Sunday, April 29, 2012

Occupied with consensus

Peek-a-boo Pia:  Good morning, sunshine!

On another warm, dry, sunny day at The Free Farm, we were occupied in the following activities:

Planting and harvesting
My Getup classmate Eli, who is Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager at SPUR (SF Planning + Urban Research), sent this link to SPUR’s latest publication, Public Harvest: Expanding the Use of Public Land for Urban Agriculture in San Francisco, at The Free Farm is mentioned on page 13 as an example of “the explosion of urban agriculture projects that have started in the past few years” and on page 14 as an example of a communally managed community garden.

Participating in a communally managed community garden like The Free Farm means we get things done by consensus. And so long as our ideas or proposed activities support our mission to “grow organic produce, foster garden education and build community,” almost anything’s possible. Some recent empowering examples: presenting container gardening workshops to seniors and others with mobility issues who can't easily visit The Free Farm (thanks, Margaret!), incorporating universal design principles (handrail, garden table top) to make gardening more accessible to persons of all abilities (thanks, Page!), and giving away hecka local seedlings and produce, with instructional support, to make it easier for people to eat healthy (thanks, Tree! See “Grow plants, cook plants” posting below).

Another Getup classmate Sophie wrote about how volunteering at The Free Farm inspired her to further work in fighting hunger at
Planting basil in hothouse
Ro, Terence and Virginia stand in front of our labyrinth. Based on consensus, we put up plant identification signs in our labyrinth area to promote education and harvesting the correct plants, though some expressed concern that signs might be “distracting” during meditative strolls.
John appears to be ordering Jason to do something?
Ricardo and volunteer pull out plant signs to re-use containers

Garden table: on the same page with Page :-)
For our Garden Table project, we have used the Manatee Master Gardeners blueprint for inspiration. But for the most part, our team is coming up with our own materials (mostly scavenged as we follow the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra) and customizing the design to suit our space. Yesterday we decided to redesign the Garden Table so it will now resemble our farmstand cart + handrail legs, both built by Page. With retired math instructor Mary double-checking our calculations, Wendy and I measured and marked the pieces that were cut by Page with his equipment.
Wendy protects her ears from sound of Page's electric saw
Jenny and Leo pose as American Gothic couple in front of greenhouse
Page's cleanly cut lumber ready for assembling Garden Table!

Eating and meeting
Alen, Hannah and Tree contributed to vegan potluck lunch. Damon contributed delicious brownies, albeit made with non-vegan butter and eggs.
Tree and Jason chat about Occupy the Farm (, which activists took over on Earth Day with the intent to transform the 10-acre Albany site owned by UC Berkeley into an agro-ecological farm! On May Day, Jason will post coverage of his first-hand observations on Occupy the Farm at
Most of the volunteers who showed up yesterday were from Airbnb, including Joel who leads award-winning Thinkwalks (

More planting, watering, weeding, sharing food, building trellis
Damon plants bamboo grove
K holds up bouquet of Hecka Local weeds
Workday leader Hannah at farmstand
Multi-tasking Eitam chats on phone while planting. He planned to bring his 4th grade students from Congregation Sherith Israel to The Free Farm today.  Pia waters plants in the background.
Tree thanks Chelsea for bringing her Airbnb group to volunteer
Based on consensus, we collect honey from bees nesting in these wooden hives, though some bees die in the process and some vegans object. Honey is not vegan, like our mother’s milk is not vegan either as both “milk and honey” (sounds biblical) are animal products. But as Dr. Michael Greger notes, “Even 'veganically' grown produce involves the deaths of countless bugs in lost habitat, tilling, harvesting and transportation.“ ( In the web of life, some animals like cats and dogs are carnivores that eat other animals. At Golden Gate Park, feral cats are major predators of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, etc.
At 6’3”, Monroe is about a foot taller than I am, so he tied the string at the top of the pole while I tied the bottom of the pole. Jessica and Wendy worked on the bean trellis next to us.

At The Free Farm, “be all you can be” without joining Uncle Sam, so come grow with us!

Public Service Announcements:

Wed., May 2, 2012, 1:30-3:30 pm SF Food Security Task Force
City Hall - 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Rm. 278, SF 94102

Thurs., May 3, 2012, 5:30 California Native Plants Guided Tour
SF Botanical Garden, 9th Ave. & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park, SF Served by Muni #71 & #44 lines, 1 block from N-Judah, 2 blocks from #6, #43 & #66 bus lines. Every year we try to arrange for one of our programs to be an after-hours stroll and picnic in San Francisco Botanical Garden’s award-winning Arthur Menzies Garden of California Native Plants. This year’s visit will be led by two of the Garden’s expert luminaries. Our chapter conservation chair (and much more) Jake Sigg spent 16 years as caretaker and supervisor of the Menzies Garden. Jake will share with us the history of many of the well-established plants, as well as some wonderful stories from the past. Ted Kipping has been involved with SFBG most of his life, as gardener, treeworker, and always generous volunteer of time and expertise. A trained geologist, skilled in botany and horticulture, Ted’s breadth of natural history knowledge is extraordinary, and his ability to see, interpret, and explain his observations is unsurpassed. He will concentrate on the wealth of trees and shrubs in the garden. Bring your bag supper and enjoy a communal dinner in the garden. Enjoy guided walks from our experts, and take advantage of the opportunity to ask them questions. Garden admission is free for all attendees. Meet in parking lot behind County Fair Building before 5:30 pm. Please be on time, as we may have to lock the gate behind us.

