FAREWELL FARM PARTY – Saturday 11/5

October 30th, 2016 by caitlyn

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Please join us for a FAREWELL FARM PARTY:

Saturday November 5th
1-5pm*
203 Cotter St, in the Outer Mission**

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Before we begin our moving out process (please also see our latest post here), we’d like to enjoy this beautiful space one last time with all of you. We’ll tell stories about the farm’s beginnings, and celebrate these past 7 years of vision & work. We’ll light the fireplace and mow all the paths so you can feel cozy and stay awhile. Come one come all — regulars and newcomers alike.

Music by Big Kitty & some other special guests, food by Leif Hedendal, and a free make-your-own flower bouquet station. A giveaway table with tools, equipment and plants (help us clear some of this stuff out)!

*Prompt arrival suggested, some speaking to start around 2pm. There will be chairs, but likely not enough for everyone. Please feel free to bring your own blanket to sit on.

SEE YOU THERE!

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**Parking: please note parking is limited in this residential area, so arrival by bicycle, MUNI (J-train to Santa Rosa Ave) or BART (Glen Park) is strongly encouraged when possible. Please respect our neighbors by not blocking driveways.

**Accessibility: the farm path from the front gate to the main faire area is unpaved, with patchy grass and dirt. If you need wheelchair assistance, or have any questions about accessibility, please email littlecitygardens@gmail.com.

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the development of 203 Cotter

October 29th, 2016 by caitlyn

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First, THANK YOU to all who wrote letters, sent words of encouragement, and came to the Planning Commission hearing on September 29th to speak about the future of the land we farm. Your comments were incredibly moving and important. While the outcome is discouraging on many levels, the outpouring of support and engagement in this complicated issue was a testament to the need for farm space in San Francisco, and a celebration of all we’ve collectively created and advocated for in the past 6.5 years. The hearing room was filled with a sea of yellow shirts, and there were so many attendees that there was an overflow room opened downstairs where people watched remotely from a television, waiting to be called upstairs to speak.

Sadly, after 3+ hours of public comment, with close to a hundred comments from neighbors, fellow farmers, and urban agriculture advocates in opposition to the development of this land, the commissioners voted 7-0 to approve (with conditions) a Conditional Use permit that allows for a deviation from zoning and the development of a 200 student school at 203 Cotter Street, one of our city’s last remaining farmable parcels.

The arguments:

The hearing was long and difficult. Parents and teachers from the school, guided by lawyers and consultants, delivered emotional arguments about the need in San Francisco for alternative models of education. There were descriptions of the warmth and love the Golden Bridges School community provides many families, coupled with amplified fears about our public school system. Parents spoke to the benefits of city children having access to the outdoors, and many parents threatened to leave the city if this development were not permitted.

Neighbors argued passionately that this site is simply inappropriate for the school’s size. Several showed photos of their flooded homes due to the inadequate sewer system in the neighborhood (see here), and argued that the scope of the school on this former creek bed would exacerbate these issues, being too densely populated for what the neighborhood’s infrastructure can handle. Traffic and safety were also repeatedly raised as major concerns for the narrow, one way street. Neighbors described the positive, low impact benefits our farm has had on the neighborhood.

Farm advocates, including Little City Gardens interns and volunteers past and present, the SF Urban Agriculture Alliance, The Garden for the Environment, community gardens and local businesses, supported neighbor concerns and urged commissioners to consider a working farm as the most appropriate and publicly beneficial use of this unique space. We spoke to the powerful experiences and educational opportunities available through a working urban farm, pointed to the ways the City has recently made commitments to urban agriculture, and reiterated the scarcity of suitable farm space in San Francisco. We argued that this property, and its current farm use, is representative of incredible momentum in the urban agriculture movement in recent years, and to change its use, build atop the soil, and close the gates to the public will be a significant loss to San Francisco. We described our past work with land trusts and public agencies around possible purchase, and we expressed confidence in our ability to resume this pursuit if given the opportunity. We also noted that the school’s values are admirable and deserve support, but reminded that while a school can find a home elsewhere in the city, a farm largely cannot.

The decision:

Many commissioners spoke of the difficulty of the decision, recognizing the situation as the complicated weighing of two policy priorities for San Francisco. Commissioners acknowledged the proven benefits of a farm, and several made clear that the scope of the proposed school campus indeed felt intense for the space and the neighborhood. Tasked with determining the necessity, desirability, and safety of the proposed use of the site, they felt mostly satisfied with the environmental impact studies included in the proposal, save a few conditions the school must adhere to moving forward. In the end, they expressed a lack of evidence for a viable alternative use, and voted to approve the proposal for fear that disapproval would pave the way for an eventual condo proposal, which they argued would be an even bigger departure from the property’s current, widely supported farm use.

