Category Archives: local food


More on the Detroit urban farming movement. A video from Sara Cross:

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San Francisco + food movement + tomorrow

Hoping to spend tomorrow discussing sustainable & safe food systems? Well, you have *two* intriguing events to choose from December 1st 2009.

The first promises some controversy. Our friends at Slow Food SF are organizing a panel discussion featuring panelists from both sides of the food movement aisle.

The Slow Food SF Eat In, September 2009

Starting at 6:45pm at the S.F. Public Library’s Koret Auditorium (100 Larkin & Grove) the panel will feature Douglas Gayeton (author of the book Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town),  Sarah Rich, Sam Mogannam from Bi-Rite, farmer Casey Havre, chef Michelle Fuerst, and Slow Food SF’s very own  Dava Guthmiller. After this spirited debate Slow Food will be hosting a book signing/exception/reception at 18 Reasons in the Mission. (Via Mary Ladd & SFoodie)

Looking to learn more about Permaculture in the Mission tomorrow? Look no further! December 1st 7-9pm Movie Night @ The Red Poppy Art House (2698 Folsom Street @ 23rd Street) will be showing the Geoff Lawton  film, Introduction to Permaculture Design (What I’m sure will be)  a spirited Q & A will follow the screening with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody answering your questions.  Given David Stockhausen’s recent and very positive experience with Permaculture this event is too tempting for us to pass up. Hope to see you there!

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Food for Thought comes to the Mission!


The first ever Food for Thought is coming to the Mission next Wednesday, November 11th. Participating Mission restaurants will donate 25-100% of their profits to Mission Graduates, a community group dedicated to empowering local youths by preparing them for college.

Food for Thought is the bright idea of Art Avitia, the new Development Director at Mission Graduates, who was nice enough to discuss this event with me on the phone today. Because the organization primarily works with Mission youths, they decided to reach out specifically to Mission restaurants.  “We are lucky to be supported by some great restaurants here in the Mission,” he commented. Art came onboard at Mission Graduates after successfully organizing Dining out For Life San Francisco. Having always valued education, Art was drawn to their ideals.  Mission Graduates works with students from Kindergarten through High School to support their education and provide them with the necessary tools to attend college.

Art is very enthused about this inaugural event, and believes it will be the first of many. He also feels that the local focus of this event will be a big contributor to its success.

Food, the Mission District AND empowering the community? Sign us up! Team Amyitis will be out in full force. And with the stellar line up of restaurants, how could this event really go wrong?

Participating Restaurants:

  • Andalu
  • Bar Bambino
  • Bissap Baobab
  • Coda
  • Conduit
  • Destino
  • Dolores Park Cafe
  • Farina
  • Foreign Cinema
  • Front Porch
  • La Provence
  • Little Baobab
  • Little Star Pizza Valencia
  • Maverick
  • Mission Beach Cafe
  • Panchitas #2
  • Pisco
  • Ramblas Tapas
  • Range
  • Regalito Rosticeria
  • Slow Club
  • Specchio
  • Spork
  • Sun Rise Restaurant
  • Usulutan Restaurant

Picking a restaurant is going to be a difficult decision. Good thing we have all week.

Best of luck deciding!


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IMG_0663Though the San Francisco summer fog has slowed down plant production at Amyitis, we not letting it slow us down!  It is true; we’ve noticed a marked stunt in growth and production across the board since the 2nd week in July.  The fog brings 50* temperatures with it each day when it arrives at around 4:30pm.  Like an old friend who’s overstayed his welcome, I was happy with the fog at first but then things turned sour.  What once provided cool relief from the intense heat of a California summer has become a nearly icy relationship.  Generally speaking, if the fog decides to burn off at all, most days it won’t do that until at least 10:30am.  That leaves very little time for our plants to take full advantage of the sun’s offerings.  Even though we are relatively shielded here in the Mission, this July the fog has been pervasive.  We’ve taken advantage of the time off from harvesting and weeding to get to some projects.  

IMG_0664At Amyitis’ central location we’ve lacked the time and resources to deal with our compost situation appropriately.  Until now we’ve had an open-air compost pile.  Frankly, it is a heap.  And while some of our organic waste IS composting, most of it is not.  After some thought around the matter and a little research, Eben and I decided that Vermaculture (composting with live worms) was what we really wanted to do.  Vermaculture, or worm composting, is a fast, clean, efficient and relatively orderless way to produce compost from food and yard scraps.  The worms can consume about half of their body weight per day.  What they leave behind is called “worm castings” and is literally some of the best fertilizer money can buy.  Click on the link above to learn a but more about how to do it at home.  

