film in post-production

March 12th, 2018 by caitlyn

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I’m pleased to announce that LITTLE CITY GARDENS, the film, is currently in post-production! LITTLE CITY GARDENS, sponsored by SFFLIM, is a nonfiction feature presenting, through striking cinematic language, the beauty and magnetism of the urban farm we all loved.

About the film:

As we come away from the one year anniversary of the farm’s closure, many in the community continue to mourn the loss. We long for the relationship to land that the farm gave to so many in the city; we miss its soil. And, as we continue to collectively process all that is happening around us, nationally and globally, the conversations present at Little City Gardens — about food systems, community activation, environmental awareness and urban land use — are feeling as pressing as ever. The film, a poetic documentary, is an inspiring look at the creativity and care for land that is both possible and crucial in the city.

It is an honor to collaborate with another artist to bring the farm alive through cinema. Ben Grossman, a San Francisco filmmaker, has been working on LITTLE CITY GARDENS since 2015, when he alternated between shooting and working on the farm several days a week. This approach allowed for a unique intimacy between the camera and the farm, and for an important understanding of the valuable relationships that existed there between people, plants, and land. I am so inspired by the compelling and beautiful film that is materializing.

Interested in involvement?

We are currently seeking funders who are interested in supporting this film as we approach editing and sound design. I look forward to telling you more! Please be in touch for film treatment, budget, and post-production timeline.

For more info:

Keep an eye on our instagram for updates and occasional sneak peeks. We’ll also be presenting a crowdfunding campaign in Summer 2018 with more info, teasers and opportunities to support, so please stay tuned!

urban agriculture resolution — passed!

April 28th, 2017 by caitlyn



On Tuesday, the SF Board of Supervisors reaffirmed the City’s commitment to supporting urban agriculture by unanimously passing a resolution that calls for the evaluation (and possible acquisition) of remaining suitable parcels of land in the city, and for publicly beneficial agriculture to be considered a prioritized land use whenever appropriate.

This is a moment to celebrate! This conversation would not be where it is without the overwhelming support and enthusiasm surrounding both Little City Gardens, and urban agriculture in general. This resolution reflects where urban ag has been in these past few years, including its proven unique community benefits, and where it still has the incredible potential to go if the right supports are in place. Read the final resolution text here.

The resolution’s significance:

While this resolution does not in itself make any new parcels available for agricultural use, it is nevertheless a significant gesture to have on record. It is an intention — a formal expression of policy — that marks the City of San Francisco’s continued enthusiasm for urban agriculture, as already previously expressed through key policy initiatives over the past decade. And, more importantly, it acknowledges that enthusiasm on its own does not make for a sustainable urban ag movement. We need pieces of land permanently devoted to agricultural use.

Urban agriculture as a priority:

One important point that came up in conversations leading up to the Board’s vote was around housing. As most of us are painfully aware, we are in the middle of a housing crisis in San Francisco, and affordable housing must be at the forefront of the City’s land use priorities. By outlining specific criteria, this resolution reflects the reality that not all vacant parcels are appropriate or feasible for housing development. (See 203 Cotter Street.) There are certainly a few remaining patches of soil out there in our dense city whose best and highest use can and should be agriculture (for example, the Portola District’s beloved 770 Woolsey, possibly the most historically significant agricultural parcel in the city). This resolution acknowledges that these remaining parcels must be identified and evaluated carefully, with urban agriculture’s extensive educational and community-enriching benefits in mind.

What’s next:

Now that this resolution has been adopted, the next step is to work with City departments (Real Estate, Rec & Park, SFPUC, DPW, Planning) to implement its intentions. We’ll request an extensive and thorough land audit and an evaluation of existing funds and policies relevant to the resolution’s goals. I’ll report back soon!

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urban ag resolution — please support!

April 13th, 2017 by caitlyn

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On Monday April 17th, the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee will consider a resolution that will promote secure access to land for urban agriculture projects in San Francisco. The resolution asks City departments to prioritize urban agriculture as a preferred land use for parcels that, meeting certain criteria (still permeable, flood prone, backed by strong community support, etc), are deemed particularly suitable for farming. The resolution also calls for City purchase and allocation of such parcels wherever applicable. This is a crucial acknowledgement of land access & lease security as repeatedly cited barriers for communities interested in urban agriculture.

This resolution is an important next step for San Francisco. Let’s not lose all of our farmable space!

San Francisco — please join us!