Bigger picture:

To me, the outcome of the hearing, as disheartening as it is personally, indicates the sorely imperfect nature of our city’s decision making capacities, and the ways in which this particular process, like so many others, is centered around those with capital. The Planning Commission, a reactive body with limited discretionary power, responds only to proposals placed in front of them — in many cases, including this one, a proposal refined and packaged by a property owner’s professional team who are in the business of knowing what will be most palatable to commissioners. The buying power to purchase property, plus the additional resources to hire planning and public relations consultants, gives an undeniable upper hand. Capital begets momentum from the beginning to the end of this process, and the rest of the story is shaped from there.

I’m grateful that our community of neighbors and urban farming advocates were able to participate in this conversation over this piece of land that we are so invested in, but it was frustratingly clear during the hearing how squeezed our voices would be, and how much this process is swayed by the careful crafting of narrative. In this format, each commenter was free to tell their own two-minute story, which often meant the proliferation of myths that would never be fact checked. For example, several school parents dismissed neighbor concerns by saying that these same neighbors were also originally opposed to Little City Gardens, which is flatly untrue, and several told the story that Little City Gardens has been subsidized by Golden Bridges to the tune of close to $198,000 over the past two years. This is an offensively distorted and unexplained number based on, from what I gather, hypothetical rental income from a non-existent alternative $5000/month renter. (Perhaps we should have assigned a similar number to the ways Golden Bridges has directly benefited, in their formative years as an emerging urban farm school, from our active labor, and our original and continued maintenance and beautification of the land. There is a cost to maintaining a 3/4 acre parcel of land, as evidenced by the state of the site prior to our arrival, and since the time of their purchase, they have increasingly used the space and benefited from the environment we’ve maintained. What would have been the yearly salary of a school-employed farmer for the site?)

These stories were strategically included in the narrative, as was the assertion that Little City Gardens never had intentions of permanent long term use, and the reminder that we have never been the rightful owners of the property. Please let the record show that, prior to Golden Bridges’ speedy purchase:

we

had

been

trying.

Toward the end of the public comments, a school parent and prominent committee member offered some of the last words of the day. He implored the commissioners to disregard the opposition’s pleas for a continuance on this proposal (the postponement of a vote until further environmental review is conducted), stating, with a shrug, that these pleas were merely a “political tactic.” Yes, they absolutely were. Genuinely, and necessarily.

Golden Bridges leaders, I ask you to not ignore the political tactics steeped into your own narrative, to not downplay your collective position of privilege and power in this complex conversation about a rare, beloved and already activated piece of land, and to not diminish community members’ rights to oppose your plans for this property. Land use is rightfully regulated for appropriateness and public benefit. As I’ve said before, this conversation has never been an attack against Golden Bridges’ values, nor is it a personal opposition to any of the kind, well intended families or teachers within the school community. Simply put, the land that you want to build on is in a flood zone, oddly shaped, and surrounded closely by neighbors’ bedroom windows. And it is an incredibly well loved place.

What now:

The outcome of this hearing has been viewed by many as a profoundly missed opportunity by the City of San Francisco. Neighbors of 203 Cotter Street will be appealing the Conditional Use permit to the Board of Supervisors.

And for Little City Gardens, sadly, it’s time to wind down. This month, we will continue harvesting the last of our fall crops, and beginning next month we will start the heartbreaking task of packing up the farm and saying goodbye to this piece of land — home to 6.5 years of vision, experiment, dialogue and hard work. We’ve been asked to vacate 203 Cotter by December 15th.

I could never have imagined how hard it would be say goodbye to this place. Connection to land is a powerful thing, and the strong and intricate community that has formed over the years, evolving and growing with each person who passed through, has forever changed this place, I can feel it strongly. Many wonderful hands have touched this soil.

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“Over the years, with hard work, dedication, commitment, courage, a transformation happened. The land has become what it is now — a thriving farm space, where food is grown, where flowers bloom, and where a community is formed with neighbors, strangers, and people of disparate backgrounds. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Little City Gardens. I had no idea, five years ago, how it would affect my life, and the impact it would have on changing my views on plants, food, people, and friendship.”
Richard Cheung

“I fell in love with the space and people that occupied it and it truly became my home. I met a community of people that will be friends and collaborators my entire life through. Caitlyn and the land at 203 Cotter Street awakened a passion inside of me. I plan to start my own farm in the next 5 years and Little City Garden’s small-scale, intensive, organic model will always be a model I strive for. […] San Francisco is my favorite city in the world and I can say this mostly thanks to my time at Little City Gardens. Instead of feeling alone and alienated as a stranger in a big city, I felt so a part of a community right away. I grew to know the city in a way people might only dream of knowing a city. I got to know its people, its intricacies, its power and what is truly possible in an urban setting.”
Andi Emrich

“I’ve been volunteering at Little City Gardens for over 2 years. I am a San Francisco resident for 20 years. I am not an aspiring farmer, and I don’t have a lot of knowledge about urban agriculture. I work and live in the city, and I volunteer at the farm because it’s made me into a better person.”
Ben Grossman

