Seeds of Urban Agriculture Taking Root

Fava beans flourish in terraces on former Central Freeway onramp slope.

“Circle the Food Wagons!” I gave that title to a Shaping San Francisco Talk we had last night at Counterpulse, featuring folks from local small farm/gardening projects and also John Garrone, who is the “mushroom guy” at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market. It was one of those evenings that makes me happy and proud to be hosting this ongoing series of Talks. Smart, engaging speakers presented their histories, politics, and passions, followed by equally compelling questions and comments from the audience that extended and deepened the reach of the discussion. Much to my chagrin, we had a technical failure with our usual digital recording, so while we had a great evening, no one will be able to hear it via our online archive.

Instead, I’m going to try to summarize some of the highlights here. Leading the presentation were Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway who are co-owners of Little City Gardens, a market-garden business in San Francisco. They described their year-long process of deciding that the gap they wanted to fill in the local food ecology was that of the small, self-sufficient producer, a small business that could survive on its own sweat and effort by selling the food it grows. They started on a 16th of an acre plot in a Mission district backyard growing artisanal salad greens, and with success in their first year, decided to seek a larger piece of land on which to expand their efforts. They used the Kickstarter website to launch a fundraising campaign that netted them $20K in small donation startup capital, found a landowner with a ¾ acre plot under the I-280 freeway in the southern part of the City, signed a one-year lease, and began clearing land. Before long they learned that the vague assurances they had gotten at the Dept. of Planning about their compliance with zoning regulations were unfounded. Now they’re trying to gain an exemption from the arduous process of getting a conditional use permit (which could take over a year and cost up to $8,000). They are also planning to seek permission to drill a well directly into the very high water table beneath the land, which is probably either fill or original riparian corridor along Islais Creek, still burbling along beneath the neighborhood on its way to the Bay. Little City Gardens is still taking donations and offers a quarterly magazine, hand-screen prints, and other goodies to their supporters, in addition to abundant fresh produce that they sell to local restaurants.
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Butterflies and Utopia (again)

May 7, 2010, easterly view across southern slopes of Twin Peaks.

I rode my bike up to Twin Peaks on Friday, May 7, a common ride for me. But this time I went with some real anticipation and hope that I’d see a Mission Blue butterfly on the slopes. I spent an hour walking around the southeasterly slopes (on the trails mostly), occasionally sitting in a less windy spot to see if a Mission Blue would come by. I didn’t see one. But I did have a visitor who kept me company for a while:

Kept me company while I waited for a Mission Blue!

The cacophony of song birds amidst the rushing wind and swaying wildflowers was great! But no Mission Blue for me… I was inspired to see if I could find one by an email last week from my pals at Nature in the City. It trumpeted the successful effort to restore the diminutive blue butterfly to the top of San Francisco’s iconic hills. Amber Hasselbring got a great photo of one on Twin Peaks:

Mission Blue on Twin Peaks in May 2010. Photo by Amber Hasselbring.

An article on yesterday’s SF Gate told the story well:

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May Day, Red and Green and Immigrant Rights!

Saturday, May 1, 2010, marching on Mission Street.

May Day brought another march for Immigrant Rights, starting at 24th and Mission and going all the way down Mission to 9th before turning towards the Civic Center. I took a bunch of photos which say more than I can say about it. After that I have an excerpt from Peter Linebaugh’s “The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day,” which I performed with LisaRuth both at CounterPULSE on Friday night, and at the Dolores Park anarchist picnic on May Day.

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