Monday April 17th
(we’re item #2 on the agenda, so please arrive on time)
City Hall, Room 250

Come with a brief comment expressing your support of urban agriculture in SF. Our supervisors on this committee want to hear from you! And of course if you can’t make a comment but are still available during this late-lunch hour, come anyway. Your presence in the room will be a great show of support in itself. (Public comment is invited for each individual item, so you won’t need to stay for the entire committee meeting.)

Note: if passed by the Land Use Committee, the resolution will move to the full Board for a vote in the coming weeks. There will be more opportunity for letter writing there, but PUBLIC COMMENT (and in-person turnout in general) is the most impactful way of communicating support at this stage.

This resolution, introduced last fall by Supervisor Avalos and now carried by Supervisor Ronen, comes on the heels of Little City Gardens’ lease termination and closure late last year. It also more broadly spotlights the larger reality that:

WE NEED FARMS and we need farmers. We must consider our cities — where so many people are — as crucial hotbeds for education, exchange and dialogue about both.

The number of unbuilt, farmable parcels in San Francisco is irreversibly dwindling. Quite honestly, there isn’t that much bare soil left. Thoroughly identifying and evaluating what land remains feels pressing and time sensitive, and imagining realistic, City-supported ways for urban ag to navigate through an impossibly competitive real estate climate is essential.

As we saw at the public hearing for 203 Cotter St last fall, in the form of letters, testimonials, and in person comments, there is energetic support for urban agriculture in San Francisco, even (especially!) in these tumultuous political and economic times. People find connection and empowerment through tending to soil. The social, health, environmental and educational benefits that urban farming offers city residents can’t be understated — and I think are still yet to be fully explored in San Francisco.

Personally speaking, I’m heartened to know that our almost seven years of experience at Little City Gardens, and the extended community of supporters that grew from those efforts (YOU!) are informing this symbolic next step. Working on this with Supervisor Ronen and other advocates has been helping me through these early spring months. I miss the farm deeply, I know many of us do. These clean soft hands of mine feel foreign. I miss our neighbor Bob.


An excerpt from the resolution:

BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Supervisors urges the Department of Real
Estate, the Recreation and Parks Department, the Planning Department and Public Utilities
Commission to evaluate possible sites, including surplus properties and possible sites
available for acquisition, for their potential suitability for urban agriculture…

Read the full draft of the resolution here.

goodbye 203 Cotter St

January 13th, 2017 by caitlyn


Immediately after the Planning Commission’s decision to grant permits for development, Golden Bridges School asked us to vacate the property by December 15th. After a whirlwind two months, we’ve now packed up and moved off of the land we’ve called home for close to seven years. We harvested the last of our crops, pruned and dug up perennials, turned spent annual crops, dismantled structures, culled through a farm’s worth of equipment and supplies, and hauled away our tool sheds.

I’d like to send a heartfelt thank you to all who have expressed support and condolences, and a special thank you to all who helped pack up the farm in these final days. The silver lining to this grueling process has been the supportive community that has come forward to help make this transition as smooth as possible. It’s comforting to know that perennials from Little City Gardens will now live on at: Namu Farm, Mills College Farm, Alameda Point Collaborative Farm, Alemany Farm, The Garden for the Environment, SF Botanical Garden, SF Art Institute, and Sisterhood Gardens.

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While the end of this year was difficult, I was continually kept warm by the many wonderful moments we all shared at the farm despite it all. I don’t think I mention it here enough, but I count my blessings that I got to experience the last season of this farm, and all its ups and downs, with the most amazing crew of regulars — Peter, Patrice, Richard, Ben, Erin, Juna, Rica, Bonnie, Roxanna, and our neighbor Bob. Week after week they each brought their creative, hard working hands and their generous spirits to the farm. They loved the place and filled it with vitality. Bonnie brought us tinctures and soup, Patrice headed up most of the bed turning and seeding, Peter helped with a million decisions. Erin told us stories, and Richard and Rica always came with smiles. Roxanna whispered to butterflies and Ben caught everything on film. Juna communed with the nasturtiums and helped us see the most special blooms. Bob rang his big homemade lunchtime bell for us every day at noon. We read each other our horoscopes and weeded together in the sun. I love this crew forever! May all small farms be so fortunate.

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The farm has always felt like an ecosystem of thousands of plants inhabiting a space, each plant with distinct needs and personalities. As a farmer, I would arrive at this place and serve as these plants’ loyal attendant, a mother of thousands. But as my role in the space shifted in the final weeks, as individual crops were cycled back into the soil, as weeds filled in our previously maintained paths and perennials slowed their growth, my relationship to the farm felt markedly different. The land itself felt like a singular organism, like one big friend, as if the soil could feel our footsteps and welcomed us. It held us and calmed our anxieties as the eucalyptus branches swayed, and it mourned along with us as the fennel flowers sagged and dripped.