“Little City Gardens has offered me the opportunity to learn and grow in the field of agriculture, while living and working in San Francisco. […] Little City Gardens has gained the neighborhood’s support and trust by example, building lasting relationships with neighbors and community.”
Peter Woods

“Hundreds of hands have worked this soil, sifting through beds to remove rocks, broken glass, rusted metal, and the occasional action figure, making the site more apt to grow collards, kale, and onions. Shoulder-high mounds of uprooted weeds and literal tons of horse manure from Pacifica have been composted and worked into the earth, increasing soil fertility and improving the entire plot’s ability to retain water. Seasons, droughts, and summer fog have been observed, recorded, and adjusted for. Countless neighbors and wanderers have stopped to say hello, let their kid pick a gooseberry, ask what we’re doing, and talk with a fellow city-dweller.”
Erin Klenow

“I am a farmer in Providence, RI who worked the land and learned at Little City Gardens for two years. I urge you to use this as an opportunity to declare your support for civic engagement and the empowerment of the neighbors to challenge zoning changes. I urge you to not consider green roofs a replacement for actual open space and preserve this well maintained and expertly stewarded open space. I urge you to embrace Little City Gardens as a jewel in your city and claim a mantle of leadership in protecting farmland. I urge you to be fair and engaged with all the stakeholders in this process and not just those who have the deepest pockets. Please don’t consider this farm a “vacant lot” but a neighborhood and city treasure.”
Than Wood

“To become a part of the Little City Gardens community there are no prerequisites, and so the community it draws is one of the most diverse I have ever been a part of. Age, race, gender, and income are non-contingent identifiers for engaging with the farm. It is people of all ages and all walks of life who come to the farm with this beautiful wonder.”
Bonnie Rose Weaver

“There is a significant lack of understanding in our society when it comes to farming and the true costs of raising our food and getting it to our table; any education that focuses only on how to grow vegetables is only a fraction of a ‘farm education’. School gardens are wonderful and valuable, but not so uncommon and difficult to build that it becomes prudent to destroy the only commercial farm in the city in order to build another one. […] Having now become one of the regular volunteers, I feel that working along side Farmer Caitlyn and crew has been a life changing experience for me, both as an aspiring farmer and as a human being. Instead of putting my farm education on hold while I worked in the city, I’ve been able to continue to gain experience and skills that build upon and surpass the other farm experiences that I’ve had. Beyond that, I’ve cultivated meaningful and valuable relationships with my beloved co-stewards, my community and with the land itself.”
Patrice Strahan

“I am among a dedicated group of people who have invested much time and energy into the Little City Gardens out of passion for their cause—to maintain this space as the city’s only working urban farm. It has become the heart of this area, offering a peaceful, beautiful, clean space in the community, benefiting both humans and the larger ecology of the area.”
Alice Cho

As an aspiring farmer/food provider, Caitlyn and all the other members and volunteers at Little City taught me about soil, farming techniques, and helped me develop my ice cream pop-up business, Churn Urban Creamery. It was the inspiration that I gathered from this space and these people that pushed me to start my farm-to-scoop ice cream business.
Rica Sunga-Kwan

The opportunity to make professional connections in my field of interest, learn a trade and take positive steps on my path to improve my own skill set might not have been possible without a publicly accessible garden space where I could meet fellow urban organic agriculture practitioners.”
Dartanian Kaufman

“As an instructor at UC Berkeley and Bard College, I value the importance and impact of schools. Yet there is already something incredibly precious that has been cultivated on this particular site, something more endangered and rarer in the city – a working farm that is interwoven into the neighborhood, into the entire city community, open to anyone who wants to stop in and take a walk or volunteer, and the proposed development would close off the space to everyone except a select private group. […] Once you pave over paradise, you can never get it back.”
Katrina Dodson

“I realized how a farm in the middle of a city can bring people alive, help people feel connected to others in times of struggle, help people feel empowered and learn new skills, and help people think creatively about solutions to a larger agricultural and ecological system that is out of balance.”
Brooke Budner, Little City Gardens co-founder

“Once this is built, even with the addition of grass and green roofs, there is not a farm present. I keep hearing ‘farm school’, but plant education and food preparation skills do not significantly differentiate this type of outdoor education with what is possible at many of the current models of schools with gardens throughout the city.”
Aaron Weis, volunteer, and SFUSD teacher

“In deep relationship to landscape and people, this project compels hearts and minds to reimagine both the city and agriculture in profound ways. Little City Gardens as a working farm is a deeply relevant, responsive, and dynamic inquiry around land use in San Francisco. It has become an integral part of a resilient neighborhood fabric and national social movement.”
Caroline Devany, former volunteer, and fellow urban farmer at Stone’s Throw Urban Farm, Minneapolis

