Sunday, May 27, 2012

Our neighbor Tenderloin + Streetopia!

Last week, I mentioned food insecurity in the Tenderloin, which is located just two blocks east of The Free Farm. But there’s more to the Tenderloin (home to my favorite banh mi :-) and non-starving artists), so I joined Peter Field of SF City Guides for a historical walking tour covering Tenderloin west of Leavenworth Street that includes Uptown Tenderloin Historic District. Our beekeeper Pam also got The Free Farm involved in Tenderloin’s Streetopia, so read on!

Most tour participants were SF residents, including several from the Tenderloin. It was a lively and interactive tour (one resident passing by told us “no photographs, no autographs”). As Peter worked in the Tenderloin as a psychiatric social worker, he shared his insights. During the 1970s urban renewal, the destruction of SROs in Western Addition and SoMa drove the poor to the Tenderloin, which has the world’s largest collection of historic SRO hotels and the largest concentration of homeless in the City. Here are some tour highlights:
We began at McAllister and Leavenworth Streets, facing the former William Taylor Hotel, which was built by Methodists as a church on the ground floor within a hotel (sounds similar to plan to rebuild Saint Paulus Church within housing tower at The Free Farm site). Shortly after its 1929 opening, the hotel suffered due to the Great Depression, so it was sold and remodeled as the Empire Hotel, SF’s tallest building at the time. A local law prevented building a saloon within 200 feet of a church, so the Sky Room lounge was built on the top floor. During WWII, the federal government used its eminent domain powers to acquire the hotel, which was converted to a federal building housing the IRS and draft board. In the late 1970s, the site was sold to UC Hastings College of Law, which converted it into student housing.

