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 

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Free Farm Harvest Helps Feed at Welcome Community Dinner

This Saturday's harvest of lettuces from the Free Farm went to Welcome's 2nd and 4th Saturday community dinner. Over 150 meals were served with a side of super fresh, super local, greens.

The greens started off in covered beds here. (Thanks to Carling for this great photo taken at the Saturday workday!)

Then they were harvested and packed up.

And finally found their way onto plates to feed Welcome guests!

Present Needs

Urban Share has a list of needs to drive the projects we're involved in forward. In order to have our needs met we have to ask. So, here's asking. Please bear in mind that you can either provide the whole in-kind donation of the item we need, or parts helpful in constructing it, or money to be put towards it.
Free Farm:
  1. Plastic for a green house
  2. Green house shelving (you'll see from the pictures below that we really need it)
  3. A shed for our tools (new or used as long as it's waterproof)
  4. Lumber for a composting toilet
  5. Wheelbarrows
  6. Knowledgeable folks able to lead others in tasks that need completing.
  7. Hand tools
  8. Lots of Compost/Manure/Woodchips
Check out this great greenhouse that the Farm received as a donation!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blessed Be

There is so much that could be written about what is going on at the Free Farm. I wrote an update on the Free Farm Stand web site ( felt amazed myself at all the work we have accomplished in such a short time."  The most recent activity happened Sunday evening when Jonathan with Feel the Earth brought over 42 flats planted with seeds that will be grown at the Free Farm and given away to gardeners all over the city to encourage more food production.

We really need a greenhouse as you can see and the grant we wrote for one was turned down so we must try again. This garden is all about manifesting, like putting it out to the universe our needs and hopefully  things will manifest themselves. On my other post I have a list of some things we want to manifest like a shed, wheelbarrows, greenhouse, gloves for our volunteers, clips to hold down our row covers, a dump truck or more of manure, moe seeds for our lettuce lawns

Besides the free yoga class coming up Wednesday at 9am Saturday April 17th will be a Blessing Ceremony before we start working 10-11am...bring your blessings!

Monday, April 5, 2010

First Free Farm Harvest!

This past Saturday at the Free Farm saw some seriously healthy looking lettuces ready for eating!

Check out the pictures of Megan and I ready to snip greens from the lettuce lawn that can be harvest three times. Our strawberries are plumping up and the lettuce heads are now big enough to eat. Everyone's hard work is finally turning into something tasty!

Upcoming Excitement!

Some new and exciting events are on the calendar for the near future! Wednesday April 14th at 9am, at the Free Farm there will be a free yoga lesson led by Tamara Loewenstein, Urban Share's arts curator! Please bring a mat. We will begin promptly at 9!

And as always, you can come by the farm Wednesday and Saturday from 10am - 2pm to enjoy working in the dirt, a free vegan meal, and friends!