“Urban Agriculture has a number of community benefits that go beyond just the food that is produced. These include ecosystem benefits (wildlife habitat, air quality, carbon sequestration, water management), improved quality of life (green space, community programming), social justice (access to healthy food and outdoor activity for underserved communities) and perhaps most prominently, educational opportunities.”
Jessie Raeder, SF Urban Agriculture Alliance

“We were so happy when Little City Gardens opened on Cotter Street. This long, vacant lot became a place of beauty, open space, serenity, and an inspiration for urban agriculture.”
Rita Gelini, neighbor

“Little City Gardens is an oasis of calm and vibrant beauty that we all need in our lives. It is a gloriously healthy heart, beating at the center of our little neighbourhood and it would be devastating to lose it entirely.”
Rachel Perrie, neighbor and CSA member

“Over the years I have drawn inspiration from Little City Gardens to pursue my own food growing efforts.”
Roberto Johansson, neighbor

“Little City Gardens is an active member of the San Francisco urban agriculture community, has passed groundbreaking laws, and is a support space for budding urban farmers. Little City Gardens is a national inspiration and is an asset to our City, which has always celebrated its role in the environmental movement.”
Maggie Guerra Marks, Garden for the Environment

“My communities and I have benefitted from and enjoyed Little City Gardens over the last six and a half years. I have participated in their CSA and also in art and educational events held at the farm. I’ve learned a huge amount about farming and what it takes to sustain and nourish an urban farm.”
Jocelyn Saidenberg, CSA member

“Little City Gardens has been a tremendous asset to our neighborhood — from sharing their bounty at a reasonable cost, to educating and providing opportunities for youth and others who might not have the means to be involved in a farm (and right in the heart of a big city!).”
Nina Thompson, neighbor

“Part of what really has made this neighborhood great has been 203 Cotter and the open space, and Little City Gardens. It’s really banded our neighborhood together. […] They really are the heart of the neighborhood.”
Kerry Evensong, neighbor, CSA member

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Above is a small selection of some of the powerful letters and public comments submitted for the hearing. A very sincere thank you to all who have contributed to these efforts, now and in the past 6.5 years. Your support, energy and passions are deeply appreciated.

PUBLIC HEARING – TODAY, Thursday 9/29

September 29th, 2016 by caitlyn

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TODAY! CITY HALL ROOM 400 at NOON! WEAR YELLOW!

Now is the time to come out and show your support for all that we’ve been building together for the past 6.5 years.

The development proposal for 203 Cotter is being reviewed by the SF Planning Commission, and we need your presence at this hearing to send a strong message to the commissioners that this land is one of San Francisco’s last remaining farmable parcels, and locking up the gate and developing it for private use will be a huge loss of momentum for SF’s urban agriculture movement.

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What: A defense of cultivatable soil. A pledge toward the absolute necessity of working urban farms.

When: TODAY, Thursday 9/29 at noon (this item is last on the meeting agenda, so the meeting could very well last into the afternoon. Please do come at noon if you can — a strong showing at the outset of the meeting is crucial — but feel free to drop in later in the afternoon if that’s what you can swing. We’ll need a large presence throughout the afternoon).

Where: City Hall – Room 400

WEAR YELLOW!

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Details:

The proposed private school will house 200 students, plus faculty, on this narrow property surrounded by bedroom windows. It will shift this site from a publicly accessible working farm, a valuable site of learning for city residents and a crucial incubator site for aspiring farmers, to a gated multi-building school campus with garden space.

The City of San Francisco has shown great strides in its support for urban agriculture (see some of the City’s legislative support here), and now we need the Planning Commission to continue this momentum. San Francisco wants farmable space; WE NEED FARMS.

See you at City Hall!

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“SAVE THE FARM – Mission Terrace Neighbors support Little City Gardens” — signs on houses throughout the Mission Terrace neighborhood since 2014.

the future of this land

September 11th, 2016 by caitlyn

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EDITED TO NOTE: We encourage you to send a letter to the Planning Commission voicing your concern over the potential loss of this farmable land! Letters can be sent to Nancy.H.Tran@sfgov.org (please reference case # 2015-003791CUA​) by September 19th.

On September 29th, the SF Planning Commission will review Golden Bridges School’s proposal to change the zoning and develop 203 Cotter, the land that Little City Gardens transformed and has farmed since 2010. In this proposal, the property’s use would be changed from its current RH-1 (single dwelling housing) or Neighborhood Agricultural (farm use) to a multiple-building school campus aiming to accommodate 200 students plus faculty for a K-8 school. After much careful, heartfelt consideration, and after two years of not being able to truthfully speak my feelings about this development, I’ve decided I can’t let this process move forward without publicly voicing my position.