(My background includes living in the Tenderloin for a summer, while I worked at now-defunct SF Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) in Western Addition and shared an apartment with a classmate at McAllister Tower ( Like JFK said about working in the White House, the pay was good and I could walk to work :-). I worked at SFRA for two years: part-time during school and full-time during one summer break. SFRA’s use of eminent domain displaced many years before so I joined my supervising attorney to volunteer with Homeless Advocacy Project (, which held a weekly clinic at Cadillac Hotel (, the first non-profit SRO west of Mississippi.)
Tenderloin Housing Clinic ( Executive Director Randy Shaw is working to create Uptown Tenderloin Museum ( inside Cadillac Hotel ( The hotel also was home to Newman’s Boxing Gym, where George Foreman and Cassius Clay (before name change to Muhammad Ali) trained.
These banners remind us that Tenderloin is in the Heart of the City, with 409 historic buildings.
Streetopia ( is a month-long show, run out of Luggage Store Annex ( at 509 Ellis Street near Leavenworth, that expresses utopian aspirations including a Free Café, theater, gallery/studio, library, public murals, art on area billboards, installations in vacant storefronts, performances in the streets, and events at nearby community gardens. (See Public Service Announcement listing below.)
Next door to Luggage Store Annex, Cohen Alley was transformed into Tenderloin National Forest ( with real and painted trees.
Love lung power!
Leaving the tranquility of the Forest, we returned to the concrete and noise of . . . Tenderloin Zoo, spray painted on this wall outside.
This Faithful Fools building was a former film exchange building. (At annual Meat Out, sponsored by SFVS and Unitarian Center in Western Addition, I volunteer with Chef Andrea of Faithful Fools ( to prepare vegan lunch.)
Tenderloin’s entertainment included jazz (like Blackhawk), as well as theater and porn.
Food secure pigeons well-fed by residents
Peter holds up photo of 19th century old grocery saloon at Turk and Polk Streets, with side door entrance for single women. At the time, two-thirds of saloons were located in the back of grocery storefronts.
Das Deutsches Haus, aka California Hall, 625 Polk Street, is significant for its role in LGBT history (
From 1921 to 1925, Dashiell Hammett lived at 620 Eddy, in a two-room studio above his landlady bootlegger; seems 1920s Prohibition was as effective as today’s War on Drugs? Peter noted how prohibitions drive vices underground. He mentioned that some landlords prefer tenants involved in illegal activities so they can extort higher rents, so vice and corruption persist. (After tour, I was curious about rents at Hammett’s old building so I internet-searched the address and found studio #44 went for $1,250 in April 2012.)
Eye-catching mural
Entrance to Little Saigon, which brought many families into neighborhood and my favorite banh mi!
Not included in tour, but I volunteer at Project Open Hand, 730 Polk Street, so check out I remember this location was Sierra Club HQ before POH.
With a gap after the tour until afternoon Streetopia event, I headed over to Asian Art Museum for Phantoms of Asia exhibit about our place in the universe. This striking painting, "Dohatsu Shoten," by Hyon Gyon, reminded me of Edvard Munch’s "The Scream"; the plaque explained that it represents “anger that makes one’s hair stand on the end and even reach the sky”—an emotion that we feel but usually hold inside. Pretty intense, so time to step outside . .
I love looking up at the old Main Library’s engravings, like this Longfellow saying: “Nature is a revelation of God, art is a revelation of man.”
Back into the Forest sanctuary
Lisaruth sets up her Lovin’ from the Oven no knead bread making demo station with basics: flour, salt, yeast, warm water. Lisaruth’s utopian agenda is that “we slowly begin to understand ourselves more as bread MAKERS than bread WINNERS.”
Beekeeper Pam donated The Free Farm's Hecka Local Honey to accompany Lisaruth’s Seeding is Believing Bread. Honey + Bread combination is delicious!
Lisaruth’s Mobile Bread Bicycle Cart, almost like meals on wheels! Cob oven is heated to 450F to bake bread.
Sy Wagon presents The Free Cafe, which will take place daily, noon to 4 pm, at 509 Ellis Street and Tenderloin National Forest during the length of Streetopia’s run (May 21 to June 23). The cafe will provide a community kitchen for neighborhood residents to come together and share food and recipes. The cafe is looking for donations of produce. Contact (
Free Café offerings include sautéed kale and onions, grated beets and peppers, waffles, butter, whipped cream, maple syrup, coffee and milk.
Returned to Asian Art Museum for armchair talk on Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Breathing flower” by Choi Jeong Hwa, sits outside.

More about Tenderloin's rich history and culture at,_San_Francisco,_California. In addition to BeyondChron (, Tenderloin has a wonderful monthly community newspaper, Central City Extra, which featured May 2012 cover story, “Free Food for Sale” ( and April 2012 article, “Farmers’ markets give away a ton of food” (

Peter will present his fascinating Tenderloin walks again in October 2012 through & In the meantime, SF City Guides has two upcoming walks covering The Free Farm’s Western Addition neighborhood (see Public Service Announcements listing below for May 31 and June 2;,_San_Francisco,_California).

And check out Streetopia's events, which focus on community empowerment!

Public Service Announcements:

Thurs., May 31, 2012, 1 pm Sacred Places in SF Cathedral Hill
Meet at the main plaza entrance of St. Mary's Cathedral, Gough & Geary, SF
SF’s diversity is reflected in its places of worship. Visit churches, a temple, a cathedral and a synagogue. View the symbols and architecture and hear the history of the city’s religious institutions.

Sat., June 2, 2012, 2 pm Japantown, Urban Renewal & the Fillmore
Meet at the Japantown Peace Pagoda at Buchanan between Post & Geary, SF
SF’s Japantown dates from the earthquake and fire of 1906. Later, Japanese-Americans were uprooted in WWII and replaced largely by African-Americans who opened many jazz clubs. Then, in the 1950s, urban renewal changed the physical landscape. Today we see Japanese-style architecture next to classic Victorians and the birth of the Fillmore Jazz Preservation District.

