Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Learning to Do

Here is an excerpt from the first paragraph I wrote for the October 22nd blog at http://freefarmstand.org/ (View From the Free Farm):

"There is planing going on to combine the Free Farm web site with the Free Farm Stand. Right now I am trying to keep both sites up-to-date and sometimes I am more inspired to write about what is going on at the Farm than at the Farm Stand and vice versa. So having just one place where people can go to find out about either of our projects I hope will be better.
Today, for example,  I am thinking about our last workday at the Free Farm where we had a number of guests and Urban Ag celebrities visit us...."

One of the fabulous things about our Free Farm are the new people who always show up either to lend a hand or who just come to see what's up.  These guests are like our pollinators and they bring stories to share from their travels elsewhere. Vipul came by who is a friend of Kachan who is part of the network of friends of Pancho and Casa de Paz. Kachan helped out at the farm a number of times before she moved to Portland. So Vipul stayed in Portland with Kachan before he came here.  Among the things I learned from Vipul about his visit to Tryon Life Community Farm  (http://tryonfarm-org.cftvgy.org/share/), a group I had heard of and got a some good ideas from in terms of organizing our farm. The story on their website on how they managed to save their farm from being bought by developers (they had to come up with 1.4 million dollars in a short amount of time) is pretty interesting.

We have been having warm weather and have been hustling to get our winter crops in. One row of peas that we put in as established seedlings got their leaves eaten and we had to replace them (fortunately we have a lot of them...see below). David who is one of our best gardeners thought it was birds that did the damage so we covered the plants with row cover cloth.

I am reading an inspiring book that was given to me as gift from the Leader's Quest group that I wrote about in our previous blog. The book is called "What Out Walk On". In the sixties it was sort of a similar idea "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out"  These are stories of people who have "walked out of limiting beliefs and assumtpions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities". I am reading about the Zapatistas in Mexico and Unitierras, alternative schools  that the communities are creating for themselves. "The pedagogy...is learn to do, then learn to learn, then consider the other in his or her entirety." I love this approach to learning! There is a great article online here from Yes! magazine that tells same story well about this radical approach to education. "We have learned, with the Zapatistas, that while changing the world is very difficult, perhaps impossible, it is possible to create a whole new world....The most dramatic lesson we derived from the exercise was to discover what we were really missing in the urban setting: conditions for apprenticeship...Our challenge thus became to find ways to regenerate community in the city, to create a social fabric in which we all, at any age, would be able to learn and in which every kind of apprenticeship might flourish."

These ideas are making me think how this applies to the Free Farm. I have been thinking of how we can get more trained people to help run the farm because we are short of "team leaders". I was thinking of doing something like Alemany Farm does is to have a course on urban farming  next year with the idea that the course would be free, but that after graduating there would be a requirement to give back to the community the skills one learns. The Unitierra approach makes me think we should offer apprenticeships where people come to learn something they want to learn and figure out what skills they need to learn to do it.

Here are some recent wonderful photos from the farm taken by our volunteer Liz:

 our friend the hawk is back
 lettuce seedlings
 snap pea seedlings
 ground cherry
also know as Cape Gooseberry

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Free Food Forest

Last week I attended the monthly Permaculture meeting where the guest speaker Toby Hemenway author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture spoke. Most of what he talked about is here on his website: http://www.patternliteracy.com/203-is-sustainable-agriculture-an-oxymoron. He also quotes Jared Diamond who wrote the article "The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race" referring to the "adoption of agriculture" by humans (http://anthropology.lbcc.edu/handoutsdocs/mistake.pdf).

Toby Hemenway was making the argument that the development of agriculture was a big mistake. "Agriculture in any form is inherently unsustainable. At its doorstep can also be laid the basis of our culture’s split between humans and nature, much disease and poor health, and the origins of dominator hierarchies and the police state. He was proposing something in-between hunting and gathering or foraging and agriculture. He calls this horticulture or gardening, "using simple methods to raise useful plants and animals." Horticulturists use polycultures, tree crops, perennials, and limited tillage, and have an intimate relationship with diverse species of plants and animals." In other words, permaculture is the way to be growing food according to Toby.

His talk resonated with my own feelings, though I have never thought of myself as a permaculturist, I have always liked the idea of planting trees and more perennials. I started thinking that we should go further in that direction at the Free Farm. Even though we don't know how long we will be on the land at Eddy and Gough, we should plant more trees anyway and perennials, and make our Free Farm more of a Free Food Forest. We have already started already moving in that direction as Ross went to the Merritt College plant sale on Saturday and brought some perennial plants to the farm that we will be planting after they grow a bit more.

We have had some wonderful visitors to the Free Farm in the last few weeks. One day we had about 14 people visiting from a company called UBM (United Business Media) who were on a "quest" with a group called Leaders' Quest. They got their hands dirty as well as learned about the Free Farm. The purpose of their quest was ".... when we expose people (especially younger managers) to inspiring leaders working in different sectors from them, we can have an impact by causing them to think differently about the impact of their work, how they do more good and less harm, how they affect communities, and so forth." Last Saturday we had two women visiting from San Palo Brazil who are working on a project called Cidades para Pessoas (Cities for People). "we travel around the world with our folding bikes looking for good ideas that improved the cities for its inhabitants." They were a lot of fun to meet and work with and some of us will be in a short movie posted on their website (in Portuguese). Here are some nice photos from Julie who is one of our really helpful and always cheerful volunteers who is a great artist and vegan to boot. You can see all her photos from last Saturday here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/funcrunch/sets/72157631718215069/. Her blog that she writes is here has a lot of good information about vegan cooking and next week she is going to write about the Free Farm: http://funcrunch.livejournal.com/tag/veganmofo2012.

Juliana and Joyce who retured after a few weeks of illness
 still getting strawberries

 Natália and Juliana from Brazil harvesting
Yacón root

our seed collection