Saturday, April 23, 2011

Earth Day = Every Day at The Free Farm!

Kris sent these stunning still life photos from today's workday:

Thanks so much to Kris for taking photos with her phone camera today! What a lifesaver because I wasn’t able to take photos after my camera’s rechargeable battery died :-(

Earlier in the day, I volunteered at Earth Day SF ( in Civic Center Plaza. At the Permaculture Pavilion, a couple of One Brick volunteers and I helped Veronica ( set-up and create an earth mandala. My permie instructors (Jay, John and Max) were present so I wanted to capture some Polaroid moments. I went out to buy new rechargeable batteries, but they needed to be jump-started.

In the meantime, I met volunteer Kathy who revealed her green thumb so I invited her to join me at The Free Farm after our morning shift ended. When we arrived at the Farm, we met several new volunteers and I asked how they came to volunteer at the Farm:
• Jenny and Eitam decided to check out the Farm after visiting Mission’s Free Farm Stand (
• Mallika, who moved from Florida, found out about us through our website
• Sharon (who owns and her mother just moved into the neighborhood and noticed the Farm’s volunteer sign
• Phenion and Daisy, with their children, decided to come to our workday after walking around the neighborhood when the Farm was closed

We did a lot of soil building and planting: collards, kale, chives, tomatoes, as well as flowers such as marigold, chrysanthemum, zinnia, obelia rose. Alena created a pretty satchel for our WC. Byron and Adelaja continued construction of the office using mostly recycled materials, while I pondered about another mural like last week’s Toolshed Mural project by Ilyse and Girls, Inc. Stanley also brought over 7 wooden crates, donated by Wine House Limited, for our farm stand.

One blessing in not being able to take photos is that I can really get my hands dirty! It was more relaxing to just be present without framing photo shots. But after our workday ended and my batteries got recharged, I returned to take this photo of the Earth Day SF mandala at Civic Center.

Photos are good to look at, but it’s even better to experience The Free Farm in person so come celebrate our Earth during our lively workdays!

Public Service Announcements:

Mon., April 25, 2011, 7-9 pm
TransitionSF Community Meeting
CPMC Davies-Gazebo Room, on Castro between 14th & Duboce, SF
Presentation about the SF Seed Library project; see
Details at

Wed., April 27, 2011, 7-9 pm
Nature Has Rights: A Conversation with Cormac Cullinan, Shannon Biggs, Bill Twist, and Anuradha Mittal (TBC)
1187 Franklin St. at Geary, SF
SF launch of two cutting-edge books: The Rights of Nature The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth - co-developed by Global Exchange, Council of Canadians and Fundacion Pachamama & Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice, Second Edition by Cormac Cullinan. A conversation with Shannon Biggs, Cormac Cullinan, and Bill Twist.
Details at

Thurs., April 28, 2011, 12-1 pm
Food & Water Watch: Help Save Our Food System!
450 Laguna St., between Fell & Oak, SF
Press conference for a just and fair farm bill that supports local, organic and sustainable agriculture. Farm Bill programs are critical to expanding access to, and availability of, healthy food. RSVP at

“Planet Earth is our home. She is home to almost 7 billion people plus countless species of animals and plants. We are all part of a tightly integrated ecosystem. Our ecosystem includes all life and innate materials on our planet, in our atmosphere, and in the universe beyond.
We cannot focus on the wellbeing of humans, or any one species, to the detriment of another without affecting the rest of the world around us. We are not just on this earth, we are of this earth.
Today as never before, planet earth needs us to nurture and honor her as we nurture and honor each other. Now is the time for us to transform our relationship with planet earth and to recognize that nature has rights just as we humans have rights.”
For complete Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, visit

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Refresh at The Free Farm!

