Saturday, September 10, 2011

Our spiritual footprint

K built peace sign from recycled bricks

“We seek to be an inclusive community of God’s diverse people, visible in the world. Like Jesus, we: Care about one another and all creation, Honor the poor, Tell the truth to ourselves and others in love, Encourage justice and show mercy.”
Mission of Saint Paulus (

Today’s posting begins with the mission statement of Saint Paulus, which has been generously sharing this beautiful space for The Free Farm, because we’re also sharing in this mission. As stewards of The Free Farm, Tree recently encouraged us to increase our “spiritual footprint.”

One obvious way we carry out Saint Paulus’ mission is to use this space to care for one another and all creation by building soil and community, growing food and sharing our produce to further food justice—especially with the poor. September is Hunger Action Month (, but we Free Farmers take actions to combat hunger every month. Though we hold volunteer workdays on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we’re also involved in outreach and behind-the-scenes work on other days to increase our “spiritual footprint.”
Damon builds brick terrace to make it easier to harvest strawberries Basil harvested from hothouse Duncan & Alen harvest greens & tomatoes Byron manages compost Compost is hot 146F Workday leader Hannah oversees harvest for produce stand

Jordan & Duncan wash greens

Lunch gathering
Axis of Love is a patient advocacy group
Tomo & Rick plant lettuce
Damon made jam from gleaned plums
Claire put together colorful bouquet Julia & friend harvest greens Pancho & Byron check out compost

Care for neighbors

Our volunteer greeter Joyce sent the following report on The Free Farm’s recent Make Our Garden Grow outreach event to our senior neighbors:

On Tuesday, August 30th, the Western Park Apartment Dining room crackled with excitement when Page and Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, representing The Free Farm, treated our senior community to a workshop and demonstration on gardening on a small scale.

We seniors live in cozy-size apartments and are in need of such information. We shared a tasty lunch, people brought their gardening questions and we were gifted with all the fixings to grow our own healthy chive plants. In addition to spending a valuable fun time together, Page and Margaret donated to our community sacks of much needed soil for our garden. Thank you!

Right on Free Farm - and all the right ideas it represents!

Joyce holds up sunflower chain

Margaret mentioned that they will be returning at the request of Western Park management for a workshop on pruning the garden’s ornamental plants. Margaret and Page are planning workshops to more groups in The Free Farm neighborhood.

Show how to grow food & community

Since Fall 2010, Margaret and Page have offered a Food and Community service learning course at Stanford University. The course is based on Food Justice book (; speakers that have included the book’s authors, The Free Farm’s Tree and Lauren; gleaning fruit trees on campus; and field trips to The Free Farm, Free Farm Stand, and Julian Food Pantry. Course graduates like Brittany and Tim continued their training as our summer interns. I appreciated their contributions to keep our blog fresh!
Sally, Britt & Margaret
Today was Britt’s last day as intern. Her projects included working with Tree on “Shout Out for Sprouts!” and re-working the History of the Land for Saint Paulus/The Free Farm, which will be posted on our bulletin board near The Free Farm’s entrance.

Encourage food justice
Adam & Susan of Food & Water Watch work to support locally grown food & the urban farmers who make it happen!

If you’re concerned about high food prices, perhaps the near monopoly power exercised by agribusiness, which receives corporate welfare in the form of commodity subsidies, is partly responsible? Are you concerned that overproduction of commodity crops like corn and soybean, used to feed people, are now also used for ethanol or factory farm animal feed?

To answer these questions and more, my Getup classmate Susan, who is SF Coordinator for Food & Water Watch’s 2012 Farm Bill Campaign (, came to The Free Farm with California Campaigns Director Adam, who shared his report back on his road trip educating communities about how the Farm Bill affects all of us – as consumers, SNAP/WIC/school lunch participants, farmers, etc. – and what we can do to ensure access to safe, healthy and sustainably produced food.
Adam answers questions about 2012 Farm Bill

As I have for the past 5 years, I’ll be participating in the Hunger Challenge. (See details in Public Service Announcements listing below.) In 2006, the challenge was to eat on a weekly budget of $21, the value of benefits received by the average food stamp recipient. (In 2008, food stamp was renamed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. In California, CalFresh is the brand name for SNAP.)

