Saturday, April 7, 2012

Web of life

One of my favorite children’s walks at SF Botanical Garden is the Web of Life, where I get to share my love of plants because where would we animals/humans be without plants as a source of oxygen, food/medicine, clothing, shelter, fuel, beauty. . . like this lovely lavender plant? But usually the kids get more excited over pollinators (bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.), squirrels, gophers, worms, banana slugs, etc. and just anything animated, as we walk/skip through different habitats. And the web of life is about the interdependence of plants and animals. Here at The Free Farm, I was actually trying to photograph a bee sipping lavender nectar but it buzzed away too quickly for my camera to capture its action.
Jenny and John hold up our new sign of The Free Farm's public opening hours and contact information, painted by Jenny in blue and yellow--matching our new handrail!

During today’s workday, I kept thinking about the Web of Life and interconnections . . . not just among volunteers who find commonality at The Free Farm, but why The Free Farm still exists but for the grace of Saint Paulus, while SF Commune, which moved next door at 888 Turk St. (apparently without the knowledge of its owner, the Catholic Archdiocese) on Sunday evening, didn’t stay longer than 20 hours? At the time of my last posting, the Archdiocese reportedly made the judicious decision not to take any action but to revisit the situation in the morning. According to, in late Sunday, the Archdiocese signed a citizen’s arrest for the occupiers on charges of trespassing and graffiti. Mayor Ed Lee is quoted as saying, "Identifying a building is one thing. When you occupy it and it's not in a condition of livability, it could be a danger for everybody. I personally would love to see every vacancy in the whole city have some plan and activity going on in it."

I wondered whether any dialogue, which can open up possibilities to find connections to a common purpose, ever took place between the Archdiocese and Occupy SF Commune – like how Rev. Megan approached Saint Paulus Lutheran Church for permission to create The Free Farm three years ago, and persuaded other Bay Area churches to convert vacant land to urban gardens ( For a sustainable outcome, a thoughtful approach would be to make connections first to get “buy-in” through dialogue with landowners and/or diplomatic appeal to sympathetic public officials like Supervisor/Land Use Committee Chair Eric Mar who supports the use of vacant public lots for urban farms. Back in November, Occupy SF rejected Mayor Ed Lee’s offer to relocate to Mission between 15th & 16th Streets, in very desirable Sun Belt for farming (
Tree prepares to transplant squash
Jason and John of Alemany Farm continue seed planting marathon. My week actually began with SF Botanical Garden Society Docent Enrichment field trip to Alemany Farm, where I saw John tending avocado trees. (Perhaps I’ll share photos in a separate posting.) Jason invited us to Alemany Farm for Earth Day BBQ!
Margaret and Amy in labyrinth area. Thanks to recent rains, The Free Farm was lush green!
Mike learned about The Free Farm from Sander
Nao and Jordan amend soil with our hecka local compost!
Patrick, Wendy and I sorted through these piles of scavenged materials for lumber as part of our Garden Table project for our horticulture class taught by Malcolm, a neighbor of Page and Margaret! Here it looks like Patrick is single-handedly doing all the heavy-lifting, but Wendy and I really did help :-)
Stanley, Patrick and I contributed to potluck lunch. Stanley and Wendy, standing at the far right, had a surprise reunion: Wendy was a Lowell High architecture student of Stanley, our farmstand manager and my Getup classmate. And now Wendy can address her former high school teacher by her first name :-)
I tossed together this quinoa salad with cancer-preventing GOMBBS (Green cilantro + green Onions + crimini Mushrooms + red Beans + cranBerries + pumpkin Seeds), orange juice + Hawaiian sea salt. Tip: For good results while cooking, play BeeGees’ pre-Saturday Night Fever music (like “Nights on Broadway” at!
Today's harvest of hecka local greens: rainbow chard, kale, collards, parsley and cilantro
I was so happy to see first-time visitor Monroe, whom I initially met last year when I was presenting nutrition/cooking demos at Canon Kip Senior Center located just south of Market area ( I invited seniors to visit The Free Farm and suggested a field trip. However, because some of the seniors, ranging from age 60 to 90+ years old, have mobility issues, the staff planning the activities calendar instead asked whether I could present a container gardening workshop at the Center. Since I didn’t know about container gardening until I took a course last fall, I put out a call for container gardening workshop leaders and Margaret expressed interest so we finally got together. Here Margaret shows Monroe around our greenhouse, while he shared with us his childhood memories of farming with his family in Mississippi.
This past week, I joined Margaret to present a container gardening workshop at Canon Kip Senior Center. While some seniors planned to take home their containers of planted sugar snap peas (2 seeds per container), we also planted seeds in about a dozen containers that we took over to ECS Community Garden (, which was started by Free Farmer Griff! Here Monroe gives us a tour of ECS Community Garden. Since some of the seniors expected me to present a nutrition/cooking demo as I did a series last year, I hope to return when the sugar snap peas are ready to harvest and perhaps prepare a GOMBBS dish?!
Tree checks on our progress
Erik and Tree transplant
Harvesting strawberries
Tree and Pam in their beekeepers' outfits investigate swarming bees
Wow! Patrick, Wendy and I deserve A+ for sorting through lumber to begin our Garden Table project :-)
Margaret sent this beautiful photo of greeter Joyce with harvest from Holy Innocents

Come connect with us as part of the Web of Life at The Free Farm!

Public Service Announcements:

As a follow-up to last week’s Local Food + 2012 Farm Bill posting, check out the following articles by Christopher Cook, about creating a Farmworkers’ Bill of Rights as part of the Farm Bill ( and Occupying the Food System (

Sun., Apr. 15, 2012, 1-3 pm, SF Botanical Garden’s Horticulture Library Celebration!
Helen Crocker Russell Library, SF Botanical Garden, Golden Gate Park
Special Sunday story time, a dirt cake, and a guided walk through the garden for children and families.

Sun., April 15, 2012, 11am–3 pm, Native Plant Garden Tour
Presented by Yerba Buena Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. The free, self-paced tour provides a unique opportuLinknity to see San Francisco and Bay Area native gardens. Hosts will explain how these gardens conserve water, provide wildlife habitat and reinforce our local identity. Descriptions of gardens participating in the tour, along with a map, are available at

Sun.-Sat., Apr., 15-21, 2012, Oakland Veg Week
Oakland Veg Week is a week-long celebration of the health, environmental, and animal welfare benefits of vegetarian eating. Oakland Veg Week will start on April 15th and includes speaking engagements by celebrated Oakland vegan cookbook author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Oakland resident and founder of national non-profit, Vegan Outreach, Jack Norris. There will also be a cooking demonstration, a screening of the documentary film, Vegucated, and a grand finale party for participants at the Lake Merritt Sailboat House where participants can sample some of Oakland's finest vegetarian offerings. For a complete list of events, visit

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