My good friend Matt Wickland came to lend us a hand in building the beds.  While there are many designs for worm bins, we took what we knew about worm behavior and took a stab at our own design.  We built two bins 12″ deep by about 2.5′ square that are made to rest on top of one another.  As the worms eat the vegetable matter, one can rotate the bins to keep the worms eating and take full advantage of their castings at the same time.  For so many reasons, vermaculture composting seems like the perfect compost system for the urban garden.  We’re hoping that our experiment will prove us right.  IMG_0661I guess that I kind of goofed.  Sometime last month I realized that our lettuce crop (which had been providing for us nicely since early April) was quite literally at the bitter end.  We plant the seeds very close together and cut them often.  This gives us a baby variety of many types of lettuce.  Since the plant is never allowed to fully mature it continues to sprout, giving us ample harvests.  Our lettuce had been going strong for a while.  In a panic a few weeks ago, I planted more lettuce in spaces I had availablele; they didn’t germinate properly.  It wasn’t until my third attempt at seeding new lettuce that the seedlings finally took.  We finally pulled up the remaining lettuce beds that had sustained us for so long and started anew.  In order to really have  super-productive gardens, it appears as though managing planting schedules is more important than I had ever realized.  I waited too long relying too heavily on a single planting.  As hard as it is to turn over a bed that is still productive, sometimes you have to in order to keep things healthy. Lesson learned.  More lettuce in late August.  

happy gardening, 



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As the season kicks in to high gear here at Amyitis there seems to be less to say and more to do.  Well that is not totally true.  In fact, I have so much to say I don’t know where to begin.  Do I begin with the huge debt of gratitude I owe to all of my volunteers and clients?  Do I begin with the extreme quality of the baby greens we’ve been harvesting from the gardens?  Or, do I begin by talking about the challenges of growing for a new restaurant?  While all of the above are topics worthy of further missives, I will stifle my will to blather on and simply say that Amyitis is moving rapidly forward.  And, if the results we’ve seen so far are any indication of what is to come, we are in for an exciting summer full of challenges and triumphs.  

The recent SF heat wave has shot things into full summer at the gardens.  The heat is such a stark contrast to the cold snap that came just before it, I often wonder how plants manage to hold on.  Well, I guess that some do and some don’t.  The cold nights we recently had paired with the wind in the evenings has wreaked havoc on our squash and basil.  Most all of the squash and basil transplants either stunted or died.  Hopefully, after some more in-depth investigation we can actually grow a decent squash plant this summer.  They’ve always grown like weeds before. I am unsure of what we are doing wrong there.  

In other news, the tomatoes we started in the basement are outside hardening off… and just in time for the heat wave.  That was lucky timing.  They are a bit leggy but I think that they will adjust to full sun quite well.  We’ve transplanted them into 4″ pots to give them a bigger root ball and a thicker stem before we let them go off on their own.  
We couldn’t be happier about the quality of the arugula, mizuna and lettuce that are coming out of the gardens now.  I can shamelessly say that they are without a doubt some of the best greens I have had the pleasure of eating.  It is these times here at the gardens that I would like to take a moment to enjoy.  There is no prouder moment than harvesting something delicious that you’ve nurtured and cared for.  In the contrast of a relatively harsh urban environment, to eat such a fine salad is almost enough to make the tears flow.  Well, at least salavatory tears.  
Lastly, while harvesting the lovely greens I speak of last week for a delivery to Weird Fish and the Corner, I stumbled upon a large and lovely toad enjoying the refuge of a canopy of mizuna. I nearly stepped on him as I made my way through the rows.  And while fully aware of my towering presence next to his, he sat seemingly indifferent eating flies.  I have no idea how he got there.  In fact I am not sure I care.  It’s undoubtedly a good omen.  
Happy gardening.  

Lovely D’avignon Radishes

A Friday Harvest

Fat Omen Toad

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Will work for food

Volunteer Update
We’re gaining more sunlight everyday and with each new sunny moment we’re seeing great changes in our backyard farms.  These changes mean more work to make sure we can pull off great harvests for The Corner and Weird Fish, the restaurants we grow for.  More work means that we are in ever greater need for more hands.  Our volunteers have responded to those needs in numbers.  
This week Joel, Sierra, Tina, and Adrienne showed their lust for learning about food by getting dirty.  They donated a Friday to getting some plants and seeds in the ground at both of our current garden locations.  Blessed by a warm sunny day in the Mission we were able to get some of our seedlings in the ground. Throughout the day we planted head lettuce and scallions that we’d started from seed on our grow table.  After that

