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.

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