Sun., June 3, 2012, 1 pm Every Block has a Story: The People’s History of the Central City
Meet at Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market St., near 6th St., SF 94103
Join Tenant Organizer James Tracey and Tenderloin native Lisa Cleis for walking tour and organizing.

More friends + beyond boundaries

As a follow-up to SF’s Farm Bill resolution (, Getup classmate Susan is inviting us to attend “A Farm Bill for the 99%!” on Tuesday, May 29 (details in Public Service Announcement below).

Hayes Valley Farm (HVF), which was slated to relocate next month to make way for condo development, got a 6-month extension to continue farming in its birthplace through the end of this year. After that, HVF has plans to farm in more than just one location ( ) so maybe HVF will be renamed Hardly Strictly Hayes Valley Farm?! What’s important is to keep farming somewhere in the City, and I hope they continue to generously donate their harvest to Project Open Hand, which then ensures its distribution to cancer patients (

This piece of great news got me thinking about The Free Farm’s own future, which is subject to housing development plans. While farms like Alemany and Hayes Valley have names that identify with their respective neighborhoods, The Free Farm name is generic, which is cool because then we have the potential to be anywhere and everywhere! The name Western Addition Farm is a real mouthful, though it suggests we can expand to Eastern, Northern and Southern Additions?

Anyway, when my classmates and I presented our fabulous garden table + food production team project during our last day in horticulture class, our instructor Malcolm asked whether our project experiences made us want to pursue horticulture professionally. After quick reflection, I thought yes, let’s build more of The Free Farm garden tables at every senior center in the City! The senior moment is now :-)

We had another great turnout of volunteers to join us on another warm, dry sunny workday yesterday. Many returning volunteers also brought their friends/relatives so check out these fresh faces!
Returning Stanford volunteer Michael (with harvest) and greeter Joyce (with her usual light reading).  Imagine our garden table will be moving soon to where the farmstand is, just behind them.
So glad to see horticulture classmate Wendy return, and this time with her sister Rachel, a Lick-Wilmerding student who also volunteers at Alemany Farm (! Because I had to attend another appointment, they offered to transplant ashitaba plants.
Alemany Farmers John and Jason gather bamboo, while Monroe recognizes ashitaba plants (in green hands of Wendy and Rachel) as relative of wormwood.
First-time volunteers from Stanford join Jason with cutting flowers.
Tree looks for space to plant ashitaba
. . . and decides we should harvest mugwort plants for farmstand. Mugwort leaf (ai ye) is bitter, acrid, warm; stops bleeding; disperses cold and stops pain; use topically for damp itchy skin lesions. Acupuncturists burn mugwort leaves when practicing moxibustion. Since many herbs have contraindications, consult with herbalist before use ( &
First-time Stanford volunteers build compost pile—nice study break before they take their finals in three weeks :-)
Margaret waters container plants
At the end of the workday, I returned to The Free Farm to find ashitaba plant nicely grounded in its new home outdoors
Sadly, we had to uproot/evict some mugwort plants and a mango-looking tree in order to make growing space for ashitaba plant that can grow 4 ft in width.  
Thanks to Wendy, Stephen and Rachel for nice work in making space and planting ashitaba.
Pam decided to transplant her dye plants outdoors, but (again) finding growing space was challenging. Finally, Pam spotted space (though shady) near beehives for weld plants.
Other dye plants found a home squeezed in our sunny terrace near our gathering space. Afterwards, we went over to Pam’s to plant the remaining dye plants in her side garden—a satellite of The Free Farm?

We’ve been blessed with so many ingredients for life to thrive: clean air, water, nutrients, sunlight, warmth, loving attention, space . . . perhaps a bit tight on this element, but it’s really awesome how we are growing beyond our boundaries as volunteers and visitors begin growing their own!