It's a beautiful morning!
I think I'll go outside a while,
And just smile.
Just take in some clean fresh air, boy!
Ain't no sense in stayin' inside
If the weather's fine and you got the time.
It's your chance to wake up and plan another brand new day!
“It’s a Beautiful Morning” by Mike Love and Al Jardine

The Free Farm’s inaugural Refresh event was a groovy day full of smiles :-) :-) :-) and exclamation marks!!! Refresh at The Free Farm! What do you appreciate about the earth? “I appreciate its beauty and no matter what, it will always be there if we need it.” Yes!Pancho leads morning meditation workshop! Harvesting fava! Turning compost pile! Pancho’s shirt reads “Be the change you wish to see in the world”! Getup grads Stanley (holding leeks) & Sophie! Finn leads herbs talk & walk while Tree plants in background! Finn is author of The Mental Health Cookbook, published by Source Press, about “creating a connection to the natural world through an engagement with plants, nutrients and microorganisms”!Passing along calendula, which can be made into a salve to treat skin conditions! Kevin & Charlie with Santiago & Rafael visiting from Seattle!Page & Kellen harvest favas!Ilyse’s Toolshed Mural Project! Check out! Tree taps gong to signal lunch time! Loata, Nathalia, Jeanette & Eden of Girls, Inc. covered the toolshed with their words in less than an hour! And, they managed to keep paint off their white shirts! Harvest set aside for Sunday’s Free Farm Stand! Tree & Amanda set-up lunch spread! Ilyse at far right is covered in paint from mural project! Gratitude circle participants state their names! Pancho led us in breathing exercises before eating! Beautiful blue sky! Joy holds up all-organic spork & lunch plate! Tree, John & Emily serve up lunch on plates brought by Finn, Hannah & Stanley! Monique with Girls, Inc.! We forgive you letters project: write letters about what our life would look like if we forgave ourselves and others! Then we’ll transform letters into pots for seedlings that will be planted into the earth and eventually compost into the soil! Details at The purpose is for us to physically put our intention into the world and have the experience of seeing it physically transform! Linda leads yoga for kids: dog pose & spontaneous piggyback! Kellen carts off fava-filled wheelbarrow! Pia explains rutabaga comes from Swedish rotabagge, or root bag, known as Swedish turnip! First-time visitors to The Free Farm say they’ll be back! Harvesting strawberries! 3 Getup sisters: Susan, Stanley & Sophie! Rev Megan & more smile-y faces! Michael leads nichiren shu meditation! Do you know the way to The Free Farm?! “I totally forgive you for missing that exit. I should have planned ahead and mentioned it earlier. Thanks for your forgiveness.” Appreciation & forgiveness flags blowin’ in the wind!

Public Service Announcement:

Solidarity for Food Sovereignty and Food Justice!
Sunday, April 17, 2011, 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm
San Francisco Art Institute 800 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA THE EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC РLOCAL, ORGANIC AND VEGETARIAN FOOD WILL BE PROVIDED! Keynote speakers: Dr. Miguel Altieri РProfessor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley Dr. Eric Holt-Gim̩nez РExecutive Director of The Institute for Food and Development Policy, FOOD FIRST. Sponsored by the Bay Area Friends of the MST, La Via Campesina, and the Urban Studies program of the San Francisco Art Institute. Details at

Friday, April 15, 2011

SF Refresh Events on April 16

SF Refresh’s goal is to create six daylong citywide events that enable San Franciscans to receive free whole body care in community garden settings in 2011.

