak for the whole Free Farm community.  I only know that I view the United States' brand of capitalism as remiss in meeting human needs at best, and at worst a violent, dehumanizing structure that maintains and legitimizes unjustifiable inequalities and wanton luxury all in the same breath.  One of the long-term residents from the article is quoted as saying, “Many of us in the house see the whole system of private property as being something that oppresses people...”.  

And we're in good company.  Lately I keep coming back to Martin Luther King Jr.'s refrain from his 1967 speech "Beyond Vietnam" calling the United States to "undergo a radical revolution of values."  King explains, "We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

This radical revolution of values is my deepest hope for our society, and myself.  It is why I work at the Free Farm.  It is a place where the paradigm shift away from things, and towards people is tangible.  Combatting the interconnected "giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism" is happening all over right now.  Its manifestations are limited only by our creative visions.  In Buffalo they are challenging property rights with a long-term squat.  In San Francisco we give away fresh produce, and labor toward an inclusive, welcoming, community.  It's cheesy, but I'll stop saying it when it's no longer true, there is nothing more revolutionary in this society than love in action.  I hope to continue expanding my understanding of how "Free" challenges, with love, the hierarchies embedded in all three of King's triplets by growing food and building community.

Here are some pictures of our love in action this past week.  We've started giving out produce regularly each Saturday to anyone who walks by and has need.  


P.S.  Stay tuned for information for our composting toilet workshop, June 19th, with Laura Allen from Greywater Action!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Farming News

The handsome blue/purple cabbages that we grew on the Free Farm were really the Carnival stars of the Free Farm Stand. Besides being a total miracle, everyone that saw them immediately sensed that something special was going on, and that somehow this impressed on folks that we were really farmers after all....read more at http://freefarmstand.org/2010/05/31/cabbage-without-baggage/

On Wednesday we had a smaller work force it seemed but we were mighty and a lot got done. Potatoes hilled up, compost turned, pumpkins potted up, Steve and Case framed out the outhouse for the composting toilet, and more work on the labyrinth was done (planting more beans and zucchini). We also added a bench donated from the Secret Garden that overlooks the farm and gives a close up view of the bees checking out the poppies.

This Saturday we will have a shorter work day, we are closing after lunch so some of us can hike over to Grace Cathedral to see our own Griff take another step towards becoming a priest. He will be ordained a transition deacon.

On Wednesday we can use all hands on deck as we get a 20 yard load of compost. We will also have 12 Metta Center volunteers helping out. It looks like the farm is shaping up for the summer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Summer Hours

The Free Farm just continues to grow, both in its vibrancy and its mission. On Saturday, we had our first sidewalk farmstand and forty pounds of lettuce and greens were given away to neighbors and volunteers. On Monday bees arrived to live in their new hive and they have been enjoying the sunflowers and poppies on the hillside. And today, a demonstration container garden was started to illustrate how folks with only a little bit of space can still grow food.

In case you haven't been able to stop by on Wednesdays because of your work schedule, we're keeping the farm open later during the summer. Starting in June, you can come by any time between 10am and 6:30pm to lend a hand. Whether you come to a workday on a Wednesday or a Saturday there are plenty of projects to get involved with. Come learn how to plant seeds, transplant starts, dig beds, thin seedlings, turn compost and harvest food. We would love to see you!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday May 8th workday

Despite the windy and blustery day, we had a wonderful workday at the farm.  The cool weather made for a good day for planting, which we took advantage of, and created lavender hill in the labyrinth.

Jonathan, from Feel the Earth, came by and checked on the trays of seeds he supplied and there are lots of babies.

Thanks to Jonathan we not only have plenty of seedlings (for the farm and the stand, as well as the various gardens Jonathan supplies seedlings to), we now have a strawberry bowl that is going to be awesome once it takes hold.  Speaking of strawberries, Strawberry Hill is coming along and producing lots of beautiful, and tasty, strawberries.

It was a bountiful day, as well, with 80 pounds of produce harvested (of course, Pancho had to munch a little as we worked). There were collard greens; Kohlrabi; lettuce, and 13 pounds of greens from our lettuce lawn!  The lettuce lawn is a new concept to me, and I will have to try it again.  In all, it was a lovely day, and once again, we gathered together and brought with us our love, and spirit of sharing, to produce beautiful, locally grown, organic produce. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Local Food Economies at CounterPulse

Come check out the local food economies talk at CounterPulse tonight at 7:30pm. We'll be there representing the Free Farm! See you tonight!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Big Harvest!

On my latest blog post over at  http://freefarmstand.org/ I talk about the record amount of produce we harvested last week from different gardens in the city, including the Free Farm. ...57lbs of greens, lettuce, and kohlrabi from the Free Farm. This garden is rocking but as the weather warms up we need more hands to water (we do have some things on drip). I just got a lot of hose and sprayers.
 There is also plenty of work to do for aspiring urban farmers who want to help feed those in need.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In the News

Check out this great story about the Free Farm from KQED's Bay Area Bites Blog.


