More than a decade ago, a motley crew of guerilla gardeners, public housing residents, and I co-founded Alemany Farm, San Francisco’s largest urban farm. For a few years I was the farm manager, and today I continue to be involved via a group called Friends of Alemany Farm that coordinates the food production and distribution and educational programs at the Farm. As I write in Satellites in the High Country:
“Over the years I put a huge amount of blood, sweat, and tears into building a farm next to a freeway because … I was determined to try, in my own small way, to ignite a similar passion [for environmental protection] in others. But I knew that I was unlikely to replicate my own conversion experience of standing among the row crops reading poems in the morning fog. So I figured: if you can’t take the people to the land, then bring the land to the people.”
I’m proud to say that it worked. Today, Alemany Farm annually grows more than 16,000 pounds of organic fruit and vegetables on a smidgen of land in one of the country’s densest cities. All of this bounty is given away for free: either to residents in the Mission District via the Free Farm Stand, to the volunteers at our weekly community workdays, or to residents from the adjacent Alemany Dwellings public housing complex. We host scores of field trips and workshops every year for school classes, corporate groups, and faith based and community organizations. The kids from the adjacent public housing development like catching frogs in the creek and getting to pick apples right off the tree.
Over the years, we’ve received a nice bit of publicity for our efforts to boost food security and ecological education in SF. See this nice profile from the San Francisco Chronicle, or this article from Orion by Rebecca Solnit.check us out. If you find yourself in SF anytime soon, please come by and visit, get your hands dirty, and go home with some fresh fruits and vegetables.