Activities include: gardening classes, yoga, life coaching, meditation, trauma care, nutrition classes, massage, acupuncture, tea and coffee cuppings, movement classes, preventative health care information and more. For the first SF Refresh, here’s what’s planned at The Free Farm:

Yoga & Meditation Events:
8am – 9am All Levels Yoga (Flow Style) with Linda Leu
10am – 11am Meditation Workshop with Pancho
10am – 5pm Affirmation/Forgiveness Trees
1pm – 2pm Yoga for Kids with Linda Leu
3pm – 3:30pm Ball of Light Meditation with Melissa Lareau
3:30pm – 4pm Grounding/Opening Chakra Meditation with Melissa Lareau
4pm – 5 pm Mindfulness, Meditation and Somatic Experiencing Class – Rik Center of the Mindfulness Care Center
4pm – 5pm All Levels Yoga (Flow Style) with Linda Leu
4pm – 5pm Nichiren Shu Meditation (chanting and drums) – Michael McCormick
4pm – 4:30pm Ball of Light Meditation with Melissa Lareau 4:30pm – 5pm Grounding/Opening Chakra Meditation with Melissa Lareau
5pm – 5:30pm Earth Healing Meditation – Melissa Lareau

Workshops & Craft Events:
10am – 2 pm Volunteering Work Day: Bring gloves and shovels if you have them. Everyone is welcome, there are many tasks for people of all skill levels and physical abilities.
10am – 5pm We Forgive you Papers
11am – 12pm Nonviolence Workshop with Pancho
4pm – 5pm Mural Painting – Composting Toilet
4pm – 5pm Planting and Potting Mindfulness – Tree
4pm – 5pm Nonviolence Workshop with Pancho
8pm – 9pm Stargazing – Pancho

Entertainment & Extras:
9am – 10am Labyrinth Walk with Kris Iversen
11am – 12pm Herbs and Health Garden Talk/Walking Tour with Finn Cunningham
10 am – 5 pm Meet the Artist: Mother Earth Exhibit
10am – 5pm Imagination Station
10am – 11am Bicycle Powered Smoothies
12pm – 1 pm Free Vegan Lunch
1pm – 2pm Labyrinth Walk with Kris Iversen
4pm – 5pm Labyrinth Walk with Kris Iversen
6pm – 7pm Meet the Artist – Anne Hamersky: her work will be featured in the “Meet the Artist: Mother Earth Exhibit” throughout the day.

The next Sf Refresh days take place on these Saturdays: April 16, May 21, July 24, August 20, September 25 and October 15.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Free Farm at Green Festival!

At today’s Green Festival, The Free Farm was represented by our award-winning Garden Chic farmer Finn (remember ) in a thought-provoking panel discussion on GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY IN URBAN FARMING! Finn Cunningham joined Alemany Farm’s Antonio Roman-Alcala, Hayes Valley Farm’s Jay Rosenberg and SF Supervisor/Land Use Committee Chair Eric Mar on stage at the Sustainable Home & Garden Pavilion.

Alemany Farm (4 acres in Alemany/Bernal Heights), Hayes Valley Farm (2.2 acres near Civic Center) and The Free Farm (1/3 acre in Western Addition, near Tenderloin) are SF’s three largest farms on lands that sat vacant for many years until enterprising community members transformed them into all-volunteer urban farms that distribute their local produce to those in need, especially from the neighborhood.

Antonio, Finn & Eric Musical chairs when Jay arrives with dog Callie

But these thriving urban farms do more than grow local, organic food.

Antonio talked about Alemany Farm’s role in educating people about organic farming and connecting to their food source, including conditions that show how hard it can be to grow food such as dealing with pests. These all-volunteer urban farms, which are different from community garden plots owned by individuals, provide collective engagement—particularly after the 2008 economic downturn, when people suddenly unemployed wanted to find something to do.

Finn talked about The Free Farm, created by individuals committed to food justice, offering a habitat in a City where there’s not much greenery and a place where we can get dirty! While we quantify our output of food (e.g., The Free Farm sits on 1/3 acre, but only ½ of it was used in production so 2,500 pounds were harvested on 1/6 acre during our 1st year), she said it’s also important to recognize that The Free Farm creates a more livable community for interaction outside consumerism, such as enjoying a day of active, physical labor outdoors in nature.

Jay talked about building community (“get people to do what they do well”) and making compost to take materials out of the waste stream.