As the steward of this land for the past 6.5 years, as a staunch advocate for the importance of farming in the city, and as an active, engaged SF resident, I cannot in good conscience support a project that builds on top of one of our city’s last remaining unbuilt parcels. My relationship with this soil is too profound, and my history of work around its activation and preservation is too significant to be silent about what I believe to be the best use of this land. I care deeply, and I feel very strongly that an open, productive, working farm, with its proven educational value and community benefit, is the best use of this unique space that is in many ways ill-suited for development. To change this parcel’s use, and to pave over any bit of this soil would be a huge loss of momentum for San Francisco and for the wider urban agriculture movement.

To be clear, Golden Bridges’ proposal does not come as a surprise to me, as I’ve been aware of their hopes to eventually develop the property into a private school campus since they announced their first designs in late 2014, and I’ve been witness to the evolution of their visions since then. I signed a Letter of Non-Opposition as a condition of our land use agreement last year, and I’ve not publicly voiced my opinion about their proposed plans (though I’ve made my thoughts clear to Golden Bridges founders since 2014), no matter how stifling this silence has felt given the importance of dialogue to this farm project. But it is out of a strong sense of responsibility to this soil, and to the incredible community who has tended it, that I must voice my opposition.

Ultimately, my need to speak is not about Golden Bridges as a group of people; there are lovely people in this community with well intended visions. This is about their proposed development and use — a 200+ person private school, with multi-story buildings — the inappropriateness of this plan on this particular piece of land, and the significance of the loss that San Francisco would suffer if this development happens.

I fully recognize Golden Bridges’ rights as property owners to pursue their visions and move through the appropriate public process required to change the zoning that they knew was in place when they purchased the land. After careful consideration I’ve determined that, as an invested community member, I can’t pass up my right to participate in this public process as well.

Some background:

Over the past year I’ve stayed silent as I’ve read mischaracterizations of Little City Gardens by the wider Golden Bridges community when defending their proposed displacement of the farm (that this was never a viable endeavor anyway, that we were always a temporary “pop-up” farm, that we’ve been merely riding the wave of generosity offered by previous property owners). These narratives, however, diminish our hard work over the past six years to identify and spotlight the barriers to an urban farm’s viability, and our extensive advocacy for policy that would eventually make this viability possible, for ourselves and for others.

In 2011, our farm was the City’s preeminent example that drove the passing of the Urban Agriculture Zoning Ordinance, updating SF’s zoning code to allow for more urban farming in the city. This legislation was directly instigated by our farm at this site, was supported widely by organizations, businesses and residents throughout the city (as evident by a packed hearing room that overflowed into the hallway of City Hall!) and it was signed into law by Mayor Lee at a historical and well attended ceremony on the farm.

In 2013, after identifying land tenure as a crucial component to the sustainability of urban agriculture, we catalyzed and helped to pass AB551, statewide legislation that incentivizes vacant property owners to enter into longer-term contracts with urban farmers. This law empowers farmers with the stability and security absolutely essential for viability, and its inception came directly out of conversations about the uniqueness of this very site and the momentum our farm had built.

When Golden Bridges purchased this property very quickly in 2014, I was actively pursuing acquisition scenarios that would support our need for land security. I was in conversation, with the support of an incredible team of advisors and advocates, with a land trust and with the PUC, and we were also brainstorming interim ownership opportunities should these relationship possibilities not come to fruition quickly enough. We articulated visions for public / private partnership, researched educational / commercial hybrid farm models, and utilized data and observations from our first three years of work onsite to establish sound financial projections and solicit support for the continuation of this work. Obviously we didn’t get far enough to pull together a buyer in time, as Golden Bridges found and closed on the property very quickly. There was talk of collaboration early on, or at least the carrying on of Little City Gardens’ visions of 203 Cotter remaining a farm in perpetuity, which had me feeling disappointed about having our acquisition work interrupted, but optimistic that our visions may be aligned. But the school’s designs evolved, and it become quickly evident that there was no place for Little City Gardens in these visions, and no farm at all for that matter.

After over a year of a vagueness, we negotiated a contract in June 2015, outlining a shared arrangement where Little City would continue its work onsite, maintaining the front part of the property as a farm while Golden Bridges pursued its permitting and used the back of the property as an outdoor classroom. Golden Bridges contributed a monthly stipend toward shared expenses (the water bill, for one), as they would be increasingly using the site. I’ve always maintained my desire to farm this land, and continue our work, for as long as possible.

My position:

I truly feel that the scope of Golden Bridges’ plans — a K-8 school — though rooted in value systems and philosophies I admire and can relate to, is inappropriate for this space. I also believe that the traffic flow, density, noise and sewer capacity concerns that the neighbors raise are real and valid (see SaveTheFarmSF.com — our neighbors’ passionate support of permanent farm use for this space). I acknowledge the school’s efforts over the past year to rework its plans and reshape its presentation in order to appease worries and garner support, but I can’t help seeing the proposed use for this particular site, no matter its packaging, as hammering a square peg into a round hole. It is heartbreaking, too big for this narrow lot surrounded on three sides by bedroom windows, and too negatively impactful for the neighborhood. It doesn’t make sense. Despite the carefully constructed description as “the nation’s first urban farm school” (a claim which inaccurately erases much of the farm & garden education work already happening in our public schools right here in SF, see here, here and here), the proposed project is an ambitiously dense private school campus with play area and gardening space. It is not a farm and it is not a preservation of this land.

