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The weekend works.

This past weekend was a busy one for me. After a week of working on landscape art projects for the Presidio, I was ready to get down to business in the garden. My focus was to begin the spring planting with the long-term goal of diversifying our crops. When I arrived at the garden I was pleased to see that our potato towers have sprouted and are now covered in new growth.

Also, the fava beans were starting to flower and green garlic is plentiful.

After this bit of garden porn it was time to get to work. I started by mapping out the garden and loosely planning our crop rotation. I say loosely because we have some big changes coming in the near future for our first garden, but more on that in later posts. After that I dug into the seed box and realized we desperately need some seed. It was then that I realized that we should start a CSA (community supported agriculture) to provide us with some income at the start of the season. It always seems to be the time of year that farms need the most and are the most broke due to the winter. The good news is that it is early enough in the season to put in seed orders. Also I was able to plant some early and hardy crops such as radish and collard.

I decided that I would try using straw mulch when planting. The mulch will serve to keep the soil slightly warmer and suppress the early weeds. Mulch has the added benefit of breaking down over time and providing the soil with nutrients and humus. As the temperature starts to rise and rain fall lessens a mulch layer also helps to keep moisture in the soil and evenly distributed.

As Sunday came to a close I realized how much there is left to do. I made a lot of progress, but really only scratched the surface as we have two other gardens that are ready to be jump started into spring. I would like to put out a call for volunteers. If anybody would like to get involved and get dirty I will be coordinating work parties primarily on weekends as that is the only time I really have free. Also I would like to put out a request for old windows that can be donated to build a cold frame for vegetable starts. I can be reached at eben.bell81@gmail.com and would love to hear from readers who would like to volunteer their time, money, or materials as well as anyone who just wants to say what’s up. I’ll leave you with a photo of the garden as she stands.

-Eben

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Bon Voyage!….For now.

” The use of our bodies for work or love or pleasure, or even for combat, sets us free again in the wilderness, and we exult” -Wendell Berry

The time has arrived, dear readers, to venture again into our own version of the wilderness to explore things more intimately, more vividly, more extremely.  As we might have mentioned before, 2/3 rds of the Amyitis crew have decided to temporarily leave our beloved city of San Francisco to re-vision our path in agriculture.  While the adventure of Amyitis has been an education in itself, we see the value in revisiting some more classical types of experiential education.  For better or for worse, we hope to bring back  a new insight to our practices here in the city by taking an intensive peek at green thumbs the world over.

After my recent journey into permaculture with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody (who begin their winter PDC next week) my inspiration drove me to dive more deeply into the world of holistic thinking and design.  Permaculture had its origins in Australia out of necessity in the 1970’s.  Brackish soils and paralyzing drought were some of the issues dooming Australian farmers and landowners everywhere. A, then, slow-moving idea (or more accurately a group of ideas) called permaculture housed a group of time-tested, environmentally conscious, and highly productive strategies and techniques under one set of clear principles.  Nearly 40 years later, permaculture has now become a fast growing and ever-more widely accepted design strategy having communities, courses and certifications available globally.  One of these communities is the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia run by Geoff and Nadia Lawton.  Designers using permaculture’s design lense strive to create and encourage systems that are beyond sustainable; regenerative.  People like Geoff have spent a lifetime training them.  I have decided to spend 10 weeks on Geoff’s farm to learn to see through this lense a bit more and gain a mastery of some of the more popular techniques made famous by permies. I hope to return empowered and inspired to see Amyitis through to its next phase.

Katie Conry has taken advantage of her work situation to explore S. E. Asia and beyond willingly working on organic farms in places like India, Malaysia, and Nepal.  I feel encouraged and inspired that Katie’s interest in food has driven her forward both in the world of the blogosphere and into the garden.  I trust Katie will also come back inspired and ready to apply her energy with a new lense.  We wish her well and await her safe return.

Eben Bell will be here to take care of your Amyitis queries, comments, and collaborations.  Look for him at the Free Farm Stand on Sundays in the Mission, or perhaps you local Mission street corner.  Keep posted as Katie and I will be sending posts from the Southern Hemisphere.

Until then, Happy Gardening!

-David

Better now than ever

The article that David posted, Out of Reach, raised some good points and was inspiring to us here at Amyitis. In thinking about this issue and doing some follow-up research I ended up on the San Francisco Permaculture Guild website and saw a posting for volunteers for something called the Free Farm Stand. I immediately got in touch with the folks who organize this remarkable program in our very own city. The stand is “funded” by a community of gardens and gardeners from the mission who bring their harvest together every Sunday. In the spirit of mutual support for our community and fellow gardeners I woke up earlier than normal on my one day off and harvested the greens that have grown, albeit slowly, through a relatively cold bay area winter.

