the dirt beneath my feet

July 23rd, 2013 by caitlyn

Drawing of Little City Gardens greenhouse by Richard Cheung

Something that we don’t mention here nearly often enough is the MOST INSPIRING community of generous, dynamic people that have come to get their hands dirty at the farm over the years. We’ve had a pretty steady rotation of out-of-towners, students, neighbors (old and young), fellow farmers, and friends come lend their hands for a couple hours or, in some cases, a couple years. This farm, like so many others, couldn’t function without the generosity of people who understand our mission and want to devote their energy to learning, talking, experiencing, and supporting the farm in ways big and small. These folks walk onto the farm as enthusiastic, curious, energetic volunteers and, over time, they walk off as very special friends. We have been so lucky to have such a community.

One such volunteer-extraordinaire, Bonnie Weaver, wrote a beautiful piece last year as a contribution to Issue Two of our zine. While the zine never made it to the printing stage, and has at least temporarily fallen by the wayside, Bonnie’s lovely piece deserves to be shared. Bonnie has been a consistent part of the farm family over the past couple of years. Her super warm, spirited presence and her enthusiasm for this work have re-inspired me on many occasions.

I should also note that Bonnie is one of two gardeners that has now officially taken over the old garden Brooke and I first gardened before we moved to our current space. Bonnie and her partner Margaretha, both trained herbalists, have turned it into Guerrero Street Garden — an urban herb farm that will focus on medicinal herb production. They have big ideas and I’m so excited to watch that project unfold in a space that’s so near and dear!

Also from a long-time volunteer (now long-time good friend) is the above drawing by Richard Cheung. A couple years ago, in the early days of our new space, we arrived one morning to find a book of Wendell Barry poems tossed over the fence with a short, encouraging, anonymous letter enclosed. It was a romantic and mysterious gesture, totally (we would later find out) Richard’s style. That book gift marked the beginning of another one of the dearest friendships to have come out of the farm so far.

And now, from our lady Bonnie:

The Dirt Beneath My Feet
Bonnie R. Weaver, July 2013

In late August an elderly Asian woman will walk by the farm and ask us to cut her a few Naked Ladies, pink flowers that pop up along the eastern border of the farm. She speaks no English and I speak no Cantonese, however we communicate.

George is one of the usual suspects. With a thick Polish accent he will come to talk and I assume he is drawn to the nature of the project rather than the purpose. I don’t know if he identifies with any of the ideals we talk about at lunch under the Eucalyptus tree: the current boom of yuppies infiltrating our neighborhoods, cycles of the moon and how they affect our body, or the reasons we choose to be urban farmers. Regardless, George will check in on a regular basis to share his latest ideas and to find out what we are growing.

San Francisco native and neighbor, Bob, can be found most days putting around the farm (after 4PM, a beer in hand) and if you’re lucky he might invite you to his in-home bar for a little time travel, jukebox and all! He knows the answer to everything. When the salad spinner was broken for months, Bob saw it sitting unused and asked if he could take a look at it. Within minutes he reemerged with a slightly modified and functional salad spinner.

There would be no farm without the hard work of Brooke and Caitlyn. The two fiercely passionate farmers exemplify what it means to be part of a community. Although their intention is to grow delicious local food, they also are advocates, writers, neighbors, sisters, bikers, and artists. Brooke cannot turn away help. She will find a farm task for anyone regardless of age or experience. Caitlyn is patient and meticulous as she gathers flowers and herbs for the farm’s iconic salad mix. Both women are known to ask bold questions, laugh, and work. really. hard. Yet they always find time for a long lunch break, their families, each other and themselves.

There are adversities. The turnips get slugs. Cabbage moths eat through the brassica leaves. The chard harbors leaf miner, plants in the onion family get rusty, and this San Francisco micro-climate will never get hot enough for tomatoes. You might ask, what is there left to grow? Plenty! Harvest days are some of the busiest and every week we fill a truck with produce and send it off to the fancy restaurants of Valencia Street.

“Everything changes so quickly” Richard said as we stood by a trellis of weeds, where peas had once grown. I wonder, is he talking about our city or the peas? I remember the first time I walked to the back of the lot with him two years ago. We were both young Bay Area natives struggling to find our place in this concrete jungle. He led the way through the fennel forest with machete in hand like we were on safari. We were looking for potatoes that had accidentally been dry farmed. To our surprise the potatoes were still there and had multiplied! So we spent the rest of the day on our knees digging for buried tater treasure.

To serve as a testament to the richness of the soil, at Little City Gardens we grow more than food. For me, urban farming has created a community and deepened my understanding of the place that I come from. Before Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Genentech, and Yelp, there were artists, hippies, immigrants and queers that found solace on the slopes of this sandy marshland. While rent prices soar, private tech busses swamp Muni, and society surrenders to the latest technology, I feel a little more lost in my hometown everyday. But my work as a farmer feeds my spirit and my belly. I consider my work to be a small protest, a positive way to deal with all the corporate change my community faces. As farmers, we provide sustenance to our colorful communities struggling to survive within this urban-tech-mecca.

When I was born my parents brought me home to our house in Mission Terrace. Now I return to Mission Terrace to feel the earth push against my body. As I sink in the shovel I am helping the plants grow, and they are helping me. I have found purpose, presence, and a sense of peace here. These plants, this land, these people and I, have a relationship now; I am farming the place I call home.

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