Finally, before I take off: We realize you have a choice when it comes to activities this Memorial Day weekend—75th anniversary of Golden Gate Bridge Celebration, Carnaval, Hayes Valley Farm’s Homestead Skillshare Festival, etc.—so we especially would like to thank you for choosing to farm with us in the Western Addition!

Public Service Announcements:

Tues., May 29, 2012, 6-8 pm A Farm Bill for the 99%!
Mission Pie, 2901 Mission St. at 25th St., SF
How the Farm Bill impacts what you eat—and what you can do about it! Come learn how local leaders and communities are pushing for a healthier, more sustainable food system. Featuring Supervisor Eric Mar (D1), Supervisor David Campos (D9); Susan Kuehn and Adam Scow of Food & Water Watch; Author and Journalist Christopher Cook; and members of Occupy the Farm. Co-sponsored by the Center for Political Education and Food & Water Watch.

Sat., June 2, 2012, 2-7 pm University of the Commons Launch Celebration
ATA, 992 Valencia St., SF 94110
Collective of teachers, artists, activists, scholars, writers, and students dedicated to the idea of education for the sake of education. Learn about upcoming classes, always free, including Science Literacy, taught by Barbara-Ann Lewis, PhD Soil Science from UC Berkeley.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


It’s so nice to see familiar faces out in the crowd
It’s so nice to see friends of mine enjoyin’ themselves
And everybody get happy ‘cause

(Chorus) We can work it out
We are friends, we are friends

And I remember when I was down and out
I remember when you said friend
Hey what’s your name
Getting off on each other . . . (chorus)

Feelings are getting strong
You feel like you belong
Closeness you can feel
Smiles that are real
We are friends

If you feel like singing with us, sing out loud
It will make you feel good just to sing right out
Be a part of it all ‘cause . . . (chorus)
“Friends” by Cecilio & Kapono

Today we shared a warm, dry, sunny Saturday workday at The Free Farm (TFF) with our super cool friends from Alemany Farm’s Ecological Horticulture Apprenticeship Program ( and City College of SF’s Nutrition Program (

I was happy and inspired to see our visiting friends because they’re especially thoughtful professionals who do tremendous work in making SF more food secure with their educational programs and outreach work. Perhaps because Alemany Farm and CCSF receive government support (i.e., our tax dollars), they really make efforts to address the needs of underserved populations. For example, Alemany provides training and fresh produce to neighboring public housing residents. Registered dietitians (RDs) at CCSF teach free health classes in nutrition/cooking/physical activity/safety at more than 40 sites in the City, delivering the bulk of required nutrition ed classes at senior congregate meal sites, and provide excellent training for public health nutrition educators.
Getup grads ( Antonio ( and Jason ( co-teach propagation methods as part of Alemany program.
Guerilla Grafter Tara (who previously appeared at stopped by to visit Tree.
Jason teaches sex, as in seed propagation (important for variability,, in greenhouse which provides warm temp for germination.
Antonio demonstrates asexual propagation, or cutting from stems of tree collards, which delivers uniform and predictable product, or “clone” of parent.

Local community engagement
When I asked Antonio about the new farm project he’s getting started near SF Food Bank (, he explained that the project of food growing and sharing is intended to benefit Food Bank’s neighbors in Potrero Hill public housing rather than the general public to drop-in.

Ideally, SF would have an urban farm in every square mile ( so check out Getup classmate Eli’s work in making this happen ( Appendix II, on pages 34 and 35, lists Public Land Identified as Potential Sites for Urban Agriculture in SF). The communally managed model, like Alemany and TFF (discussed in my posting at, makes urban farming more accessible when government/nonprofit groups convert vacant lots to urban farms, by providing land and utilities without cost on the condition that all activities remain free including skill sharing and giving away produce.

