Saturday, May 21, 2011


No matter what we do
(no matter what we do)
No matter what they say
(no matter what they say)
When the sun is shining through
Then the clouds won't stay

And everywhere we go
(everywhere we go)
The sun won't always shine
(sun won't always shine)
But tomorrow will find a way
All the other times

'cause we are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes, words won't bring us down, oh no
We are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring us down
Don't you bring me down today
“Beautiful” lyrics by Linda Perry

You can grow food almost anywhere in almost anything
Kale crane red
Beds to harvest
Digging for carrots
Pancho found feathers to help him fly
Beautiful carrot

Small is beautiful
Our beautiful Free Farm Stand/The Free Farm were selected as one of five finalists from almost 100 applications for Bay Citizen’s inaugural Citizen of Tomorrow contest, which recognizes organizations working to solve a local community challenge in the San Francisco Bay Area. From May 2 to May 16, over 5,000 votes were cast at, which featured a video of Tree’s talking head and the following description:

“The Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm make locally grown, fresh and nutritious organic produce accessible to all, especially those in need. We grow our own food and gather surplus food from neighborhood gardens, farmer’s markets, community gardens, and fruit trees, then distribute it for free every week in the Mission and Western Addition. The Free Farm Stand and Free Farm also act as community garden centers where plant starts and gardening advice are given freely.”

Free Farm Stand/The Free Farm received the 2nd highest number of online votes, and we thank you for your support!

While I was away from The Free Farm during the voting period, I sent email blasts to family and friends, asking them to vote—daily, if possible, to help further our work in building local food security, health, community, etc. At the same time, I’m a “small is beautiful” proponent – as in small-scale, local, artisanal, mum & pop enterprises – and wondered what impact all this attention would have on our beautiful farm. We’ve had local media and independent documentarians visit during our workdays -- would Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock or even Hollywood come next?! I was torn over plans to get a potentially energy-guzzling cooler at The Free Farm, though I also don’t want to see produce go to waste due to spoilage.
Kellen & Byron with compost
Tree's impromptu avocado tree grafting workshop
Tree labels "Lamb Hass 5-21-2011"
Alena offers raspberries
After harvest
Garlic chive, carrot, potato & oca
Washing harvest
Stanley carries strawberries

Beautiful changes

As much as I prefer to be off-the-grid, I was logging online daily to cast my vote for Free Farm Stand/The Free Farm. My email blast surprised some family and friends outside of the Bay Area, who hadn’t received an email from me for sometime: Where in the world is Wandering Veggie? They weren’t surprised about my farming because my childhood hangout was my family’s own kitchen garden and I’d participated in sustainable agriculture programs in Africa and Central America, but they did wonder: Are there farms in San Francisco?

I shared with them a couple of quirky ways The Free Farm changed my life – sort of like “makes me want to be a better person” (to paraphrase the Jack Nicholson character in the film, "As Good As It Gets"):

1. Reduced my carbon footprint. I’d been addicted to travel (“Hey! Bye, San Francisco!”), but The Free Farm has really grounded me—literally, helped me put down roots. And I realized the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, who said travel makes one “wiser, but less happy.”

2. Reduced noise pollution. Part of my love of traveling was the anonymity that allowed me to sing out loud, which was my preferred form of deep breathing exercise :-). Seriously, I don’t mind singing badly if no one around knows me, but I actually feel the need to be considerate around people who know me. Now I prefer deep breathing from the sheer physicality in farming outdoors, and even inside the greenhouse during rains.

Fortunately, since I rarely ask for favors, some family and friends obliged and voted as I’d requested. Thanks, you’re all so beautiful!

Enjoying lunch
Raspberries & strawberries
Joyce greets Ken, who is Coordinator of Healthier Living Program, developed by Stanford University School of Medicine and hosted by SF Department of Aging and Adult Services. Free 6-week Healthier Living workshops help people with chronic conditions and their caregivers improve the quality of their life; details at

Stanley & Kris carry harvest to stand

Siblings Cassie & Byron represent brain drain from Hawaii
Tree holds up framed flowers from The Free Farm

Uncommon is beautiful

In American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (, Jonathan Bloom writes that food waste begins at farms when produce that look less than perfect are left in the field. For example, one cucumber grower doesn’t harvest at least half of the cucumbers on his farms because they’re too curved, making them hard to pack, or they don’t meet “food beauty” standards.

“Ideal” beauty standards for produce are like how cosmetics and surgery make humans appear the same, much like GMO produces uniformly freakish food. Organic produce don’t look “perfect”-- they look natural, uncommon, exceptional – much like how wrinkles and graying hair reveal wisdom and character . . . and help one gain a seat on the MUNI bus!
Planting map
Workday leader Hannah & Tree at end of workday
Trellis for planting beans
Kris readies to aim waterhose

Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential, shared the following advice that she received from her influential father: “Be original, not just follow what everyone else says, not to care what anyone else thinks.”,28804,2066367_2066369_2066449,00.html
Visit us soon to check out our uncommonly beautiful plants!

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