When I arrived at the Farm Stand there was already a veritable bounty of food and a line that stretched out of the park. I introduced myself to Tree, one of the organizers, and was happy to meet a gentle, generous soul happy to have some more to add to an already overflowing table of food. The table was split in half with locally harvested produce on one side and donated food on the other. As I squeezed our greens in I sensed the line of people was eager to get their turn at making their way down the table and getting some of the very free bounty awaiting them. There were baskets of greens, fruit, bread, grains, and volunteers to refill them as they were quickly diminished.

The local side

Eager foodies

The Free Farm Stand happens every Sunday from 1-3pm in Treat Commons Community Garden at Parque Niños Unidos at the corner of 23rd St. and Treat Ave. For more information about the stand, volunteering and the latest blog from Tree head over to their site at:

http://freefarmstand.blogspot.com/2010/01/breadbasket-case.html

Programs like the Free Farm Stand and the food stamp program at San Francisco farmers markets are a good step in the right direction for helping improve access to healthy food for all. One other thing that I would like to add to the problems of access the article Out of Reach covered is the very corrupt system of farm subsidies. They are one of the most important factors contributing to the problem of the cheapest food being the unhealthy preservative and sugar-loaded packaged food. If the subsidies that our tax dollars contribute to went to healthy food we would have far better access for all and a healthier population that would go a long way in reducing the cost of health care in this country. However, that’s a topic for another time and Michael Pollen has covered it pretty thoroughly in recent speeches. I’d like to assert, though, that if we diverted a fraction of subsidies handed out to big agriculture for this purpose we would have a better idea of what a more sustainable food system might look like and whether it would improve both working conditions for farm workers and access to healthy food for all.

Better late than never

Out of Reach (Dec 2-8, 2009) SF Bay Guardian.

I meant to post a link to this article when it came out about two weeks ago and well…forgot.  It is a really well-written article that highlights a really big concern with the food movement world-wide; how do we make good food accessible to everyone?  Amyitis’ initial mission was to provide produce to Boogaloos restaurant as a reaction to this very issue.  I thought, “get a restaurant employee (me) to grow local organic produce for a greasy-spoon style diner= affordable prices for priceless food, violla!”  Well, for those that have been following our story here at Amyitis, you know that, while we made some waves, nothing quite worked out as planned.

Streams of resistance from many points on high lead us into the heart of this quandary when we started growing for The Corner.  We started out aiming to make healthy food cheap and accessible as we thought possible (and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but even eating out at a diner isn’t cheap anymore) but instead ended up growing exclusively for the most upscale restaurant in our fleet.  Why?  Well, for so many reasons, not the least of which being, menu, client volume, and product consistency, the upper-crust Corner was the only establishment truly equipped to handle the produce.  We were well-intentioned but foiled.  Why?  Frankly, the roots of the issue go deep and touch on many different sources.  The blogging world nor I are prepared (or even interested) in the type of diatribe I could go on about food, accessibility, and equal share to all parties concerned.  For the record however I will suggest that the heart of this issue is that our cultural movement around food has caused us to open our hearts and minds but not always our wallets.  Though a generalization, it is clear that developed nations (primarily the US) don’t value the true cost of our food, that which sustains us.  Why, I ask, do we live in such a way where being a farmer is a dead-end job?  Better yet, how do we change that?  If we all understood and supported with our mouths and our wallets the true costs of food, what would our world look like?  What would our schools look like? I want to live in a world where the local hero is the woman who grows my tomatoes and our national heros are the suits who are figuring out how to make access to good food the rule not the exception.  Here at Amyitis, we are scheming for ways to bring fresh food to people who need it and pay our rent at the same time.  While we don’t have all of the answers, we know the issues.  Maybe with your help we can all make some headway.  Read the above article and make some waves with us.

Happy eating,

-David

Class act.

Now I plant more Fava beans and use more mulch. Find out why

For those of you that enjoy my blogging voice, I apologize for its absence.  It has been a small while since I have posted.  And as you may already know, my good friend Katie has graciously taken the helm in my stead.  But, it is my “stead” that compels me to write to you now. The subject at hand is one of drastic importance for me and for all of us.  If you are not interested yet, keep reading anyway.

The reason for my sparse blog presence has mostly because I have been immersed in my recent permaculture class with Permaculture SF. It is not for the fact that the class kept me too busy to blog, but more that I was (and still am) completely inspired and changed by this class, its teachers, and my fellow students; so much so that I have since dedicated my time, thought and effort to the principles and practices I gathered there.  In fact, with no offense intended toward my favorite UVM professors, I feel downright comfortable saying that it may be the single most rewarding class I have ever taken to date.