Or, what about starting from the very beginning, and growing more food from scratch right here in the city? Even in cities as highly populated as San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, a surprisingly amount of arable land is still available. Just look at the Free Farm, which was started on a vacant lot at Gough and Eddy Streets in January of this year.

Pastor Megan Rohrer, a young Lutheran pastor who works with a variety of homeless communities around the city as the executive director of Welcome Ministry, wanted to expand the work she was doing, going from feeding the hungry of San Francisco to growing food for those same communities. The St. Paulus Lutheran church was willing to offer an empty lot it owned to her and a dedicated community of volunteers to make a garden.

Meanwhile Tree, a longtime food-justice activist and community gardener as well as the founder of the Mission's popular Free Farmstand, was looking for a place to grow more local food to supply the farmstand. Once Megan's church connections met Tree's gardening expertise, the Free Farm was born. With grants from the Mesa Foundation along with several local Episcopal and Lutheran churches, plus a whole lot of wheelbarrow-pushing volunteer labor, the weedy lot has undergone an astonishing transformation.

What was once a trash-strewn, needle-littered eyesore that neighbors called "The Pit" is now a welcoming, mural-lined space full of neatly mounded raised beds planted with salad mix, potatoes, beans, broccoli and lettuce. Bricks salvaged from the St. Paulus church (which stood on the space before burning down in 1995) now form strawberry beds on the hillside and a winding spiral bed planted with flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Cold frames and a newly built greenhouse are filled with trays of tiny seedlings, everything from kale to tomatoes to marigolds started from seeds donated by church communities across the country. Bright garden-themed murals by local artist Leanne C. Miller cover the concrete wall on the west side, and there are plans to bring more artists and sculptors into the garden to create site-specific works.

Volunteers get down and dirty every Wednesday and Saturday from 10am to 2pm, building infrastructure, hauling mulch, manure and compost, planting seedlings, waterings, and more. A volunteer-made vegan lunch, often featuring produce harvested from the garden, is shared by all. Volunteers will also share in the harvest, with excess supplying the Free Farmstand (Rohrer hopes to establish another neighborhood Free Farmstand on the site) as well as providing fresh local produce for twice-weekly homeless dinners organized by Welcome. (For more information on Welcome's additional garden projects around the Bay Area, go to Urban Share.)

Read the whole article and leave comments about the article at: KQED's Bay Area Bites Blog

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Today's workday at the Free Farm

Today at the Free Farm, we started putting some succulents in containers on top of the concrete structures near the sidewalks.

Each week, we have a group of volunteers who take the baby seedlings and put them into individual seedling trays so their roots can get strong enough to get planted in beds. Here are a few of the people who help sort some seedlings this week.
Lauren and Case, built some shelves from pallets so that we could fit more seedling trays in the green house.
Here are some photos of today's harvest

Thursday, April 22, 2010

3rd Harvest at the Free Farm: 6 pds

Today, 6 pounds of lettuce (6 1/2 pound lettuce heads 3 pounds lettuce mix) from the Free Farm was given away at the Free Farm Stand. When we start having more bountiful harvests, we'll be opening a stand at the Free Farm to give away produce and seedlings.

A Saturday at the Free Farm

 Here is a photo from the Bay Guardian that wasn't on line:
Since the Free Farm is such a big focus of the work I am doing it seems to be getting more attention here on this web site. On Saturday at the farm we had a Blessing Ceremony that I really enjoyed...Read more at http://freefarmstand.org/ 

The Free Farm and other great bay area projects in the Guardian!

photo by Charles Russo via SFBG

Check out this article in the SF Bay Guardian that talks about the Free Farm and the Free Farmstand, as well as a bunch of other amazing projects, many of which are friends and inspirations of ours. Get out there and get your hands dirty!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The making of an Urban Farm

this pic is from the ever awesome Cristina Ibarra

I am consistently amazed by the progress at The Free Farm, the work is moving so fast I think I've almost been taking for granted how much we've been able to accomplish in a few short months. A few weeks ago, Tree put up a really wonderful post on the Free Farmstand site about appreciation, and it really hit home with me. I feel really grateful to be a part of this project, for the partnership and hard work that has created and sustains it, and for the friends I've made and the inspiring new people I've met in the process. A big giant thank you to everyone who has been a part of it and everyone to come along the way!
I thought it seemed like a good time to post some "then" and "now" photos of our progress so far. The "then" photos reflect what the lot looked like before we started work in mid-January (yes of this year! as in 3 months ago!), and the "now" photos are from the workday this past Wednesday. I wish I had pulled off the row cover on all the farm style beds because they are all really starting to pop with vegetables. Next post, I guess! Enjoy and thank you!

cross posted to Produce to the People