My public health education instructor Susana emphasizes the need to engage community residents who represent the cultural/language diversity of the neighborhood; as an example, she told us about Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation ( holding a Food Justice Community Convening last month to really understand the community’s concerns. When I mentioned to Susana that TFF would welcome residents from neighboring Tenderloin to crossover Van Ness corridor to join us during our workdays and/or visit Saturday farmstand, Susana responded that I should reach out to TNDC myself. In addition to Tenderloin, I learned that SF’s other most food insecure neighborhoods are Bayview, Visitacion Valley, and South of Market. (Susana includes urban agriculture in her talk about creating a healthy eating environment at

Perhaps because we do little outreach and our downhill terrain discourages entry by persons with mobility issues in the neighborhood, we might have a dozen volunteers from the neighborhood and our Saturday farmstand attracts about a dozen visitors (mostly from the neighborhood) so the bulk of our produce goes over to Mission District’s Free Farmstand the next day.

Last year, during a discussion on how best to spend a grant award and in response to one proposal to purchase BART tickets for volunteers coming from the East Bay, someone suggested that we invest more in building relationships with neighbors surrounding TFF. Consensus: no BART tickets, but also no action on TFF neighborhood outreach (which wouldn’t need to involve spending grant award). We might have good intentions, but so much to do and so little time! With little meaningful interaction, will neighbors miss TFF when it’s replaced? Most people learn about TFF through word-of-mouth or passing by our site.
What we do best: getting dirty!
Jenny brought her own paints to add colors to our garden table
Antonio continues with cuttings
Tree collard cuttings in rooting medium
Art teacher Stanley gives thumbs up as Jessica, Jenny and Wendy add finishing touches to our garden table.
Free Farmer Christina and Alemany Farmers brought lunch. Due to Damon’s no-show, I won Real Food Bake-off by default with my chocolate chip coconut (sugar replacement) oatmeal with China rose bud cookies (also made with whole wheat, organic eggs and butter)!

Public health dietitians who also garden!
When I began my formal nutrition studies, I enrolled in a Holistic Nutrition program in Berkeley. I learned about traditional foodways, which included expensive ingredients (always organic, if available) and time-consuming preparation methods (soaking, sprouting, slow cooking). Because I was attending a private non-profit, it was like attending my private, liberal arts women’s college—though there were two men in my graduating nutrition class.

Concerned that I was turning into an elitist foodie, I called CCSF Consumer Education Chair May (who is RD with MPH) to find out about her department’s nutrition classes, though it was mid-semester. Because I live in the Richmond District, she suggested that I attend a free, non-credit nutrition class at Golden Gate Park Senior Center. After explaining that I wasn’t even a senior, May told me the nutrition classes are open to the public and I would enjoy Lisa’s “lively” class. Well, I took her advice and am eternally grateful to May because Lisa’s classes, which covered community food security (always trying to meet people where they're at, being culturally sensitive and kindly inclusive as possible), inspired me to further my studies in public health/gerontology.

