Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spreading the Good

One aspect of our Free Farm is that it is home to a number of pollinators including hummingbirds, butterflies, native bees, and our honeybees.  They come around to check out the plants we are growing to attract them and they do their thing of moving pollen around and spreading it from male to female flower.

We need the pollinators. They pollinate we eat.

The other pollinators we have are the human type that drop in our farm either to visit or to lend a hand. They bring stories to share of places they have been or where they have worked or played. I am always amazed how each week someone new arrives, an not just a someone, usually a beautiful someone, a someone with something inspiring to share, if not just themselves.  I have trouble keeping up with all the names of our visitors, but I love them all and the riches they bring to the Free Farm.

Like all pollinators we need the human type too to help us grow our spiritual food and community. It is so sweet for us all to inspire each other. 
our raspberries are coming in

One week it was like international day with visitors from Quebec, Italy, India, England, Virginia, and a few other places I can't remember. Last week a woman and her daughter came by, the mother visiting from Puerto Rico. Of course, often the conversation turns to plants and food and the mother and daughter shared some exotic  fruit they like to eat from Puerto Rico. It is called Quenepa (Melicoccus bijugatus)and it is sort of like a lychee fruit, only it seems to have less flesh and a bigger seed. You have to suck the fruit more than eat it.

our last blessing circle at lunch included new visitors/farmer/beekeeper/family from Half Moon Bay and Jeanette from Peru who came to us via Pancho his the meditation Friday evenings

The Free Farm has been so off the hook with green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, strawberries, basil, and kale.  The peak  of all those foods has been reached as we move into fall. John from Alemany Farm has heroically taken on the greenhouse and seedling production, but just keeping the beds full with the next crop of plants has been a bit of a challenge.

I wrote about the Human Be in coming up in September over at our our blog for the Free Farm Stand, http://freefarmstand.org/.

I wrote:"Pancho and I are doing  a skill share  starting at 3pm on Friday at HANC  recycling center and Kezar Gardens ” (at 2:300pm sitting in receptive silence…bring a cushion for your tush) called Creating Community Through Serving: Living without Conventional Currency; and Disobeying with Great Love. This will touch on how to start a sustainable Free Project and Doing things Free plus insights into Living with Little or no money plus…" Also I mentioned this article in the Chronicle that talks about the loss of  Urban Farms in the city, and the Free Farm is on the list of farms to possibly go bye bye. http://www.sfbg.com/2012/08/21/farmville-real.

Instead of worrying about eviction which may take 2-3 years, we have a lot of farming work to do, so we continue to plant and grow soil. Please join us to share this wonderful opportunity to be of service in such a fun way. We continue to need people  who want to learn farming and who can eventually take lead workdays. also, since we provide a vegan lunch for the volunteers, we can use more regular cooks.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Labor of Love

I have been giving a lot of tours recently and talking a lot about this and that about our Free Farm.  Thinking about the farm now, the thing that stands out in my mind   is that we have such an excellent bunch of volunteers and that they are the ones that somehow make our farm work so well. So this is a shout out and thank you to all the many people who show up and help out in some way.

One of our wonderful volunteers who was around for too short a time, Pam O'Dea, who often gave wonderful massages to our volunteers and others, has been keeping in touch through email. She had to leave town as I understand it because the high rents here pushed here out. Now she is on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Inspired by her work on the Free Farm she took up planting a vegetable garden and she just wrote me that her first harvest is in.

I also want to say that we have so many talented Free Farmers, like our bee keeper Pam, who with some other Free Farmers, printed a beautiful handout on handmade paper for OutsideLands (see previous blog post), plus making oragami pots for the event also. Then there is K who often leads us in singing at our volunteer lunch (I loved the "Thanks" chant last week). She also is an amazing pianist who played at our volunteer appreciation night and here is a heads up for a free recital she is playing soon:
"I will play classical music (Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, etc.) and improvise on some of my original compositions.
My students:will play more traditional, classical, and jazzy tunes +duets.
These kids are amazing (ages 10, 10 and 9, respectively) and I'm pretty proud of them.
Come one, come all--it's guaranteed entertainment! "
When: Sunday, August 19th @ 5 pm - 6:30 pm
Where: Sherman Clay piano store, 647 Mission St (between 2nd and 3rd, close to Montgomery BART Station)
Reception to follow.  Free.  Donations welcome ($5 - $10 suggested).

This is what makes the Free Farm so special in my mind is the community of beautiful stars shining in their unique way and spreading the light and love around them.

Last Saturday we hosted 23 visitors from around the country that were part of the bicycle tour for the American Community Garden Association conference being held here in San Francisco. I was part of the team that made lunch for everyone and I lead them all on a 30 minute tour. They were all such a great group of people, almost all gardeners and many involved in wonderful projects themselves. When they left, I felt they got something out of the tour and they seemed very happy with the visit.

Here is a photo of one my favorite things we grow at the Free Farm, pepino dulce (Solanum muricatum). We harvested a bunch on Saturday and brought them to the Free Farm Stand on Sunday:
The pepino are the small fruit with purple stripes and tastes like a cross between melon and cucumber.

The Free Farm Plants Inspiration at Outside Lands

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival took place in Golden Gate Park August 10-12 to a sold-out crowd of 195,000 people.

With a line-up including bands like the Foo Fighters, Neil Young, and Metallica, there was something for every musical taste. And for the times in-between sets, there were many attractions scattered throughout the park. 

