farm beginnings

April 23rd, 2010 by caitlyn

Things are moving along! We had our first workday at the new site this weekend, and we were joined by a few good friends for a celebratory breakfast picnic to start things off. It was a warm, beautiful morning to be tucked away, clinking our tea mugs together, hidden amongst the weeds that come up to our shoulders. We toasted to our collective work so far, and to the possibilities that lie ahead.

The workday was a success, too. Despite some tools that were in less-than-great repair, we were able to mow down about 1/4 of the weeds in one day. There was fennel galore, wild radish, plantain, wild oats, mallow, crab grass and, fortunately, not much oxalis or calla lily – the two most pervasive weeds we deal with at our other garden. We’re off to a great start.

We’re also learning some things. As we proceed with this project, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the complex challenges of doing this kind of work in a densely populated city. Undeveloped space here is competitive and hard to come by, and all of us neighbors have a wide range of needs and priorities for the open space that does exist. The majority of our neighbors have been incredibly supportive of our ideas – coming to community meetings to show support, volunteering to help at the garden, offering their nearby garage space for tool storage, and expressing overall excitement and cheer to see the activation of this vacant weeded lot. However, we’ve also had a couple neighbors express some concerns that this project will bring excessive traffic and spectacle to their quiet neighborhood, that a market-garden business does not belong in a residential neighborhood, or even that the use of pesticides (yikes!) on our crops will be harmful to their health. (We aren’t going to use pesticides, of course, and we wrongly assumed that that was a given.)

It’s a complicated web, this city of neighbors, and we’re learning how important communication is going to be through this entire process. We don’t know if we will be able to please everybody but we intend to stay as open to feedback and concerns as we are to encouragement and support.

Thanks to Eli Zigas for photos.

6 responses to “farm beginnings”

  1. Andrew Griffin says:

    Hi Little City: Save a little bit of that wild fennel to reseed. There are restaurants in the city that would love it for the bright flavor of its foliage. Jason Tallent at Globe on Pacific was asking me for some two weeks ago and I only grow the more subdued cultivated fennel. The fresh seed heads are of interest to cooks as well and the mature plants are excellent habitat for beneficial insects and butterfly caterpillars. Its fun to follow your progress.

  2. shawn says:

    So cool- beautiful site.

  3. Miss Natalie says:

    Wow!!! Congrats to you guys–the new space is beautiful! It’s so wonderful to watch you guys fulfill your dreams and bring something so powerful into the community. Those fennel bulbs are delicious pickled. Ben’s doing them with lemon and thyme. Also, wild fennel pollen is like gold–if you can harvest that, you could have a goldmine. See Bill Buford’s HEAT for details!

  4. lyndon says:

    lovely photos, eli. great space, lcg, congratulations!
    look forward to hearing more about some of the challenges you’ve faced in starting this farm and in garnering wide neighborhood support, ms. caitlyn. soon. : )

  5. Chandler says:

    Awesome! Looks like you’re on your way to some full time farming! Remember: a weedy farm is a production farm :)

    I’m going to be testing out the Johnny’s pipe bender soon—borrowing it from Persephone—I’ll let you know if I like it. Might be a good tool for you to use too.

  6. dkzody says:

    Just found your blog after reading the SFGATE piece and sending it to my Facebook to tell others. Your story is intriguing and I wish you well. Food in SF is an important subject to me.

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