we got crazy with some direct seeding of arugula, tat-soi, kale, and mizuna.  While seeding doesn’t take all that long in a small backyard garden I had a great time showing people the ropes.  Beyond that, I was really grateful for all the help and good company.  Before long I reckon we’ll have some real black belt volunteers.  Thanks guys.  
Can we get a light?
While the sun sticks around a little longer now, we’ve been having some light issues on our light table in our grow room.  Our squash starts just have not seemed happy.  When a plant thinks winter is coming (i.e. when light decreases) it reacts by producing as much offspring (veggies in this case) as it can before the light is no longer enough to sustain the plant.  In controlled environments, one strictly controls the amount of light a plant receives in order to give the plant time to mature before it decides to produce fruit and ultimately die.  By systematically reducing the daily light cycle, we encourage the plant to “flower” and then “fruit”.  
In our case, our squash was flowering prematurely.  Which meant it thought death was immanent.  We had set our lights on a 12 hour time cycle to ensure that the plants had ample light to photosynthesize and grow large before we planted them outside.  But for some reason it wasn’t working.  Scratching our heads, we just couldn’t make sense of why our squash thought the end was nigh.  That is… until now.  
I donned a dunce cap the moment I realized, while laying in bed at 3am, that the master switch to the power was being turned off every night at 8:30 by our cleaning service at the restaurant.  This master switch includes our timer.  So regardless of what our timer decided to do, it was lights out every night at 8:30… no questions.  Some days our squash was getting a full day of “sun” and others it was getting maybe only 3-5 hours.   Now, with problem solved, we need to seed a new bunch of squash.  And now the death-row squash will be granted a pardon and set outside to start hardening off.   With any luck they’ll brought back to health.
I believe that Homer Simpson said it best when he said “Dooooough“!!  He knows as well as I do, its hard to sleep with a dunce cap on.  
Link of the week
This week I’ve decided to try something a bit out of the ordinary for us and suggest a link that is off the beaten path.  “Fringe” Author Daniel Pinchbeck (2012: the return of Quetzalcoatl) writes mainly about altered consciousness and the point break of our political, social and environmental culture-wave but has also been known to wax poetic when it comes to sustainability.  While I will leave the research on his credentials up to the masses, I will advocate his very interesting blog  In addition to his provoking ravings and rants about consciousness expansion, he has interesting views about the state of the environment and what we can do about it.  While he’s no Michael Pollan, his views about personal responsibility and urban farming are worth more than a mention.  Explore his blog and decide for yourself.  
Happy reading, 

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Mission Statements

Urban Gothic:

Lately, when Jessie and I talk about Amyitis, the subject that most often comes up is “what next?” It seems that for any bits of knowledge we’d gained from our days on the farm, we have
 three times as much to learn.  Every day we wonder what we could be doing that we haven’t thought of yet, what is worth our energy and how much?  Is our grow room good enough?  Have we been over-fertilizing or under?  What else is economical to grow for a restaurant? Just how much food are we expecting to yield this season? Is there a better way?  What are we forgetting?
With each question we try to answer it seems that two more appear.  With only a 1/2 season under our belt because of our late start last year, we’re finding that there are questions that only time will answer for us.  As uncomfortable as that is, until time passes we have to make the mistakes and choices like first timers.  And let’s face it, we are novices at this after all.  With full time jobs, there is only so much time to hesitate.  So we are doing what we know how one day at a time.  
While we are waiting for mother nature to squeeze last drops out of winter  from the clouds, we’re doing our best to make plans for what is to come.  But with all of our questions, we’re both feeling a little less than efficient.  It still feels too early to direct seed some things.  We’re not planning on planting many, if any, root veggies like carrots, beets, or potatoes because of the time and space it takes to grow them.  So, naturally, we’re a bit hesitant to direct seed squashes and cucumbers just yet because of their more sensitive nature.  We have chard, lettuce and scallions hardening off under the cold frame that should be ready to hit the ground soon.  For those that don’t know, hardening off is the process of toughening up the plants between the greenhouse and the open field.  Also, it is not too early for lettuce, peas and kale to go in, so they will get planted this week too.  
In many ways it feels like the eye of the hurricane.  The excitement of preparing our grow table building beds and ordering seeds has passed.  And for now it appears that things have gone slightly idle.  Yet at the same time, we both know that in a months time, we’ll be too busy to think.  So for now we’re learning how to make the best use out of Mother Nature’s limbo time: updating our business cards and trying to find more backyard spaces in the Mission! That being said, we’re always looking for ways to find more usable spaces that are close to or in the Mission.  Never hesitate to pass us along to a new reader or someone that might be interested in having their back yard space transformed into a producing, wholesaling micro-farm.
Much of what we are planting now will be going to the cozy kitchen of a brand new restaurant opening …..soon? …here in the Mission called The Corner.  Another venture of Peter Hood and Timothy Holt, The Corner will be a small-plate wine and espresso bar.  Their menu will focus on local and seasonal meat, fish and produce from our Bay Area as well as fine wine and coffee.  Amyitis greens will be a strong part of the menu as we give them a weekly harvest.  We’re very excited.  It is a real privilege to see your food be magically transformed by inspired chefs.  We can’t wait.  Be sure to keep eyes and ears open for news of the grand opening coming very soon.  
Link of the Week:
Alemany Farm is a great local farm here in the city dedicated to growing community through growing food.  If you are unfamiliar with Alemany, be sure to go check out their website at Alemany Farm.  They provide meaningful youth and community activities at their multi-acre city farm and grow food for their low-income neighborhood.  Alemany’s Mission Statement reads:
Alemany Farm empowers San Francisco residents to grow their own food,
and through that process encourages people to become more engaged with their communities. We grow organic food and green jobs for low-income communities, while sowing the seeds for economic and environmental justice”
Huh… sounds a lot like us… but with loads more practice and expertise.  We applaud the efforts and accomplishments of Alemany and encourage the growth of them and organizations like them.  Like us here at Amyitis, they are always looking for volunteers.  More information is listed on their website about how to be involved with them if you have something to learn or something to share.  
Happy reading,