One attraction, Eco Lands, invited The Free Farm to participate in their Urban Gardening section and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to get people excited about urban farming.

Little Pots with Big Impact

Our project was showing people how to make origami pots out of newspaper and plant vegetable seeds in them. They could either take the pots home or leave them with us to plant at The Free Farm. 

Erk (one of our fantastic volunteers) waiting to show people how to fold. He practiced at home until he could fold like nobody's business.
Here are the instructions on how to fold the pots. They are very easy to make and are a great way to use up all those old Examiners.
People really seemed to enjoy getting their hands dirty.
We had several different seeds to choose from so folks could plant what they liked best. These girls are planting kale.
K (another amazing volunteer) showing someone how to fold a pot.
The beer in his hand may have made the folding challenging but he was determined to make a pot. As K said: "I think it changed his life." 
Our involved, interactive project gave people a chance to take a pause from all the  high energy in the crowds and really, isn't farming all about the slow process anyway?  These two are interested in volunteering at The Free Farm.  We hope to see them soon.
It was great to exchange stories about urban farming. The woman on the right was visiting from Alaska and wants to pursue urban gardening there. Maybe she'll use newspaper origami pots for her seedlings.
It was fun to see the surprise on people's faces when they'd open up the newspaper  and it was transformed into a pot.

Zero Waste, Maximum Magic

In the true spirit of Eco Lands, not only did we not create any waste with our project but we also managed to up-cycle materials that were otherwise headed for the waste stream. Old t-shirts and coffee sacks were used to make the paper we hand printed with the history and contact info for The Free Farm.

Thank you to our many volunteers who committed their energy to create a magical Free Farm experience at Outside Lands – the photos here give just a glimpse of the fun and community building that happened over the weekend. 

And of course, anyone can get the full Free Farm experience by joining us on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and the first Sunday of the month from 10:00 AM to noon at Eddy and Gough! Click "Get Involved" in the main menu above to learn more.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Land and Liberty

Last Saturday we had planned a special event and the idea was to work with some employees from Kaiser Permanente who is giving us a small grant to buy seeds and supplies for the farm. Just before 9am Supervisor Christina Olague walked in our gate as we arranged she came to speak at our event. She seemed to be a nice person and we spoke looking out over the hillside planted with pollinators and habitat plants. I explained that we saw ourselves as a resurrection of the church that burnt down years ago. That we felt that the farm was a sacred space and that feeding our spiritual selves was as important as growing food and giving it to people in need. I saw that she really perked up when I mentioned that and that she could relate to what I was saying. I also mentioned that bees and the birds were part of our congregation as well as the many people that come by and that when we have to move they will too.

 I was the first person to speak and I just welcomed our small gathering to the Free Farm (there were mostly free farm volunteers, I didn't see any Kaiser employees, and Pam from St. Paulus Church was there). I mainly told a little about our history and mentioned the fact that we have grown over 7,000 pounds of produce since we began. Then I introduced Supervisor Olague and I pointed out that she was a supporter of urban agriculture and was one of the first members of the Board of Supervisors to support the recently passed new urban agriculture legislation to create a sort of Department of Urban Agriculture in San Francisco. The supervisor mainly spoke of her support for projects like ours, Hayes Valley Farm, Alemany Farm, and the Kezar Gardens at the HANC Recycling Center. She said that she wanted to see if there could be a way to have more permanent spaces available for agriculture projects in the city. Later in the day she tweeted " Urban Ag is an exciting movement in SF - visited Free Farm at Eddy and Gough today-committed to finding permanent spaces" The last person to speak was Steve from Kaiser Permanente, who shared with us that he used to be a Forrest Ranger and is a gardener. He explained that what Kaiser wants to do is make it easy for people to have good health, So they see having gardens as making it easy, having open space as making it easy, having access to fresh vegetables and fruits makes it easy. That is why they are supporting projects like ours. He gave us a framed certificate that I spaced out on reading, but I guess it officially states that they like us and support our work. Hooray!

The ominous black cloud of doubt did hang over us though, doubt that we can stay on the land for more than two or three years. Personally I am always just trying to go with the flow and believe that the divine powers that be will take care of us. We just need to keep serving and spread the love.

Now I want to talk about urban land and the need to have what Supervisor Olague said as more permanent places available for urban agriculture. First of all, I think what is needed is both more permanent open space and urban farmland. I think there should be a halt in development in the city and that we try to reuse any buildings first, especially unused buildings, before we tear down or build more new buildings.

 I got this inspiring email below the other day: Hi Free Farm,

Thank you for all the hard work that goes into creating and maintaining one of San Francisco's brightest spaces. We in the Space TranSFormers are very disturbed by the possibility of your eviction and are starting to take some action to inspire all of San Francisco to stand up for keeping your educational, food-bearing, green space just where it is. We understand the temporary use agreement of your space. We also think it is therefore up to the people of San Francisco to stand up and say: "We want to keep our green spaces. We want more permaculture in the city. We want the Free Farm to stay right where it is." Anyway, we love you all.

To start building some momentum to retain the Free Farm, along with Haye's Valley Farm and the HANC community garden and native plant nursery, we are inviting people to a gathering in Golden Gate Park September 14th through 16th: the Human Be In (g) 2012 ! We invite people to come together, teach a workshop, share a skill, play music, make art, cook a meal, and simply be. Through this, we hope to lay the groundwork for an edible forest garden in the city, similar to Seattle's Beacon Hill Forest Garden, the first public food forest in the nation.