Farm Club Goes to the City – Part 1

This was the weekend of Farm Club’s third annual retreat. Our destination was San Francisco because we have a wonderful place to spend the night. Three of us are now members of the NDGW (Native Daughters of the Golden West) and we (and our friends) have a fabulous place to stay in the city. Look here for some photos of the NDGW home.

We arrived in SF shortly after noon and began our retreat with an excursion to the Hayes Valley Farm. There is a fascinating story here. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake collapsed some of the freeways in SF the sites were abandoned. This parcel of land holds what is left of the on-ramp and off-ramp to one of the collapsed freeways. A group of volunteers started this urban farm project a few years ago and turned the blighted landscape into fertile ground with unique collaborations and composting. (One fact I think I remember correctly is that Google supplied 15,000 tons of cardboard used to compost horse manure and wood chips on top of ivy that was growing there.)  IMG_6238 IMG_6240 We saw unique ways of using found materials to grow plants.IMG_6278

IMG_6236This is the seed bank, outside…IMG_6248 …and inside.IMG_6249 There were other uniques structures…IMG_6265… built from unlikely materials.

IMG_6266IMG_6268But the most remarkable thing is the landscape itself.IMG_6260Look at that soil and the vegetation. You almost don’t notice the city behind it until you look from another aspect:IMG_6261 IMG_6263 That’s the SF City Hall in the background.IMG_6264 Yup, that’s part of the old onramp.IMG_6277This is a bittersweet time for the volunteers here. It turns out that this is the last week of activities here. The site is being used under some kind of temporary permit and the city is now going to build condos there. The person that we talked to said that even as the Hayes Valley Farm closes, it is providing a demonstration and lesson to all. There have been no protests, no marches, nobody chaining themselves to trees. They are dispersing all the plant materials, greenhouses, and compost throughout the city–some to schools who have developed urban ag programs, some to other urban farm sites in the city, and some to individuals. They feel that the program has been successful as a model of what can happen with the partnership of cities and volunteers and the benefits to everyone. (Celebrating Blue Tape as opposed to Red Tape.)IMG_6254

IMG_6275I am inspired to try planting nasturtiums again as well as a garden with a bit more freedom from even rows.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our adventure.


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