And, a more personal note:

My relationship to this particular piece of land, after 6.5 years, is profound. When I walk the length of the farm, my feet know every subtle rise and dip of the path. I know which patches of earth are particularly sandy, and which are still heavy with clay. I know where the wild onions will come up the strongest after our first rain, and I know where the bluejays usually land in the mornings to survey the scene. I know the path that the red-tailed hawk flies when she’s in the neighborhood. I understand where the water flows and pools during the wet winter season, and exactly where the shadows fall as the sun gets higher in the summer and lower again in the winter. Cycles repeat year after year, and I know them like the back of my hand. I know this land like it’s a friend.

I know the stories of this property from our neighbors who grew up playing on it, and from neighbors who gardened small patches of it when it was a tangle of weeds. I’ve welcomed new neighbors with flower bouquets, and I said tearful goodbyes to a close neighbor and friend who passed away. I listen to George’s longwinded stories every time he stops in on his way to feed the ducks at McClaren Park, and I give garden scraps to Sabrina for her chickens while she tells us stories about growing up on a farm in Italy. I know our neighbor Mark doesn’t like cilantro, and Bob loves chard. I’ve formed relationships with my neighbors, and some are now my family.

I’ve also gotten to witness the relationships between this land and many of the others who have helped tend to it, volunteering their time and labor in exchange for food, flowers and hands on learning. I’ve watched close friendships form over bed turning, and I’ve heard heavy life stories be talked out over transplanting. I’ve seen identities solidify as people develop and sharpen their skills as farmers in the city.

In this time we here at Little City have personally grown as farmers. We are collecting valuable data around the production, sales, and labor required for an urban farm of this size. We continue to draw, and add to, answers to our original questions. Can a farm be commercially viable in San Francisco? Yes. If so, what supports or conditions are required? Long term tenure, and land dedicated permanently for farming. What are the benefits to having a working farm in the city? It teaches us all that the potential of our food system rests in our hands.

I’m incredibly grateful to be stewarding this land, and grateful to be able to voice my feelings about its future. I will continue to speak for it and take care of it, holding the gate open, for as long as I am able. My position ultimately is not about me, or Golden Bridges, but about a zoning change and process of development on this land that, once started, cannot be undone.

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If you would like to voice your concerns about this proposed development, please email Nancy.H.Tran@sfgov.org (referencing CASE #: 2015-003791CUA​) no later than September 19th.

More info and background about Little City Gardens’ visions and history can be found in our FAQ.

2016 flower apprenticeship

June 20th, 2016 by caitlyn

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Flower season is here again at Little City Gardens, and we’re looking for a 2016 flower apprentice!

After last year’s move toward more significant flower production, we’re continuing to hone our flower growing and bouquet making skills. We’ve expanded our dahlia patch and increased the amount of bed space devoted to other summer blooms. We’re growing some of our favorite flowers from the past couple of seasons, and we’re experimenting with a few new varieties and textures. We’re building on last year’s lessons and momentum, working with old customers and new, and we’re approaching this summer with efficiency and artistry in mind. We’d love some help working with these beauties, and we’d love to share with you some of what we’ve learned so far.

What we can offer:

  • In-depth explanation of our methods of flower production as we’ve developed them, from soil care, to plant spacing, to crop maintenance
  • Harvest practices and tips
  • Bouquet making basics
  • Continual conversation about the ins and outs of running a small urban farm business, observations about sales outlets, customer relationships and pricing
  • Weekly flowers & veggies to take home
  • Your weekly horoscope

Ideal interns will be:

  • Organized and thorough
  • Excited to learn about flower growing
  • Have a good eye for color and texture
  • Invigorated by ambitious, focused work and willing to get dirty
  • Able to get up early and spend mornings outside
  • Available Wednesday mornings 7am-noon, mid July – end of September

Internship tasks:

  • Harvest, trim and sort flowers
  • Help with bouquet making and wrapping
  • Help with cleanup (bucket washing, pruner care)
  • Occasional crop maintenance (weeding, deadheading, fertilizing, etc)

TO APPLY:

Please send an email to littlecitygardens@gmail.com (subject FLOWER APPRENTICESHIP) responding briefly to the following questions. Deadline for applications is Monday June 27th. Applicants will ideally be available for 2-3 hours on Weds July 6th or Thursday July 7th to join us for a working interview on the farm.

