Sunday, July 24, 2011

Imagine: Sharing all the world

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
“Imagine” lyrics by John Lennon

Sharing food under the law

Law Slaw dinner was a collaborative salad with attendees bringing salad toppings to share!

Salad sculpture by Patricia Algara

Last Wednesday, I attended “Law Slaw: Feed Your Community, Learn About the Law” presented by Sharing attorney Janelle Orsi and her team at Sustainable Economies Law Center ( in Berkeley. I first met Janelle at the 2009 Green Festival in SF, where she was promoting her new book, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Build Community (includes Sharing Food chapter). I collected a stack of her business/gift cards, which provide sustainable living tips (download at

This food law workshop was accessible as a series of lively and informative 5-minute presentations on 15 legal topics relating to farms and food enterprises. Janelle’s presentation on “Money Soup: A Legal Guide to Bartering, Giving and Getting Stuff Without Dollars” ( reinforced my belief that money can make life more complex because then one has to deal with a slew of ever-changing, man-made laws—especially relating to tax and labor (which, incidentally, was how I earned money billing out time because individuals and businesses usually don’t want to deal with these technical, high-maintenance issues themselves).

As Janelle explains: “Giving and receiving gifts is the simplest way to get started in the informal economy, because true gifts are largely unregulated and untaxed.” (Note: Federal tax code allows for annual and lifetime gift exclusions.) Says Janelle ( : “Feeding people is a particularly good way to get it started, because sharing a meal builds connections among people. Don’t ask people to pay you back, but do encourage them to pay it forward!” Hey, this is what we already do at The Free Farm!

Sharing skills

At yesterday’s workday, it was so cool to meet Heather who shared her great photos with us last week . . . and again yesterday! While working with Damon on building the terrace, he mentioned he had some close-up shots of our resident hawk so I invited him to share them as well. Kris shared her photos, too! This reminds me of parties that give each guest a one-time use camera to take shots, which often turn out better than ones by the official photographer.

Volunteering at The Free Farm involves more than gardening (planting, composting, watering, harvesting, etc.). We’re also involved in designing, constructing, painting (check out our new sign by Tree’s friend Jet!), plumbing, electrical wiring, greeting (we’ve enjoyed an increase in the number of volunteers since Joyce took on this role!), preparing lunch, eating, smiling, laughing, photographing, blogging about it all, etc. – anything to maintain and enhance The Free Farm!

George from St. Paulus visits Tree. Jordan & Leah are from The Happiness Institute

Damon picks up 50 lbs of bricks with one hand (show-off!) when I had to carry with both hands

Smoothing out bricks for terrace staircase

Byron & Heather harvest potatoes

Tim tosses "hot" potato

Byron & Tree fix sprinkler system in greenhouse

New sprinkler system on opposite side

Sharing inspiration
Britt’s blog posting last week included a photo of our purple tree collards that she described as sukuma wiki – which is Swahili for “stretch the week” and refers to a popular Kenyan dish of sautéed greens with onions and tomatoes—humble, delicious and nutritious food intended to stretch meals to last the week! I remember eating sukuma wiki almost daily when I was in Kenya. I’m now trying to adapt it for an SRO cooking project.

When I invited Tim (our other Stanford intern) to blog, he mentioned that he was leaving next month for a conservation study trip to Tanzania. (Hey, I spent a summer volunteering in sustainable agriculture in Tanzania, including working with Maasai who lost their lands to wildlife conservation!) Tim told me how he has been inspired by his sister who works in international development. I told Tim how I’d spend my 25 days of annual paid time-off (or negotiate unpaid leave for longer trips), as an international development volunteer with NGOs that included homestays just to immerse myself in how most of the world’s population lives with little or no money. (And yes, I deducted my volunteer travel expenses as allowed by law.)

Living with little or no money reminds us that money is really just a means of exchange. ( Money can interfere with the opportunity to deepen relationships: Tanzanians speak of ujamaa (familyhood), Kenyans speak of harambee (all pull together), and we Free Farmers speak of building community and sharing food! Come visit/volunteer to see our informal, gift sharing economy in action. Tim will be blogging next week so let's give him something to write about :-)!

Tim, Britt & Steven at produce stand
Carrying future Free Farmers :-)

Public Service Announcements

Thurs., July 28, 2011, 12-1 pm
Sharing Resources with Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) Timebank
Crocker Galleria, 50 Post St., SF
The Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) believes in creating community resiliency through the informal economy, to provide a different kind of security based on relationships, trust, caring, and reciprocity. Many other countries have large informal economies that help people meet their basic needs through local connections, as did the United States long ago.
A timebank is like a local community bank that keeps track of time instead of US dollars. For every hour you spend doing something for someone else who is a member of the timebank, you earn one hour to use to have someone do something for you.
Join BACE Board Member, Seth Mazow, at the Green Zebra Environmental Action Center for an interactive presentation and discussion about how to participate in an alternative way to share resources. We'll also discuss the connections between sharing, localizing economies and environmental sustainability.

Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables
Taxing junk food and making healthy food more affordable would save millions of lives and billions of dollars in health care costs.
USDA’s New MyPlate Icon At Odds With Federal Subsidies for Meat, Dairy

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