Monday, February 22, 2010

a few more words

We continue to have these incredible work days that leave me feeling really happy. more at

Hooray for awesome volunteers!

We've had the most amazing turn out of dedicated volunteers every workday so far! A handful of folks from the SF gardening community have come out to lend their experienced hands to the project, teaching gardening skills and helping with the design and planning of the space.

What's been especially inspiring is the amount of really local neighbors that have seen the progress in the space and stopped by to talk about the farm and lend a hand to make something positive in their community. There is a natural collaboration that happens at our workdays and we are so grateful to be accepted into the neighborhood, and all the gracious help and support we are receiving from people who come and share their stories about the site, and the neighborhood, and their lives and how we all overlap.

A million thanks to everyone who has come out so far to get their hands dirty and make the Free Farm happen! You are the best!

Please join our future workdays, every Wednesday and Saturday from 10-2 (unless there is heavy rain), there are all sorts of tasks for all levels of skill and physical ability (kids are most definitely welcome!). You are also welcome to stop by just to say hi, check out our progress and enjoy a little respite from the city streets. Hope to see you there!

Composting Toilet at the Free Farm!

We've gotten the go ahead to build a composting toilet from St. Paulus Lutheran, who generously donate their land to the Free Farm. We're very excited to have the help of Laura Allen of Greywater Action, who will be hosting a workshop on site to teach folks about composting toilets while we collaboratively build one together for the farm. We are currently in the planning stages and gathering materials to build the structure that will house the toilet, and are looking for lumber and plywood to get us started, so please drop us a line at if you've got supplies you'd like to donate to this project. The rest of the set up is pretty simple and will be made from other recycled materials. Stay tuned for news and the upcoming workshop date!

Rows and rows of food planted!

After lots of double digging and getting beds ready our group planted rows of greens in the beds. Check out some pictures of how things are shaping up!

We've got lots of broccoli planted.

This bed is filling up with chard. It feels good to put food right into the earth where we can keep an eye on it until its ready for the dinner plate.

The beds are in varying stages of development here. On the right is a bed with a layer of compost, ready to be double dug. In the middle is a bed planted with broccoli that Tree brought, and on the left is a bed in the process of being planted!

Come out and help plant with us this coming Wednesday or Saturday from 10am - 2pm. I would love to see you there!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Saturday Feb. 6th Recap

This past Saturday workday from 10am - 2pm started with the arrival of roughly three pick-up trucks worth of compost from the city dump. Farming in San Francisco on a large scale requires lots and lots of nutrient rich material to amend the sand-like soil. We'll be using a double-digging method to get our beds ready for planting.

This Saturday also saw some special friends from Tofu Town. They generously provided us with prepared lunches of vegan gyros and backyard gleaned fruit juice. All-in-all around 20 volunteers were fed. It was so good, I can't say enough. Thank you Tofu Town!

In keeping with the community building component of community gardening/farming our group comes together during important parts of the workday. We gather for a group huddle to lay out our plans for the day before we start, we come together again for a lunch break, and then we close by touring the farm and pointing out what's been accomplished during the day. The Free Farm project is about more than just growing food, it also seeks to nurture community amongst its contributors.

I hope you will come be a part of this growing community during our Saturday 10am - 2pm workdays.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fruit Trees, Compost, and a Labyrinth!

Maybe it only looks like trash bags covering heaps of who-knows-what and a black bin to you, but it's so much more! This is the beginning of the Free Farm's composting system. There is a place for our food scraps from lunch, the invasive plants found at the site, and thick, woody materials, too. Composting space on a farm. Gotta have it! Below is a picture of our composting committee. Thanks so much, you three!

The picture below shows Tree sharing his knowledge of fruit trees. He taught us how to prune the tree so it will stay low. He also cleared up a problem lots of folks run into during tree planting. Rather than digging a hole and surrounding the tree with all nutrient rich material, the native soil should be mixed with the organic matter.

Also, Pastor Megan has been making serious headway with the meditation labyrinth. Make sure to check out the link to see how fabulously it's coming along!

Ready to Irrigate Means We Need Drip Tape!

Hi Everyone!

In the last post I told you that we have beds ready to plant food in. How exciting! All told our beds will provide us with over 1,000 square feet of planting space. As you may well imagine that much space is difficult to water with just a hose and spray nozzle. This means we need a drip irrigation system using drip tape to properly water our crops.

(Hand watering is ok for seed trays)

(Hand watering is not ok for 7 more of these beds!)

This link has a picture of what I mean by drip tape. It also has a short rundown on how drip irrigation works. It's a good way to irrigate for large scale food production, and soon when we move beyond the two beds we have ready right now, it will be critical to the livelihood of our crops.