    • Describe your interest (and/or experience — though none is required) in farming or working with flowers.
    • What skills do you bring?
    • What’s most compelling to you about farming in the city? Why is it important?
    • Are you available on Wednesday mornings July – Sept? (Please mention any out of town plans).
    • How long have you lived in SF? What other kinds of things do you like to do?

We can’t wait to hear from you!

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PLANT SALE! Saturday May 14th

April 27th, 2016 by caitlyn

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PLANT SALE & SPRING FAIRE!
Saturday May 14th
11-5pm
at the farm, 203 Cotter St**

This spring we’ve been nurturing seedlings for your own summer garden. Come load up on plants, tour the farm, learn some great gardening tips, listen to music and enjoy some sunshine!

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Scheduled activities:

FARM TOUR – 12pm & 3pm
Have you still never seen one of SF’s most beautiful acres? Join Caitlyn for a brief 20 minute farm tour, with Q & A focusing on tips and techniques for your own garden!

LIVE FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS – All Day
Juna Alinea, one of our 2015 summer flower apprentices and a very talented florist, will be back with her van / mobile floral studio, offering stunning spring arrangements

LIVE WATERCOLOR PORTRAITS – All Day
Back by popular demand! Get your portrait painted by Joe Ferriso!

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Also with SPECIAL GUESTS:

The Garden for the Environment: learn all about worm composting, and get info about workshop and gardening opportunities out at this incredible garden in the Sunset. The GFE is an indispensable gardening resource here in the city

Fog City Gardener: another local grower joining us with varieties of tomatoes conducive to SF’s unique summer climate

1849 Medicine Garden: learn more about herbal medicine made from plants grown right here in SF

Churn Creamery: small-batch ice cream, featuring a some ingredients from the farm

Beekeepers: Join one of our resident beekeepers, Diana, for beekeeping info and some honey-related goods

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See you there!

**Parking: please note parking is limited in this residential area, so arrival by bicycle, MUNI (J-train to Santa Rosa Ave), BUS (14 to Silver Ave) or BART (Glen Park) is strongly encouraged when possible. Please respect our neighbors by not blocking driveways.

**Accessibility: the farm path from the front gate to the main faire area is unpaved, with patchy grass and dirt. If you need wheelchair assistance, or have any questions about accessibility, please email littlecitygardens@gmail.com.

**Restrooms: There is no restroom onsite. The nearest facilities are at the Excelsior Public Library two blocks away (Mission & Cotter) — open 10am-6pm.

spring update

March 22nd, 2016 by caitlyn

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Many of you have been asking about the status of our lease now that Golden Bridges School, the new property owners, are moving forward with the permitting process required to build their campus onsite. While in January we were heartbroken to announce an imminent lease termination date, we are very relieved to be in conversation about a possible extension to this timeline.

While the conversation is ongoing, and the situation is complicated, the season’s clock is ticking away. Seeds must be sown now or never, if we are to make the best of this season, so we’re forging ahead as best we can. Most of the dahlias are in the ground and many seeds are sown in the greenhouse, and our hopes are high that we’ll be able to see this spring work bear fruit (or flowers, rather!) later this season. Each bed turned and prepped feels like a gesture of hope.

We’re still delivering weekly to restaurants, mostly from our fall-planted beds of green garlic, beets, swiss chard, fava and pea greens, carrots, and herbs. We’re also putting together plans for our weekly CSA for May (sign up for our email list here if you’re interested in emails once boxes become available). And please note, we’re planning a very exciting farm event later this Spring, to be announced soon…!

Make sure you’re following our daily photos here so you can see how lush everything is after all this recent rain! And thank you all sincerely for your words of support and encouragement, we definitely never feel alone out there at the farm.

2nd ANNUAL WINTER FAIRE

November 24th, 2015 by caitlyn

Please join us at the farm for our 2nd Annual Winter Faire & Holiday Market!

SATURDAY DECEMBER 12th
10am – 4pm
at the farm, 203 Cotter St in the Outer Mission**

The scene:
Once again, we’ll have a crackling fire in the chiminea and lights strung about, hot soup and hot beverages. There will be scheduled farm tours and herb walks, kids’ activities, a puppet show, and music. The paths will be mowed and tidy, and we’ll put our very last flowers in vases for you. You can peruse tables filled with top notch Bay Area goods, perfect for all your holiday gift giving, and then sit on blankets by the fire in the low December light, enjoying some music and hot refreshments. It’s been another long, focused season at the farm, and we are very excited to open up the gate, sip some hot tea with you, and mark the end of 2015.

The goods:
The faire will be a one stop shop for really incredible gifts! We’ll have Little City goods — more tote bags (back by popular demand!), a fresh made batch of herbal remedies, seeds we’ve saved this year, and some farm drawings and dried flower artwork made by some of our nearest and dearest farm regulars. There will also be an impressive array of herbal medicine makers, beekeepers, jewelers, woodworkers, ceramicists, knitters, painters, florists, and cheesemakers offering their wares!