Finn narrates The Free Farm slide show Musical chairs as Eric takes Antonio's seat for Jay's slide show

Land for urban farms

Finn mentioned The Free Farm has no official agreement with St. Paulus, which is charitably allowing use of its land while also covering electricity and water costs. Jay said that Hayes Valley Farm has an interim use agreement with the City, which he said is analogous to operating a lemonade stand on someone’s driveway. Last month, the City gave a one-year notice of its intent to sell half of Hayes Valley Farm to condominium developers. Finn acknowledged this has been the “heartbreaking” and “tenuous” situation of SF’s urban farms.

(My GCETP class visited Little City Farms, which entered a temporary lease for $1 per year plus liability insurance policy, with a private landowner who has not been able to develop his “odd” lot. It’s challenging for farmers to invest in capital improvements when they don’t know how long they’ll be able to use the land.)

Eric, who advocated school gardens during his 8-year tenure on the SF Board of Education, said he applauds the grassroots efforts of activists who create urban farms in our City. As Land Use Chair, Eric said he supports the expansion of urban farms ordinance, which is scheduled for a second vote on Tuesday (see agenda item 3 at and Op-Ed piece by SF PUC President Francesca Vietor and SF Supervisor/Land Use Vice Chair Malia Cohen at Eric said that food security includes access to grow food for all.

Eric chairs Land Use Committee Audience question

Coming soon to a screening near you!

Antonio showed a trailer from his new documentary, “In Search of Good Food,” featuring Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s Dave Henson talking about corporations redefining organic into an industrial model (transporting organic food from Chile so we can eat what’s out-of-season in our local area); it’s not enough to vote with our dollars, which is blaming the victim or making the individual responsible to make change, because we can’t consume our way out of this problem; instead, we need to address the structural problem in which for-profit corporations have privileges with respect to taxes and subsidies to control our food system; we need to go beyond organic and support sustainable, local food systems—including do-it-yourself, grow your own—that address food security, the environment, green jobs, etc. WOO-HOO! Check out screening dates at
Antonio invites audience to film screening Finn invites audience to April 16 SF Refresh

Money, time & freedom to get dirty in urban farming!

Antonio and Finn mentioned a few paid positions at their respective farms funded with grant money. Jay said he believed in diversification ("can't get everything met in one way") and urged us to look into Bay Area Community Exchange (, where currency is our time instead of money (e.g., work-trade arrangements like farming time in exchange for produce).

In Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money (, author Dolly Freed offers these words of wisdom in her Afterword (more than three decades after she originally published her classic homesteading book as a teenager): “Wanting to do a lot in life taught me how little amounts of time add up. Getting rid of extraneous things not only saves money, it also saves time, and time is one thing you can never make more of.” According to Dolly, one needs very few physical things in order to be happy—water, food, shelter, good health, security and liberty—everything else is mental; and being happy may not be the end goal of a worthwhile life, but “often being engaged and interested is just as satisfying.”

I was both engaged and interested in today’s afternoon panel discussion—just as I often am during our workdays at The Free Farm!

Finn concluded the discussion with an invitation to receive “free whole body care” at our SF Refresh event on Saturday (details at Please join us!

Public Service Announcement:
Free class offering from
SCIENCE LITERACY with Barbara Ann Lewis (Ph.D., Soil Science)
Mondays 4-6 pm, April 11-May 9, 2011 Greenhouse Cafe, 1722 Taraval St.@ 27th Ave, SF This course offers the basic vocabulary and description of science required to understand current environmental concerns, toxicology and safety in relation to food and water quality, climate and climate change, agriculture and population, energy alternatives, or other topics of interest to the students. Topics discussed will be generated by student questions and participation. No previous math or science background required. Mathematical concepts will be taught as necessary to some understanding of the scientific concepts discussed.
Barbara Ann Lewis is a retired professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering who loves to teach and loves science, and hopes to pass on that love to others who have been brainwashed at an early age to fear math and science. Contact email: