Tuesday, March 30, 2010

West Oakland Mural Completed

Tamara Loewenstein (pictured above on the right), Urban Share's Art's Coordinator, commissioned a mural featuring agricultural heroes at the Bethlehem Lutheran garden. Designed and completed by Bianca Muller (pictured above on the left), and sponsored by Kultklecks, the mural only took one week to complete.

Here are some photos that show you how we completed the mural. Click on any of the photos to see a larger version.

Here's the final project. Below you will see Caesar Chavez, George Washington Carver and Michelle Obama.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Living Generously.

I believe that everyone has a meaningful contribution to make. This has become abundantly clear in the gardens where all kinds of people help in purposeful ways. Right now, our projects are seeking donations. Can you donate one of these items or pick an item to pledge money towards?

Right now we have need for

  • 100 foot lengths of garden hose
  • Lumber for an outhouse, raised beds, a green house, a tool shed, potting tables, and more!
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Volunteer to make lunch one Wednesday or Saturday at the Free Farm.
  • Time to work in the garden
  • Access to a truck or hauling vehicle
  • Leading a group in a wellness activity
  • Digging forks, pitchforks, and hand trowels

Upcoming Urban Share Workdays

Mark your calendars! There's gardening to be done.

This Wednesday, the 31st, on Cesar Chavez's birthday, the Free Farm is happy to welcome 3rd grade students from Children's Day School! This space continues to attract volunteers of all kinds. We mean it when we say, "All are welcome!" Come out Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am - 2pm for a day of work in the garden and lunch.

On the 18th of April we'll be building raised beds at St. Mark's Lutheran Church from 1-4 pm. We expect to have seedlings ready to plant in the beds that same day.

We continue to have workdays in West Oakland at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Check back to see when the next day you can get your hands dirty there will be.

We hope to see you out soon!

Free Farm Continues Growing!

This week at the workday our vegetables got some protection from the elements with Reemay row covers. Check out the photos to see the work done on the row covers and how spectacularly the food is shaping up.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Free Farm Work Day - 3/24/2010

At today's work day we were able to get a lot of great work done, because we had so many wonderful volunteers. You can see most of them here in this photo.
We planted lots of different types of plants and spaces today.
We planted tomatoes in hot frames (water cooler bottles with the bottoms cut off).
We planted several types of mint in our labyrinth.
We planted beans along our stairs. As they grow taller, they will climb the stings attached to the poles we set up.We did our second planting of our lettuce lawn. This is planted by spreading lettuce seeds closely together covering it with a thin layer of dirt and watering. When it grows we will trim the lawn and it will continue to grow (like grass). We planted squash in our raised beds.
Check out our how our hillside garden is growing:
We still have more plants to plant, and we hope you'll help plant them on our next garden work day Saturday from 10am-2pm (with a vegan lunch served at noon). A neighbor came with a truckload of plants for our garden. A retired gardener, this neighbor liberated these plants from a building he was managing that was about to be destroyed. He's been taking care of them for the last 10 years.

Griff talks about today's work day at the Free Farm

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In the News

Free Farm San Francisco - Tonic

Volunteers turn an overgrown lot in San Francisco into a farm that will provide free food.

garden_produce.jpgSan Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the country, which makes the idea for the Free Farm all the more remarkable. The 1/3-acre lot located at the corner of Gough and Eddy streets is planning to provide free food to whomever wants it, with much thanks to a man who goes by the name Tree.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Tree, a resident of the city's Mission District, opened what he called the Free Farm Stand in his neighborhood back in 2008, thanks to donations for the supplies he needed and a lot of hard work from various volunteers. Even though Tree said, "I've always got more people in line than food," he's managed to grow and give away more than 6,000 pounds of food.

Tree oversees the volunteers at the plot of land located at Gough and Eddy, land that used to be "an overgrown space for the homeless, junkies and partying gang members." The Rev. Megan Rohrer, executive director of The Welcome Ministry, a San Francisco nonprofit aiming to end poverty, asked the land's owner, the Lutheran Church, if Welcome could grown food on the lot, and the church agreed, unofficially giving them three to five years. Following a three-month cleanup, seedlings are now being planted and while it could be months until workers start to give out food, it's going to happen.

Not only will it help those in need, but as Tree explained in the article, it also helps the community at large. "Doing things for free encourages people to share. It encourages people to be community, to be family. It provides people the chance to be generous with each other." Let's hope the generosity continues to spread.

See the original: Free Farm San Francisco

Monday, March 22, 2010

Join Us for Upcoming Workdays!

Every Wednesday and Saturday from 10am - 2pm come volunteer at the Free Farm.  This Wednesday help us welcome visiting Alternative Spring Breakers from Dartmouth College!  Come be a part of the excitement of food growing in San Francisco reported on recently by the Chronicle!  You bring the elbow grease, we'll bring the vegan lunch!  Hope to see you soon.

Here's a group of Alternative Spring Break students that came to help out at the farm.  You and/or your organization are certainly welcome, too!

Current Needs

Welcome has a hand in lots of gardens in different stages.  At the Free Farm we need bike rims to cover our crop beds.  We can also really use folks coming by to take pictures of the great work being done and volunteers to bring in vegan lunches for around 20 people.  Tree has also listed some needs for the Free Farm at the end of his new blog post.  Check it out!

At St. Mark's we have a need for 8 foot lengths of 1x6 or 2x6 redwood lumber.  We also need 8 foot 2x4's for a potting table, benches for garden lounging, and raised beds!

As always you can check out our in-kind donation section of the Urban Share blog and the What We Need section of the Free Farm Stand blog.

Don't forget you can always donate your time, too!

Alternative Spring Breakers from Dartmouth at Bethlehem Lutheran

On Saturday, March 23, a group of 12 students from Dartmouth College volunteered their time to the inaugural workday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in West Oakland as part of their Faith in Action Alternative Spring Break program. 

Above, students clear the way for the new soil in which seedlings will be planted during the next workday.

Urban Farming brought in two big truckloads of soil.  President of the church Jennifer Teer oversees the unloading.

The Dartmouth volunteers worked tirelessly shoveling and raking out over 30 cubic yards of soil and helped to finish the new mural.

By the end of the day the space was ready for planting food!

In the News - SF Chronicle

From: Free Farm Plants Seeds of Community, Generosity, San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 2010

Free Farm plants seeds of community, generosity

March 22, 2010|By Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer

The folks planting a farm on the corner of Gough and Eddy streets in San Francisco hold no illusion that they'll cure urban blight with a head of lettuce.

They make no claim that a fava bean sown today will reduce the prison population tomorrow.

"I'm a simple person," said a man who goes by the name Tree, a Mission District resident who oversees volunteers as they plunge seedlings into mulch. "We're going to grow food here, and then we're going to give it away to people who need it."

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The 1/3-acre lot, known unofficially as the Free Farm at the Corner of Gough and Eddy Streets, will soon provide free food to anyone who wants it. It's being built and cultivated by a group of people who decided the unused parcel, on a particularly busy Western Addition intersection, was a great place for a peach tree to grow.

And a mulberry tree. And potatoes.

"Doing things for free encourages people to share," Tree said. "It encourages people to be community, to be family. It provides people the chance to be generous with each other."

Tree first put his proverbial money where his mouth is in 2008, when he opened the original Free Farm Stand in his Mission neighborhood at 23rd and Treat streets. Relying on donations for supplies and elbow-grease from volunteers, by his count, he's since grown and given away more than 6,000 pounds of food on Sunday mornings.

"I've always got more people in line than food," he said.

Going home with a plant

Tree also sends visitors away with potted plants and small fruit trees. "I don't know if they go home and plant them, take care of them, or throw them away," Tree said. "I just know that I gave them a plant."

Tree has a salt-and-pepper beard (mostly salt), a diminutive frame, but the thick and soiled hands of a lifetime gardener. He declined to share his birth name because "this story is not about me."

The Rev. Megan Rohrer, executive director of Welcome, a San Francisco nonprofit that works to end poverty, helped start the Gough and Eddy project after she asked the landowner, the Lutheran Church, if the organization could grow food on the church's unused lot. Through Welcome, Rohrer has persuaded about six Bay Area churches to convert vacant land into urban gardens and farms in the past couple years.

The Western Addition lot was once the home of St. Paulus, an ornately designed church with Gothic arches and a towering spier that was destroyed by fire in 1995.

For more than a decade, it was an overgrown space for the homeless, junkies and partying gang members. When Rohrer lead the three-month cleanup effort, it took weeks before she could walk across the soil without hearing the sound of crunching glass.

Value of free food

Rohrer said the church has agreed to let the food farmers use the plot for three to five years, but nothing is in writing.

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"We're secretly hoping the farm will be so exciting they'll let us keep it," Rohrer said. "But I know the realities of the economy, and how much the land must be worth."

The concept of worth, and market value, is something the workers at the Free Farm like to challenge.

To Pancho Ramos-Stierle, a volunteer working the land last week, the worth of a farm that generates free food for a community can exceed the worth of a high-rise condo. Ramos-Stierle met Tree at the Mission Free Farm a few years ago and was so inspired by his generosity he began working at the Karma Kitchen, a cafe in Berkeley that opened in 2007 and operates on a "give what you can" billing system.

Trying to feed everyone

"If the community appreciates it," Ramos-Stierle said of the farm, "it will support our work. No strings attached. ... Why can't there be a re-emergence of a culture of generosity?"

It will be weeks, maybe months, before workers begin handing out roughage and beans, Tree said. It will be at least a year before the fruit arrives.

Yet each passing day another volunteer arrives at the gates and asks to help, and each week seems to lure another interested neighbor.

"We're trying to live with a certain intention," Tree said. "Our intention is to feed everyone. In terms of whether we can accomplish this in this city, I don't know."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Second mural to go up at our West Oakland garden site

This Saturday marks a special day for our West Oakland site at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Not only is it the gardens kick off work day, in which the wonderful folks from Urban Farming are coming out to help us get the garden going, but we will be starting a mural lead by visiting German artist and muralist Bianca Müller.

The space at Bethlehem is as inviting as can be, with a congregation of
wonderful and welcoming members, and a sweet little plot of land
waiting to grow nourishing food and beautiful flowers for all the
communityto enjoy. On Saturday, we will gather with the members
of the congregations and community and friends and volunteers of
Urban Share to work on the mural that Bianca has been hard at work
creating sketches for. The mural depicts images of key influential civil rights rights
leaders in the agricultural movement: Cesar Chavez, George Washington Carver and
current First Lady Michelle Obama. Stay tuned for photos of the mural to come - we hope
to see you at one of our gardens soon!

Alia talks about their spring break work day

University of Wyoming Students Work at the Free Farm

Making the best use of their Spring Break, these University of Wyoming students, joined us for a special work day at the Free Farm

The students helped us finish up several of the tasks on our "to do" list, including:

Adding another layer of multch to the spaces where the pigeons and crows pulled up the cardboard looking for bugs and other critters.

Creating more walkways between our raised beds, by covering them with wet cardboard with mulch.

Double digging one of our last raised beds.

Cleaning up the rubble (from bricks that were found in the beds that we dug)

Watering the plants throughout the day, because it has been so warm outside lately and our plants have been getting burned.

They also helped organized the shed,
and completed our vertical garden frame box.
Lauren and Heidi came by the site and finished this water station that we be used for our drip tape and irrigation system. Special thanks to those who donated supplies and to the herchurch (Ebenezer Lutheran) for providing the funds we needed to purchase the additional pieces that make the water station fully functioning.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Extra Work Days this Week

In addition to our regular work days at the Free Farm (Eddy and Gough in San Francisco):
each Wednesday and Saturday from 10am-2pm (vegan lunch served - canceled in heavy rain)

We will also have an additional work day on Friday March 19th at the Free Farm from 10am-2pm. Joining us will be spring break students from the University of Wyoming, but you are welcome to join us too.

Saturday March 20th, at Bethlehem Lutheran in Oakland (950 12th St - a few blocks from the 12th street BART station), we will be having our first work day. The kind folk from Urban Farming will be joining us for the work day. As a result of corporate sponsorship, which provides tools, soil and seedlings for our project, we will be able to get more done in one day then at our typical garden work days. We will be putting down soil, planting and starting to paint a mural! This is a particularly kid friendly work day, so bring some garden gloves, closed toed shoes. You can work, keep us company or even just bring us something for us to share at lunch. We hope to see you there!

West Oakland Garden Workday

(see what the site looked like before our work day)

Today in Oakland, at 950 12th St., we made our final preparations before our big work day on Saturday March 20th (10-2pm - lunch served). This community garden is located at Bethlehem Lutheran. We are partnering with the good folk at Urban Farming for the event, which be sponsored by Kraft.

We started gathering our tools and made friends with the many neighbors who stopped by to ask questions about the new garden space. One young friend (a third grader) has helped us at the garden two Mondays in a row. Since our garden space is sandwiched between two schools, we expect our garden to be a great resource for local kids. In addition to the schools, Girls from the local Girls Inc will be utilizing the space to learn more about farming and the environment.

Today in pictures-
We liberated a gate that was buried in ivy and nailed shut, replaced rusty hinges and added a lock;
(this is what the gate looked like after three hours of pruning)prepped the walls for the murals that we will begin painting on Saturday;
painted the shed;
removed some old beds who wood was rotting;