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Scheduled activities:

FARM TOUR – 11am & 2pm
Want to roam the farm and check out the crops? Curious about what we do, our history, and what we have in store for the coming season? Join Caitlyn for a brief 20 minute farm tour, with Q & A!

HERB WALK – 3pm
Bonnie Weaver, an herbalist and long time Little City Gardens volunteer, will lead a short walk through the farm, identifying common medicinal weeds and highlighting their benefits and uses. This is also a great chance to learn about the plants that have gone into our Little City Gardens herbal salve, hand cream, and herbal mist — available once again at the faire.

PUPPET SHOW – 11:30am & 12:30pm
Preschool and Kindergarden teachers from Golden Bridges School will present a hand puppet show!

LIVE FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS – All Day
Juna Alinea, one of our summer flower apprentices and a very talented florist, will be parking her converted van / floral studio onsite and making stunning arrangements on demand

LIVE WATERCOLOR PORTRAITS – All Day
Get your portrait painted by Joe Ferriso!

RAFFLE! – all day
Enter for your chance to win dinner for two (or equivalent) to one of the fine restaurants we work with — Outerlands, Californios, Kronnerburger or Tartine Bakery! Winning names will be drawn at the end of the day.

Please join us for a fantastic time on one of the most beautiful acres in the city! We’d love to see you!

**Parking: please note parking is limited in this residential area, so arrival by bicycle, MUNI (J-train to Santa Rosa Ave) or BART (Glen Park) is strongly encouraged when possible. Please respect our neighbors by not blocking driveways.

**Accessibility: the farm path from the front gate to the main faire area is unpaved, with patchy grass and dirt. If you need wheelchair assistance, or have any questions about accessibility, please email littlecitygardens@gmail.com.

**Restrooms: There is no restroom onsite. The nearest facilities are at the Excelsior Public Library two blocks away (Mission & Cotter) — open 10am-6pm.

thanksgiving

November 17th, 2015 by caitlyn

We’re now accepting preorders for Thanksgiving boxes!

Boxes will include our lovingly crafted salad mix*, along with a selection of other veggies and herbs from the farm. We’ve been working hard these past few months to diligently plan out, seed, weed, cover, and tend to these crops in perfect time for your holiday feasts.

* If you’re new to the Little City Gardens salad mix, here’s what to expect: a diverse, wildcrafted blend including a dozen different varieties of tender greens, herbs, and edible flowers. It is a unique, lovingly crafted mix that is as flavorful as it is beautiful. Just dress it lightly with olive oil and salt and you have an impressive ready-made side dish to feed your family and friends. It’s long been our most popular item, and sells out quickly!

Below is what we have available for Thanksgiving, by pre-order only. Availability is limited, and first come first serve, so please do get your orders in as soon as possible! We’ll confirm your order and provide additional pickup details by email.

THANKSGIVING FARM BOX (special price): $25
salad mix (1/2 lb bag)*
1.5 lb sunchokes (incredibly delicious root crop, highly recommended!)
1 bunch greens (lacinato kale or collard greens)
1 bunch turnips (salad turnips, great fresh or lightly cooked0
1 bunch mixed herbs (bundle of thyme, rosemary, marjoram, sage etc)

Individual items (as add-ons to the farm box only):
sunchokes — $4.50/lb
lacinato kale — $2.50/bu
rainbow chard — $2.50/bu
mixed herb bundles — $5/bu
turnips — $3.50/bu

Please email orders in no later than Sunday 11/22 at 9pm — littlecitygardens@gmail.com, subject THANKSGIVING ORDER.

Pickup is Wednesday 11/25, 4-5:30pm — at the farm (203 Cotter St).

Thank you for your support, and for putting our city-grown veggies on your holiday tables!

summer & fall

November 10th, 2015 by caitlyn

We’re still in the thick of the season over here, filling weekly orders of vegetables, herbs and cut flowers for restaurants and wholesale accounts. The flower season has lasted much longer than I anticipated, which is satisfying and helpful. Usually our predictions are more ambitious than actual yields, not the other way around!

We’re saving seeds, tending to our young fall crops, planning for winter, getting ready for Fall CSA orders, and getting beds turned and cover crop sown.

Please stay tuned for more info about ordering salad mix for Thanksgiving, our second annual Winter Faire at the farm (Sat December 12th, mark your calendars, it’s going to be a good one!!), Little City herbal products, and reflections on our sixth season. (And, in the meantime, head over to instagram!).

poetry at the farm

October 1st, 2015 by caitlyn

Please join us at the farm for an outdoor poetry reading at dusk. The dahlias will still be blooming their last blooms, the air will smell like fennel, and the fireplace will be ablaze.

readings by:
Jackson Meazle
Rod Roland
Micah Ballard

Saturday October 10th – 6pm

Bring a blanket to sit on and a mug to drink out of.

See you there!