Saturday, August 6, 2011

Staycation at The Free Farm

Pancho lifts harvested kabocha squash

As Tim mentioned last week, we’re all singing one song in this uni-verse. Seeing camera ham Pancho’s contagious smile while holding up the large squash made me wanna burst out into The Partridge Family Song ;-):

Hello, world, here's a song that we're singin',
C'mon get happy!
A whole lotta lovin' is what we'll be bringin',
We'll make you happy!

We had a dream we'd go trav'lin' together
We'd spread a little lovin' then we'd keep movin' on
Somethin' always happens whenever we're together
We get a happy feelin' when we're singin' a song

Trav'lin' along there's a song that we're singin'
C'mon get happy!
“C’mon get happy” lyrics by Wes Farrell & Danny Janssen

When I arrived at The Free Farm this Saturday morning, I checked in with workday leader Tree and presented my rather unusual request: Was there anything for me to do that would not involve getting dirty because I had to appear clean for an afternoon appointment? Well, there were many things I could try: weeding with gloves (got dirty), mortaring bricks (too challenging to avoid dirt), harvesting kale and strawberries (ok) and greeting (ok).

Irene, Kate & Susan pull weeds from container plants in greenhouse
Damon mortars brick steps of terrace
Roger raised funds for charity while completing SF Marathon last Sunday
Tim & Jessica harvest beans
Adelaja harvests strawberries

While greeting with Joyce at the entrance, we met many neighbors walking their dogs to and from Jefferson Square Park (lawn across from The Free Farm). They mentioned walking past The Free Farm often when the gates were locked, but didn’t know they were welcome to come inside during our workdays. We also greeted others—several from outside of San Francisco—who were curious enough to wander inside.

I remembered when I first heard about The Free Farm last year, I wondered if it was a commune similar to Copenhagen’s Freetown Christiania (former military barracks that squatters turned into schools and housing, rent-free, tax-free and car-free; It was then that I thought we need a visitor’s guide to The Free Farm!

(Disclaimer: Please note this draft guide is not official. My relatives wonder about my qualifications to author a visitor’s guide. For example, I actually had to explain my photos because I was most impressed by Copenhagen’s largest cemetery, where Hans Christian Andersen and Soren Kirkegaard are buried, being used as picnic grounds by the Danish. In contrast, they preferred my sister’s photos of the changing of the guard and royal wedding of Crown Prince Frederik and Australian commoner Mary outside Amalienborg Palace—just coincidence that we were visiting during the 2004 wedding--but it was too much pomp for my taste. I like places open to commoners, without having to marry into royalty.)

Staycation (invented by necessity of recession?) is a great way to enjoy your leisure time without the hassle of long-distance travel and with the benefit of going local (know your community). To assist in your staycation planning, here’s a draft Lonely Planet or Rough Guide to The Free Farm:

1. When to go: Daytime during volunteer hours, year round, rain or shine! Dress in layers so you can peel down as appropriate to weather conditions.
2. Map: enter “999 eddy san francisco” at
3. Tourist office: Check with greeter or workday leader. Read history on bulletin board. View video and slide show at, where you also can read Our Vision, Who We Are, Get Involved and this Blog, of course!
4. Money: Not applicable.
5. Toilet: Compost toilet for pee-only.
6. Dangers & annoyances: Always be aware of your surroundings. Watch your step. Please make sure cats and dogs do not poop in our soil and vegetable beds as their poop contain pathogens that aren’t always killed in heat and remain infectious for people.
7. Volunteer hours: Wed. & Sat. 10 am–2 pm, 1st Sun. of month 10 am–12 noon
8. Special events: See SF Refresh (

9. Bus/train: to get to The Free Farm at “Eddy St & Gough St.” Nearest BART at Civic Center. Muni #31 runs along Eddy St. Muni lines #38, 47 & 49 nearby.
10. Car (pooling recommended, street parking outside)/bicycle (parking inside ok)

GETTING AROUND: Walking so wear comfortable shoes

THINGS TO SEE & DO (Wed. & Sat.)
8 am yoga
9 am meditation
10 am play begins*
12 noon vegan lunch
1 pm produce stand (Sat. only)
2 pm play ends

*Play activities include:
Gardening: planting, weeding, watering, pruning, composting, mulching
Building/Fixing: terrace, deck, rack, benches
Painting: mural on office, plant signs, entrance sign
Preparing for produce stand (Sat. only): harvesting, weighing/recording
Photographing: bring your camera to capture images of our botanical beauties (see what real food looks like at The Free Farm &

PLACES TO STAY: outdoors (container gardening site, labyrinth, picnic area, etc.), indoors (greenhouse, hothouse)

PLACES TO EAT: free vegan lunch outdoors (inside greenhouse if rainy), Wed. & Sat. only; please email if your volunteer group is larger than 8 so we can prepare enough food

SHOPPING: not applicable.

Today’s lesson: It’s possible to volunteer at The Free Farm without getting dirty;-). And what better way to enjoy your staycation than to play, learn and c'mon get happy with us at The Free Farm!

Public Service Announcements:

Thurs., Aug. 11, 2011, 7 pm, Urban Homesteading Talk
Green Arcade, 1680 Market St., SF
Rachel Kaplan gives a presentation on her book, Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living, an illustrated how-to and why-to for the urban homesteading movement, including interviews with homesteaders who share their successes, failures, and inspirations for eco-friendly lifestyles. The book focuses on do-it-yourself projects ranging from growing your own organic vegetables and fruit, caring for ducks and building a worm bin to implementing a rainwater storage system and generating resilient homegrown economies in our neighborhoods

Sat., Aug. 13, 2011, 2-3 pm, Learn the Art of Seeding
Children’s Center, SF Main Library, 100 Larkin St., SF
In this hands-on workshop presented by Jonathan Silverman, Founder and Managing Director of Feel the Earth (, learn about the earth, plants and the art of seeding.

Beginning Mon., Aug. 15, 2011, general public tickets available at for
Tues. classes beginning Aug. 30, 2011, 6-7:30 pm
Edible Education 101: The Rise & Future of the Food Movement
Wheeler Auditorium, UC Berkeley
People’s Grocery Executive Director Nikki Henderson and UC Berkeley Knight Journalism Professor Michael Pollan have collaborated with The Chez Panisse Foundation to present the first Edible Education course and lecture series at UC Berkeley. Fall semester course will be open free of cost to 300 general public. Each week experts in their field will relate their discipline to the food system/movement from a variety of perspectives. Confirmed speakers include: Carlo Petrini, Peter Sellars, Marion Nestle, Frances Moore Lappé, Raj Patel, Ann Cooper, Eric Schlosser, and Alice Waters.

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