Grow plants, cook plants

When I logged on to blogger last week, I noticed the upgrade included analytics showing this blog’s postings with the highest number of views . . . (drum roll) my GOMBS pasta had almost 3,500 views! This posting will be a real treat: feast for the eyes and mouth!

Planting The Free Farm seedlings at Golden Gate Park Senior Center
At a health fair two weeks ago, I bumped into Lisa, who is Program Coordinator at City College of SF’s Nutrition Assistant Program. She mentioned that one of her students, French pastry chef Vivian, was scheduled to deliver a ”Harvest” presentation at Golden Gate Park Senior Center (GGPSC) using seedlings that she picked up from Tree at The Free Farm. As a perpetual foodie student, I was Lisa’s student in both her noncredit and credit nutrition classes, so she wasn’t surprised when I asked if I could join her class that day. (Yes, Lisa’s really a fabulous teacher so check out her class offerings at Many of her GGPSC students have been repeating the free, noncredit class with Lisa since she started teaching there!)
Since Pia had so much to share about her trip to China, where I have such fond memories from my study abroad and subsequent visits, I invited Pia to join me at GGPSC class which includes tai chi/qi gong exercise squeezed between nutrition talk and cooking demo with tasting, plus lots of socializing :-). Here seated Pia listens attentively to student presenters Vivian and Yolanda. The Free Farm’s seedlings sit on the table next to a wild lettuce grown by GGPSC student Donna in the Richmond District.
Min spaces seedlings in GGPSC community garden plot. For foggy climate at GGPSC, Tree suggested growing Portuguese cabbage (aka beira; see and
Getting hands dirty!
Kathy, instructor Lisa and Pia look at bolted kale plant.
Vivian made Rice Pilaf (whole grain, rice, dried cherry) with Spring Greens (asparagus, shallots, ground ginger, lemon rinds, chopped fresh herbs, salt and pepper), while Yolanda prepared Avocado Salad based on Yum-o!

Cooking Hecka Local plants: TCM style
If you’ve been following this blog, you might recall my series of seasonal nutrition postings last year (summary links included at based on lectures by Briahn, another fabulous teacher at CCSF who teaches Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ( Since I completed Briahn’s Everyday Healing Foods and Herbs class in the fall, I asked if I could return to assist her for the spring cooking workshop and use our Hecka Local produce harvested from The Free Farm as this would be an outreach + blog opportunity. Briahn agreed and came to visit The Free Farm.
Briahn and Tree try to answer what in the world is this plant?
Our Hecka Local greens harvest
TCM (as well as Ayurvedic) practitioners advise drinking warm or room temperature liquids 15-20 minutes before a meal, instead of during a meal (which dilutes gastric acids to digest foods). Cold drinks are contracting so they impede digestion, which requires heat to break down foods. Here we enjoy tea made with hawthorn (warm; disperse food accumulations, move blood) + sprouted rice (neutral, relieve mental depression) + sprouted barley (cool; drain damp, strengthen spleen, detox heat).
Chef Mary prepared raw Leafy Green Pickled Salad, which was combined with our Hecka Local greens. Chinese (as well as Indians) generally don’t eat raw vegetables unless pickled for easier digestibility. They prefer fresh (not frozen/canned), cooked vegetables for both digestibility and food safety concerns.
Here Mary rubs Celtic sea salt on greens. Use whole sea salt (appears slightly gray) instead of common highly refined white table salt that has been stripped of nearly all of its 60 trace minerals. Salt cravings usually decrease sharply once whole, unrefined salt is used for a few weeks as the body gets the nutrients it needs.