This year’s challenge has increased the weekly food budget to $33 (increased by $5 from last year). I told Adam that I could afford grains and legumes (as Farm Bill subsidizes commodity crops like corn, wheat, barley, oats, rice, soybeans), but it was challenging to afford fruits and vegetables on a SNAP budget. (One MD advocates a starch-based diet at, while noting grains and legumes are deficient in vitamins A and C, which can be obtained from fruits and vegetables. I’d add that plant foods are deficient in vitamin B12, unless fortified.)

Can the new Farm Bill provide subsidies for “specialty crops” like fruits and vegetables? Adam responded that producers actually want a fair price, not welfare/subsidy. He mentioned that Food & Water Watch will hold a meeting with Central Coast/Monterey producers on Saturday, October 8, in Santa Cruz.

The current campaign seeks to protect programs like SNAP and support family farmers.

For more information on supporting local food systems and increasing healthy food access for all, contact Susan at or
Susan & Tree

Gough Street greening project
Gough St sidewalk
K waters succulents inside fence along Gough St

We want to make The Free Farm more inviting by increasing our visibility, while also reducing noise, pollution and runoff, along the Gough Street fence. Rev. Megan has been working on a design for a vertical garden with peep holes—perhaps a visual labyrinth—to draw people’s eyes into The Free Farm. She is soliciting input from us on several designs, including plant selection (succulents, scented herbs and geraniums, peelable edibles, flat growing trees, bamboo?). This project may involve using the sidewalk as well.

Design involves research so prior to joining today’s workday, I attended SF Department of Public Work’s Grey2Green Sidewalk Garden workshop ( for free upcoming workshops) at SF County Fair Building. I learned that planting fruit and nut trees, considered to “attract nuisance,” on sidewalks is not legal :-(. But workshop presenters Markos and Mike suggested alternative design and plant selection ideas to build soil and wildlife habitat, allow rainfall to return to groundwater, beautify our neighborhood, etc. Details at
Recycled tombstones in demo sidewalk garden outside SF County Fair Building Markos & Mike suggest planting seaside wild buckwheat to attract butterflies to sidewalk garden

Please come join us at The Free Farm to increase our collective spiritual footprint! And thank you, Saint Paulus!

Public Service Announcements:

Sun., Sept. 11 to Sat., Sept. 17, 2011: SF Food Bank Hunger Challenge
In San Francisco and Marin counties, an area overflowing with great food, there's a little-known secret: 1 in 5 children, adults and seniors struggle with hunger every day.
Most of us wonder what we'll be eating at our next meal, not if we'll be able to eat when mealtime comes around. That's why we invite you to participate in the 4th annual Hunger Challenge.
Could you eat on a food stamp budget? Just $4.72* per day? Try it — just for a week. And in the process you'll help bring attention and support to the reality of hunger in our own community.
Our Hunger Challenge this September is a chance for you to walk in someone else's shoes for just a week. And when you talk to family and friends and share your experiences with others, you'll help them understand why it's important for all of us to help support the families who can't feed themselves on a food stamp budget alone. Hunger is a challenge. Are you up for it?

Thurs., Sept. 15, 2011, 7:30 pm San Francisco's Changing Landscape
Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, SF 94114
Greg Gaar will present over 100 historic images to show the evolution of San Francisco's native plant communities over the last 200 years and efforts to preserve our natural heritage. Greg will show the transition of our oak woodlands, sand dunes, coastal prairies, tidal marshes, lakes and creeks and efforts to preserve our natural heritage.

Sat., Sept. 17, 2011 Take Back the Value Meal with $5 Slow Food Meal Challenge

Sun., Sept. 18, 2011, 1 pm, SEED
Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak St., Oakland 94607
The fourth and final Seed Circus event, "Seed" is an agrarian celebration of the bounty of fall harvest in California. Grind corn, thresh wheat, exchange seeds, and eat. The event includes live music, an experimental food project, film screenings, and a reading library of farming books and manuals.

Citizen Forester Training
Apply for training that begins Wed., Oct. 5, 2011
Each year, Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) offers a series of 12 classes taught by FUF staff and premier guest speakers to deepen your knowledge and experience with trees. FUF will entirely sponsor any volunteer who commits to spending 50 hours (about one day per month for a year) volunteering in a leadership position with FUF. Details at

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