Lisa, May and Frances (my nutrition clinic preceptor) appeared at Because they also do their own gardening (these RDs really walk the talk about knowing your food source and getting the best nutrition by growing your own!), I was always inviting them to visit so finally May and Frances came over after their ikebana class. I’m still waiting for Lisa’s visit to TFF :-) 
Frances and friends from On Lok (, which had a booth at Asian Heritage Street Celebration in nearby Civic Center, to promote aging in place.
May joins Frances in meeting my horticulture classmates Wendy, Jessica and Jenny.
May and Frances with their ikebana instructor Louise tour TFF.
May and Frances ask Antonio about his tree collard cuttings. In addition to his Getup credentials, Antonio holds a Permaculture Design Certificate and completed Pam’s Environmental Horticulture class at CCSF. Antonio and I discussed the surging interest and need for more food production classes at CCSF, instead of SF residents going to Merritt in Oakland to further olericulture studies. Antonio said he would love to teach permaculture at CCSF, and I think he would be superb—if only CCSF would make permaculture a priority, while facing budget cuts.
Stanley presents ceramic planter to regular visitor Diana who lives next to TFF.
Diana holds up planter so I can see bottom engraved “To Diana, Love Stanley”
These volunteers are FOR (Friends Of Ro)!
Strawberry harvest
Painters Jessica, Jenny and Wendy with our masterpiece garden table: Hey Malcolm (our horticulture instructor), look—this is really worthy of A+++ :-)! My classmates are so awesome :-), and especially appreciated Jessica and Jenny, who both had to re-arrange their work schedules to join us on Saturday workdays for our team project.
Jessica and Wendy tie garlic for hanging to dry out in toolshed (similar to our garlic braiding last year at, except Alemany Farm apprentice/school garden educator Ashoka explained that the garlic harvested in our wheelbarrow wasn’t the type suited for braiding). Antonio says goodbye before leaving for Food Sovereignty Summit at
Jason invited us to take tomato and basil plants to grow our own! Since these sun-loving plants don’t do well in my usually foggy Richmond District home, I took some up for our farmstand visitors.
Ashitaba plants get leafier in greenhouse. Next week: plan to transplant in labyrinth area and perhaps space near our entrance.
At our farmstand, these marigolds were leftover so I stuffed them in this jar – okay, I really ought to join May and Frances in their ikebana studies with Louise – but at least Tree’s smiling :-)! Marigold petals are edible (

In Acts 20:35, Jesus said “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” And I think it’s more empowering to reciprocate with both giving and receiving—which is what true education is about. Hope you can join us in our open classroom for some mutual learning!

Public Service Announcements:
Mon., May 21, 2012 at 10 am Seniors and Adults with Disabilities
City Hall, Room 250, Board of Supervisors Chambers, SF
Come hear a presentation on the 2010 census that explains the needs of our seniors and people with disabilities in SF. Find out what the City’s plan is to address the growing number of people who want to age in the community. Come testify to the impact of the budget cuts we have endured over the last 5 years. This is your time to let the legislators hear from you.
• 19% (155,000) of SF residents are seniors.
• SF’s senior population grew by 18,000 from 2000 to 2010.
• Nearly 90,000 San Franciscans report having at least one disability.
• Seniors now outnumber teens in labor force for first time on record.
• 11% of persons using shelters in SF are over age 60
• According to Homeless Count, almost half of homeless persons reported a disability.
• Over 8,000 persons age 60+ live in one of the city’s 530 SRO hotels (43% of all SRO residents).
• 10% of older San Franciscans and 14% of persons with disabilities identify themselves as LGBT.
• 30% of seniors in SF have limited or no English capacity.
• Seniors on SSI are living below the federal poverty line ($845/month) and are ineligible to receive CalFresh (aka SNAP or Food Stamps).
This hearing is sponsored by Supervisor Christina Olague and the Coalition of Agencies Serving the Elderly.

Tues., May 22, 2012, 6:30-9 pm What is Urban Agriculture?
AIA, 130 Sutter St., Suite 600, SF
Unlike rural agriculture, urban agriculture is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system: embedded in - and interacting with- the urban ecosystem. Such linkages include the use of urban residents as laborers, use of typical urban resources (like organic waste as compost and urban wastewater for irrigation), direct links with urban consumers, direct impacts on urban ecology (positive and negative), being part of the urban food system, competing for land with other urban functions, being influenced by urban policies and plans, etc. Urban agriculture is not a relic of the past that will fade away (urban agriculture increases when the city grows) nor brought to the city by rural immigrants that will lose their rural habits over time. It is an integral part of the urban system. (From the RUAF-Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture and Food Security Website, 2012).
ASLA-Northern California Chapter Lecture Series is pleased to bring together several noted speakers and practitioners for what will be a very lively discussion focused on the challenges and rewards of urban agriculture efforts. Speakers include Barbara Finnin, Executive Director of City Slicker Farms in Oakland; Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Program Manager at SPUR; and several practicing landscape architects presenting project examples at local and regional scales. Students with ID free