Leafy Green Pickled Salad made with thinly sliced greens (kale, collards, cabbage), carrots, Chinese celery, hijiki/arame, shiitake mushroom (stir-fry in oil, rice wine, sugar), almonds. Salad dressing: lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar, sugar, white pepper, soy sauce, sesame seed & olive oils, oregano, rosemary, sage.
Mary says don’t use recipes, but use fresh ingredients. Evaluate each ingredient for color, aroma and taste/flavor. CCSF registered dietitians Frances and May ( help Mary strip leaves from goji plants grown in Briahn’s Sonoma garden.
Millet congee with shanyao (Chinese yam), carrots and dates.  Good comfort food.
Left side:  Blanched asparagus, garlic leeks, goji leaves and Shanghai bok choy, drizzled with mushroom sauce and sesame oil.  Right side:  Leafy Green Pickled Salad (purple color from red cabbage).  Delicious!
Hecka Local luscious strawberries. Chinese generally eat plain fruit after meals; on special occasions, Chinese might serve fruit with almond jelly.
Honey tasting: Beekeeper Briahn’s Sonoma + The Free Farm’s Hecka Local SF

Public Service Announcement
Sat., May 12, 2012, 9 am-5 pm, Keep the Community in Community College
City College of San Francisco - Mission Campus, 1125 Valencia St, SF 94110 City College of San Francisco invites students, educators and workers from across California's 112 community colleges to a statewide conference/coalition-building event. Together, we will address the Student Success Act's dismantling of CCCs, the destructive waves of budget cuts and tuition increases, and what we can do - as the world's largest higher education body - to fight back. The conference will include: - An overview of the Student Success Act and its connection to privatization. - Discussion on the formation of a student union. - Action planning to determine how we can work together to keep the community in community colleges! To anyone interested in preserving the accessibility of California Community Colleges, please join us! Called for by the AS Council of CCSF Ocean Campus and Occupy CCSF. CCSF Mission Campus is accessible by 24th St Mission BART, MUNI 12, 14, 14L, 48, 49 and 67 lines

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Location, location, location

Free Farmer Evan’s relocating for shorter growing season
Today was Evan’s last Saturday at The Free Farm. He will be relocating to western Massachusetts where his girlfriend will be entering graduate school. We will dearly miss Evan, who has been with The Free Farm since inception, building soil as our Compost Champion and raising hell as our Resident Anarchist with a Cause (Food Justice)! We held an Appreciation/Celebration for Evan during our lunch hour.  He missed our Volunteer Appreciation/Celebration Party earlier this year because he spent that night in jail after being arrested while exercising his right to dissent (during Occupy demonstration). Since it was one-night only, Evan didn’t get a chance to start an edible garden in jail, but we expect indefatigable Evan will start a Free Farm satellite in his new locale soon :-)
We'll miss Princess Polly, too!
Our best wishes + cheers :-) card for Evan
The Free Farm Family
"San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)"

We had quite a turnout of volunteers from Alemany Farm, CCSF Environmental Horticulture and Stanford Food and Community--as well as those who came individually.  Many thanks to Page, who did double-duty working on Garden Table project with CCSF students and guiding service learning project with his Stanford students.  Kevin said that he planned to return with his SF Newbies in the 20s group ( but was asked to reschedule as we want to make sure that everyone who joins our workdays gets the proper attention for a positively enriching experience! 
Wendy, John and Jessica in greenhouse
Jessica and Jenny in greenhouse
Jordan harvests kale in another warm, dry, sunny workday
Harvesting arugula and preparing to plant tomatoes in hothouse
Shovel and spade
Container gardening
Garden Table planning
Garden Table materials
SF Newbie Callie plans to transplant these in garden at Chinese immersion school where she teaches
Katie and Erik ("you gonna blog about our log?") maintain planting log
Katie harvests shiitake mushrooms

Margaret and Page brought lunch spread of chili and salads.  Tree made delicious chocolate cake, gluten and non-gluten versions--both so dark and moist like our hecka local compost!
Margaret, Page, Wendy and Mary find common ground: Margaret and Wendy attended Smith College; Margaret, Page and Mary are college faculty members
Wendy and her mother look like sisters
Pia and Mary are long-time members of SF Vegetarian Society.  Pia just returned from 2-week trip to China with a group of German vegetarians. Getup classmate Lynn (who interned at The Free Farm last year before relocating to LA) recently posted this thoughtful piece about how her parents from China modeled green living at

Locating beehive
This beehive/swarm located in our tree collards nearly upstaged everything else during our workday when beekeeper Pam (in beekeeper outfit) and Erik (with exposed arms and legs!) relocated the hive to its wooden home.
Plant porn:  many shades of green 
Oranges from Stanford Glean and aloe from Tree's home garden!

Locating urban farms
Stephen gave us the heads up about Monday’s event on How SF Can Better Support Urban Agriculture (see Public Service Announcement below for details).

Enjoy Earth Week and visit us soon :-)

Public Service Announcement

Mon., Apr. 23, 2012, 11 am, How SF Can Better Support Urban Agriculture Michelangelo Playground & Community Garden, Greenwich St. between Leavenworth & Jones, SF
Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager at SPUR and co-author of Starting a Garden or Urban Farm in San Francisco ( will join a discussion about finding public land for urban agriculture, Supervisor David Chiu will announce new legislation aimed at better coordinating city support for urban ag, and SPUR Co-coordinator Antonio Roman-Alcala will talk about how all of this connects to the SFUAA's platform.