Saturday, January 21, 2012

Welcome rain + sun + Baltimore Free Farmer!

Our new year rains finally arrived on Thursday and continued with Friday night’s storm to fill our rain barrels (thanks to Kris’ rain dance last Saturday?), which had been empty since their installation in November. Today the sun came out as well as our dedicated volunteers and fellow free farmer, Don from Baltimore (!
Dirty work, but somebody has to do it: SF Diggers Chris, Andrew, Don and Rocky spread steaming mulch over cold, wet ground.Greeter Joyce warmly welcomes Stanley and Page at The Free Farm entrance. Note board with Tree's poster for January 28th Volunteer Appreciation Party.
The Free Farm work ethic: Chris and Rocky hold up pitchforks (symbolizing hard labor) as they finish filling up wheelbarrows with mulch.
Pots for sugar snap peas overflow with rainwater.
Opened one of barrels filled with rainwater up to 2' high.
Ro, who will be drumming at our Volunteer Appreciation Party, brought yummy veggies stir-fried with ginger.
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C for manufacture of collagen (prevent scurvy symptoms like bleeding gums and easy bruising) and immune function. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent cancer.
White, red and yellow swiss chard has nutritional benefits similar to cabbage.
Workday leader Alen harvests lettuce for lunch salad.
Chris and Andrew plant kale.
Neighborhood volunteers Rocky and Ella plant lettuce.
Pia waters in greenhouse while chatting with Alen.
After his friends Bill and Allison visited The Free Farm last year, Baltimore Free Farmer Don decided to check us out in person to write an article for his new zine about urban farming and homesteading. Well, I ended up interviewing him for our blog :-).

Don and his friends, with fiscal sponsor Fusion Partnership that lends non-profit status, started Baltimore Free Farm (BFF) on a lot about the same size as The Free Farm on January 2010—also about the same time when The Free Farm and Hayes Valley Farm began. Unlike Hayes Valley Farm (which is expected to lose its city-owned lot to condo development this year) and The Free Farm (which may lose its church-owned space to development in the next two to five years), Don explained that he doesn’t foresee developers’ interest in their terraced lot on a 45-degree slope.

According to Don, Baltimore offers city-owned, abandoned lots for free under one-year, renewable leases for community use. BFF is part community garden with 4’ x 8’ lots allocated to individuals, and part raised beds with food grown for volunteers, give-aways and fundraising. Don explained that parts of BFF’s clay-like soil were contaminated with some heavy metals from industry so they have raised beds; they’re also able to grow food year-round with their greenhouse and hoophouse. In addition, BFF has bees for honey, and chickens (maximum four allowed by local ordinance) for eggs and manure. Don said his parents maintained a garden, beehive and chickens so he practically grew up homesteading. BFF coordinates DIY workshops with other gardens on canning, beekeeping, gardening, composting, soapmaking, biodiesel, aquaculture, etc.

Don mentioned that he cooks for Occupy Baltimore and Food Not Bombs. Wow, I asked Don how he was able to do all this? Don replied that many BFF members are urban farming and homesteading as their livelihood, which is unlike most of us volunteers who have work/school responsibilities with limited leisure time for The Free Farm.

In fact, Don said his weeklong trip to SF was the first time he’s been away from BFF since they began. Thanks, Don, for volunteering at The Free Farm during your vacation! I invited him to our Volunteer Appreciation Party next Saturday, but Don said he really had to return to work at BFF on Monday—our Lunar New Year holiday. Gung Hay Fat Choy!
Lunch spread prepared by Alen (harvested Hecka Local lettuce), John (stew) and Ro (veggie stir-fry with rice).
Joyce and Pia share a laugh with Baltimore Free Farmer Don.
Stanley and Rocky greet neighbors at The Free Farm Stand.
John, Jenni and Marie are very tight-knit neighbors :-) It's so cool to have more neighbors volunteer at The Free Farm!

Stanley dropped me off at Golden Gate Park (thanks for the ride, Stanley!), where I head over to SF Botanical Garden Society's Lunar New Year Flower Market. Missed Ernie Ng's 1 pm Asian Plants tour, but I picked up map for self-guided tour.
Chinese naturalist painting is yin-yang: balance, harmony and change.
Grow Plants to Eat Plants - Before sunset, I bump into vegetarian friends outside SF Botanical Garden: Greg, Sharon, Dixie (President of SF Vegetarian Society at, Saurabh (President of Vegetarian Society of DC at, “the nation’s oldest continuously running vegetarian society,” founded in 1927) and Tom meet at County Fair Building, site of this year’s 40th IVU International Vegetarian Congress/Vegfest on October 5-12, 2012 ( and Please save this date: Sunday, March 18, 2012, 12:15 pm, for annual Meat Out Celebration sponsored by SFVS and Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (UUFETA).

Rain or shine: Please join us on our volunteer days and let's appreciate/celebrate together on January 28th!

Public Service Announcements:

Wed., Jan. 25, 2012, 7:30 pm Occupy Everything
CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission at 9th St., SF 94103
Open discussion about the Occupy movement that started in September in the U.S. and has spread across the country, with dramatic events in Oakland, San Francisco, and other locales. Let’s examine the bigger issues, the deeper implications, the broad possibilities of radical reform to revolution, as embodied in this movement.

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