As always you can check out our wish list and learn a little bit more about our intern Pete, the person to contact if you can help out!

DIY: Learn to double dig raised beds

This Saturday workday our group got two beds ready for planting! Tree gave us a tutorial on how to prepare them by double digging.

Step 1.) Your beds should have a 4-6" layer of compost on top to start with.

Step 2.)
See Tree there in the photo below with the shovel in as deep as the shovel's head? That's as far down as you want to dig. You also only need a width of one shovel's head.

Step 3.) The soil from the first trench should be placed in a wheel barrow. That soil goes to the far end of the bed where it will be used to fill in the last trench.

Step 4.) Stick a digging fork in the trench you just dug so the tongs are fully submerged. Wiggle the fork around to loosen up the soil. This wiggling aerates the soil allowing roots more space and increasing drainage

Step 5.) Now that the soil in the first trench has been loosened up you can begin digging the second trench right beside the first; same depth, same width. The soil from the second trench (including the 4-6" of compost on top) gets put into the first trench. You're just moving dirt from hole #2 into hole #1. Easy as that.

Just keep following this pattern of digging out a trench, working the fork into the dug-out space and then digging another trench right beside it and putting the second trench's dirt into the first. Do this all the way down the line. Mixing nutrient rich compost in with your soil helps build the soil structure, making the beds a hospitable area for food growing.

After raking the beds even our beds look like this.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lots of Compost Needed!

Hello friends of Urban Share and the Free Farm!

This time of year in San Francisco is the right season for planting! In order to take advantage of that our farm needs lots and lots of compost to work into the soil. It's probably our number one need right now in order to get food growing to give to those who need it most. If you or anyone you know, be they from work, or from school, your family, your church, or some other organization, has access to a large truck we would Love to use it. As a non-profit we can write a letter so the expense of using the truck is tax-deductible.

The picture you're seeing above shows 4 of our 9 planting beds that total over 1,000 sq. ft. We need the beds covered in 4" of compost, which equals a lot of compost. The issue isn't where to find the compost, it's getting it to our site, which requires a large truck. Can you help us out?

If so, please email me:

A Labyrinth, Finished Steps, and More Food in the Ground!

This Saturday workday saw a lot of action and a lot of progress. One of the big visions for the garden space is a food growing labyrinth! Tasty walking contemplation! It's taken lots of wheelbarrows of compost and roughly one ton of donated cardboard.
The above pictures is what we had co
mpleted on Wednesday. By Saturday all of our cardboard was covered and ready to build a labyrinth on!

The Free Farm is in a lot sunken below ground level. Getting down to the planting area sometimes proved tricky. In order to make the site safe for volunteers we've created a slow ramp and now a new set of stairs!

You'll notice the steps are surrounded by terraced beds. We've added more than what we had last time to include more strawberries, irises, and artichoke. Yum!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Plants in the Ground at Free Farm!

This past Saturday marked the first planted bed of food at the Free Farm! We have three adorable terraced beds of strawberries on a slope overlooking the farm.

We started with some compost from the dump

then dug out the side
of the hill to create a plane, or terrace, mixing in the compost.

We used rocks from the original St. Paulus Lutheran church structure to shore up the bed

Planting seedlings in
the new beds

And this is what you
end up with. Strawberries in the ground!

Work With us at the Free Farm this Saturday

The Free Farm is quickly moving from an abandoned, neglected lot, to a well-loved, full-scale farm. Come be a part of our growing community of farmers this Saturday from 10am - 2pm. We'll be getting our beds prepared with manure and compost, laying down wood chips to finish our loading ramp, continuing cleaning the lot, and watering our strawberry plants! To work at the farm you'll need to wear some work clothes, including closed-toed shoes, and be ready to sign our volunteer liability and photo release form. We'll provide the delicious vegan lunch! See you then!

What's needed at the Free Farm and how you can help

Hi everyone,

This past workday saw some exciting progress at the Free Farm. We set up a valve and now have running water. Now our crops won't die!

This is a huge step for the farm, and the next step that comes from it is hooking up a manifold which allows us to run water multiple places. In order to water the whole farm we need to install a drip irrigation system which means we need a drip timer. Timers run about $60. We'll also need plenty of PVC piping to get the water to the plants.

We're also at the ridiculously exciting phase where we are preparing the beds for planting. This means we need to work lots of compost and manure into the sandy San Franciscan soil. Do you have a truck we can use to load up with compost?

We also have plenty of other items that can be donated, check out the last blog with our comprehensive list.

If you can help us feed hungry people with fresh, locally grown produce by donating any of these items please contact me at I'll get you the specifics.