Monday, January 17, 2011

A Day of Service

2010 GCETP graduate Zoe reports on The Free Farm's 1st Anniversary Greenhouse Raising:

A Day of Service

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

The beaming Pancho greeted us at the gate. His magical ability to make anyone feel welcome and worthwhile immediately put us at ease. We parked our bikes, and joined a group with purple armbands led by the ever patient and laid-back Sarah, building potato towers!

On Sunday, January 16th, people of all ages, ethnicities, and faiths came together to celebrate the process of growing and building on land that was an empty lot just one year ago. Today the Free Farm is an abundant, breathtaking, communal space that serves to empower a fluid, growing community.

The day was warm and sunny, and teams of volunteers made light work of projects large and small. All day long, people worked tirelessly raising TWO greenhouses. Others built tables for the greenhouse, while even more volunteers built a new tool shed.

Besides construction, the farm was bustling with other activities from weeding and mulching with Hallie, to sign making with Susannah from Stanford Glean. The hand painted signs will mark the newly planted potatoes and help identify plants in the labyrinth. Jonathan ran a team seed starting. The flats will sprout in the new greenhouse. Many of the seedlings will find homes at the Free Farm in a few weeks, but others will be part of a new initiative to provide seedling donations for more community projects. Sarah led potato planting in two ways, potato towers and the old-fashioned trenching in a row style.

Since we worked on potatoes, I will provide some information on how to construct your very own potato tower.
The magic of this method is that for those who do not have much space, or any accessible earth to speak of, the towers can be placed anywhere. They have been known to produce 50 lbs of potatoes from one tower! The container can be made from any wire big enough for a plant to grow through. We used chicken wire and fencing wire to construct a round, three-foot high cylinder. As for the filling, most soils will do, but here is the way we did it.
At the bottom we put about 4 inches of compost, then 4 inches of manure. The potatoes are placed near but not at the edges, growth facing out, about eight around the perimeter of the tower. The potatoes should be organic and pre-sprouted. They don’t need to be whole, you can cut your potatoes as long as each section has an “eye,” but let them heal before planting or else they will rot. Above the potatoes we sprinkled a bit of manure and topped the layer with 4 inches of straw. We repeated this two more times for 3 layers total. Each layer is a foot or so thick.
In two weeks, you should see the plants growing out from the tower. Water it if the leaves look wilted. After around 3 months, or when the leaves start to get yellow and fall off, it is time to harvest!

Numerous individuals and regular volunteers were present, as well as strong showings from noteworthy groups. St. Paulus Church, whom we have to so humbly thank for use of their land, is a driving force behind the Free Farm. The Congregation Emanu-El chose the farm as their annual service project in recognition of MLK day. (See the blog post below for a video of the lunchtime speeches of Pastor Dan Solberg of St. Paulus as well as Rabbi Bauer from Emanu-El). Stanford Glean was also present, and brought gifts of citrus and fresh homemade breads.

The crème filling on the workday cookie was a special free lunch prepared by Yasue Aruga of Pacha Mana Café and J. Allen personal chef, with assistance from Carmen. (See Carmen’s blog post below for more details on the menu and the cooks contact information). As is the custom, we held hands in a giant circle after a gong signaled that it was time for lunch. Everyone said their name and we all recognized each other for our presence and labor. The food was hearty, vegan, and delicious. To top it off was the best vegan cookie I’d ever had.

There are endless thanks to give and activities to mention, but one final happening of note must be spoken of. Emily, in the morning, and Kris, in the afternoon, led silent walking meditations through the spiral of the labyrinth. It was a perfect opportunity to reflect, to stop and observe, to clear one’s head, to find your own personal enjoyment in a meaningful day.

1 comment:

  1. Its really a great Blog. LED grow lamps are nature friendly from every possible stand point. So its going popular these days.