I couldn’t have imagined how hard it would be to say goodbye to this friend, especially under these complicated circumstances, saturated with disappointment and frustration. I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but the loss of this space, and the dislodging of our deep-rooted activity and community, has in a way felt like the death of a loved one. I think I can speak for many of us at Little City Gardens when I say that the grief of this goodbye has been complex and layered. I will miss this land and the community that formed here. I’ll miss the promise and interrupted potential of this productive, vibrant place.

I wanted to make a banner to drape across the fence when we left, some parting words for all who will interact with this land from here on out, for all who have taken for granted the work it took to maintain the space as we all knew it. But I didn’t; the goodbye was too overwhelming and consuming. Maybe if I had, it would have said something like:

A farm is not a place that is built once and then exists forever. It’s not a static place. A farm is a system, a set of constant activities, a relationship, a way of interacting with a piece of land. A farm is an ongoing craft.

The relationship of a farmer to her land is intimate and deep.


The support for Little City Gardens — as a model, as an idea, and as a community — since 2010 has been profound, and this support has only strengthened over the past year as conversations about the use of this rare open space have come to a head. As hundreds of supporters communicated via letters and public testimony at the Planning Commission hearing in September: WE NEED FARMS. We need them tucked away in rural places and we need them visible and publicly accessible in cities. We need them as efficient and productive spaces, as valuable sites for learning and connecting, and as platforms for engaging with large, complex agricultural issues. We need urban farms to be revered and supported as the unique, rich community assets that they are, and we must not let them be forever relegated as novel, downplayed, temporary uses of urban space.

Thank you to the volunteers, interns, CSA members, neighbors, visitors, fellow farmers, researchers, policy advocates, restaurants, florists, and produce buyers who have supported and encouraged this work.

I think, despite dwindling available space, the urban farming movement remains vital and promising. And as our city continues to dramatically transform, this movement needs our passionate voices and persistent imaginations. We need to advocate for secure farm space in San Francisco before every inch is paved over in the most ruthless real estate market we’ve ever seen.

What’s Next:

I’m working with the Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution that will urge City departments to evaluate what’s left of our farmable city space — certain pieces of property that are determined to be particularly suitable for farming — and to allocate funds for their purchase. Supervisor Avalos introduced the resolution in December, and it will now be carried by Supervisor Ronen moving forward. The resolution will be reviewed by committees and voted on by the full Board soon. I will keep everyone posted about ways to support. I’m encouraged by this step forward. It’s a formal recognition of one of the most crucial challenges to the survival of our urban agricultural sector — access to land. See the resolution draft here.

And as for Little City Gardens, I’m not sure what’s next. We’ve put many of our tools and supplies in storage for a few months while I personally reorient (a huge thank you to Kristyn at Namu Farm for her support with this, and to our neighbors Bob, Arnold & Kate for their temporary garage space). We don’t currently have another space, and to be honest I’m still assessing what kind of energy I’d be able to summon to rebuild another farm. It takes years and such intense work to build soil, infrastructure and momentum. For now, I will work on other projects, and investigate possibilities.

I’ll also reflect and write and talk. I’ve learned a lot over the years and would like to share. And I’ll continue my work with The Greenhouse Project to advocate for the preservation and revitalization of those beautifully dilapidated greenhouses in the Portola.

We’re also, as a Little City crew, excited to reconvene this spring to volunteer together at some of the great farm & garden projects around the Bay Area. It will be refreshing to see some of the projects that I’ve admired from afar but, being a mother of thousands, haven’t been able to visit. We’re coming for you, Bay Area farm friends! We’ll bring horoscopes.

So stay tuned, we’re still here, without land.

Here’s a photo of Bob mounting our farm sign to the side of his house. He says 203 Cotter St will always be Little City Gardens.




October 30th, 2016 by caitlyn


Please join us for a FAREWELL FARM PARTY:

Saturday November 5th
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.


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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


the development of 203 Cotter

October 29th, 2016 by caitlyn


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:





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.


September 29th, 2016 by caitlyn



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.


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




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!

“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


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 (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 — 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.


If you would like to voice your concerns about this proposed development, please email (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


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)


Please send an email to (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!

flower internship



PLANT SALE! Saturday May 14th

April 27th, 2016 by caitlyn

plant sale poster website

Saturday May 14th
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!

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

Back by popular demand! Get your portrait painted by Joe Ferriso!

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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

**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


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.