Saturday, October 8, 2011

We are the 99%

After checking in with workday leader Hannah, I began harvesting kale while enjoying this mural panel illustrating our food sharing

Even with the Blue Angels noisily flying overhead today, The Free Farm remains a sanctuary. Great to return to The Free Farm after a 3-week absence: attending Justice Begins with Seeds conference during Hunger Challenge Week (I survived!) and then conducting nutrition education outreach at Bayview Health Fair (picked up lots of info on asthma!) and World Veg Festival were intense and a bit crowded, but I’m passionate about promoting public health and meeting like-minded souls so there I went.

Sharing food gets complicated

During my absence, it seemed no news was good news at The Free Farm. But there was a bit of drama at our sibling Free Farm Stand. On the last day of the Justice Begins with Seeds conference, Pancho showed up and mentioned that Parks and Rec wanted Free Farm Stand to vacate Parque Ninos Unidos because it lacked a permit. What?! After operating for the past 3 years, why would Parks and Rec suddenly seek to enforce the permit requirement? To collect a permit fee? Government agencies are so short-staffed that they usually wait to receive complaints before taking action.

In these times of rising food prices and poverty, Free Farm Stand is providing food to anyone willing to stand in line. Apparently, SF Chronicle’s mention of Free Farm Stand in a front page article about crop swaps over Labor Day weekend attracted more people to form the longer queue that was crowding the park so complaints were made to Parks and Rec. Next, SF Health Department notified Tree that Free Farm Stand cannot “give away” prepared foods unless it satisfies Health Code requirements. This made me wonder why the complainants didn’t just speak directly with Tree, a very considerate person who would have reasonably addressed their concerns – just like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood where neighbors peacefully work out their differences? I also wonder: People will stand in line for free food, but will people stand in line to grow with us at The Free Farm? I personally appreciate stuff more if I’m involved in its creation.

Nonetheless, I still support what Tree is trying to accomplish at Free Farm Stand so I contacted the best sharing lawyer, Janelle Orsi (see I asked Janelle: Is “sharing food” considered a “food give-away program” subject to local health laws because it takes place in a public space and/or offered to members of the public at large? Janelle’s response included a link to with her comment “It addresses some of the barriers to feeding people for free.” Lo and behold! The Free Farm is featured on page 21 in the section, “Constructive Alternatives to Food Sharing Restrictions.” Follow blog for updates.

Pia & Daniel greet visitors to The Free Farm

Workday leader Hannah suggests activities for Newbies

Byron, Claire & volunteer care for compost piles

Byron aerates compost

Tim & Colin carry lettuce to farm stand

Snail blends in with tomato stalks (click photo to enlarge)

Our summer intern and current Stanford Glean President Tim returned to The Free Farm with fellow gleaner Colin. They brought back canvas tote bags loaded with apples (tribute to Steve Jobs!), figs and oranges gleaned the previous day from their campus.

Wrenn is the apple of father Mike's eye

Returning volunteer Kevin organized a volunteer group of 15 from SF Newbies Meetup

99% + 1% = We the People all need good food

While going around introducing ourselves before lunch, SF Newbies in the 20s Meetup organizer Kevin said “I am the 99%” (referring to 99% of Americans subject to the wealthiest 1%, who control more than 40% of the nation's wealth; see which got us chuckling in solidarity, “me, too!”

Our conversations began about Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and Occupy SF ( Some critics say that OWS protestors need to make specific demands, not just list their grievances about social and economic injustices caused by corporate greed. But problem-solving involves issue identification, then analysis. OWS protestors were so thoughtful to include the following grievance relating to food: “They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.” ( Interesting to note that OWS protest was inspired by the Arab Spring, which was provoked partly by food inflation.

This recognition of food’s importance reminded me of Article 25 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food . . .” But while most Western governments generally recognize civil liberties and political freedom as human rights, they have not always extended the same to economic, social and cultural rights (such as the rights to food, clothing, housing and health care).

When government and corporate powers fail to provide, it's very empowering when we the people can grow our food at The Free Farm! Thanks to all our volunteers, whether you're 99% or 1%, we're all in this together because we all need to eat good food :-)

Tree chats with journalist Laura (!/lhauta) & Betsy (returning volunteer who’s visiting from Wisconsin where she works for a seed co.)

Farm stand visitors

Clara, Luisa, Daniel, Candace, Kevin & Colin at farm stand

Pancho gives Wrenn a wheelbarrow ride
Newbies plant garlic
Newbies plant lettuce
Stanley & Sophie paint signs for compost corner
Bay School student visits The Free Farm for inspiration in starting school garden

Public Service Announcements:

Oct. 10-14, 2011 National School Lunch Week
Cooking with California Food online cookbook at

Tues., Oct. 11, 2011, 5-7 pm Incubating Green Coops on a Shoestring with Timebanks
PODER, 474 Valencia #120, SF
Linda Hogan and Terry Daniels of hOur World ( and the most prolific Timebank in the US - Hour Exchange Portland have been developing green worker coop microenterprises and community projects for many years on a shoestring using Timebanks to provide the social capital. Their home weatherization program renovates 1000 low income homes per year in Portland, Maine and trains unskilled workers for high paying green worker coop jobs. Join us for a revolutionary presentation on how to create empowering jobs from the bottom up. Free and open to the public, please distribute this announcement widely. For more info, contact mira@sfbace. org.

Tues., Oct. 11, 2011, 7-9 pm Frances Moore Lappé Cultivating the EcoMind to Transform Our Food System Lessons learned from 40 years of the Food Movement
Memorial Auditorium, Stanford University, Stanford
Free registration at

Thurs., Oct. 13, 2011, A Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs: False Promises, Failed Technologies

Fri., Oct. 14, 2011 at 9 am–3:30 pm Viewing Party: Harvesting Change: Farmworker Rights
Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland.
The first ever TEDxFruitvale conference (an independently organized TED event focused on Farmworker Rights. "Harvesting Change" will bring together farmworkers, farmers, activists, artists, students, professors, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs to celebrate the people upon whom we depend to harvest our food. In three sessions, titled Meet, Movement, and Money, 18 speakers will provide a 360-degree view of farmworkers today and throughout history; compare labor's progress with other social justice movements; and end by discussing fair labor practices from a business standpoint. Three special musical guests will perform for each session. Sponsored by the Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation. You are invited to attend the viewing party, hosted by the Institute for Civic Leadership, Office of Student Activities, Diversity & Social Justice Resource Center, Lokey Net Impact at Mills College, the Mills Botanic Garden. As the conference itself is already filled up, this viewing party gives you the chance to view the conference live and be part of the discussion. Free, but you must RSVP at

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