A good class doesn’t just transmit information, it changes the way you think.  While I am tempted here (with all of this empty white blog space beneath me) to convey some of the specific lessons from my experience, I would rather say that this class and my cohort transformed the way I see my environment, my world, and my community.  And now I see that this new lense as the most valuable tool I walked away with.  I now look at Amyitis differently.  I see our mission, my mission, as transmogrified.  You see, permaculture is not simply about learning techniques and strategies but about, what my teachers David Cody and Kevin Bayuk like to say, “overstanding” the issue.  To translate, to overstand is to interpret the whole system, understand more deeply.

I learned that, Amyitis has been utilizing some permaculture strategy since its inception, but its scope has maybe been too narrow, its berth too wide.  What I write now is to urge anyone and everyone to take a permaculture design certification class in your neighborhood or city.  If you are an engineer, a foodie, a home gardener, or even business strategist, this class will change your life.  If you are luck enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can be lucky enough to take a course with Kevin and David, HERE. They also have a blog you can follow if you like.  Don’t waste any time.  The Spring PDC starts January 13th 2009 in Potrero Hill.

Hey you may find yourself in a picture like this one, smiling your little face off.

 

2009 Fall Urban PDC Graduates.

-David

 

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Say Hello on Saturday

twitterbanner#1Join us for ARTasting 2009! Saturday, November 7th, 9pm – 2am

Amyitis will be participating in this event with giveaways worth up to $200.  Come check out our display and raise money for a good cause.  Details below:

“ARTDEEZINE IS HOSTING ITS FOURTH ANNUAL ARTASTING PARTY AND 2010 CALENDAR RELEASE PARTY ON SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2009 AT 111 MINNA GALLERY IN SAN FRANCISCO.12 SAN FRANCISCO NEIGHBORHOODS HAVE BEEN FEATURED IN A 2010 CALENDAR CREATED BY LOCAL ARTISTS. THE ART FEATURED IN THE CALENDAR WILL BE SHOWCASED AT THE EVENT AND THE CALENDAR WILL BE FOR SALE FOR THE FIRST TIME AT THE EVENT FOR $12. PROCEEDS FROM THE CALENDAR WILL BENEFIT SLOW FOOD SF AND WOMEN’S INITIATIVE.

YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS EXCITING COMMUNITY DRIVEN EVENT IN SUPPORT OF LOCAL ART AND BUSINESS AND IN CELEBRATION OF OUR BEAUTIFUL CITY THAT INSPIRES ARTISTS OF ALL MEDIUMS TO CREATE ART EVERYDAY.

EVENT HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
– AFFORDABLE ART AND PRINTS FOR SALE BY LOCAL ARTISTS
– FOOD DEMONSTRATIONS
– ARTS & CRAFT DEMONSTRATIONS
– LIVE MUSIC BY DJ HUNGR AND HIS STARVIN’ FOR BEATS CREW, THE CHRIS SULLIVAN TRIO, AND HEADLINING SISTAS IN THE PIT

TICKETS ARE $15 IN ADVANCE AND $25 AT THE DOOR. TO PURCHASE TICKETS, GO TO:WWW.BROWNPAPERTICKETS.COM/EVENT/83035. EMAIL QUESTIONS TO INFO@ARTDEEZINE.COM.

IF YOU HAVE EVENTS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE AMYITIS TO PARTICIPATE IN OR HOST PLEASE CONTACT US:

AMYITISGARDENS@GMAIL.COM

415-602-2696

THANKS,

THE AMYITIS TEAM.

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A little bird told me…….

davidworms

“We’re not just farming veggies, we’re farming a community” is my latest catch phrase.  It’s true, nothing fosters a greater sense of gratitude within me than getting to work with the land and the people who are connected to it.  Each day that we at Amyitis move forward through the seasons, we’re connecting with more and more people eager to share the experience, knowledge, and passion that comes with working with food and community.  And, this week has been no exception.  We’ve seen such a dramatic and beautiful response to this Huffington Post contest.  Amyitis would like to send out a huge thank you to everyone who’s been voting for us and to all of the contestants who are participating.  Our fellow contestants are our nation-wide heroes; what a fun way to share information about our National Farming Community! We have no idea when HP plans to close the contest so you might as well keep on voting for us. Help us spread the national word about SF backyard farming!

Prep School

IMG_0850 While I’ll never stop missing Vermont Fall trees, smells, and colors, I have come to appreciate what the Northern California Coast has to offer in terms of its relative seasons.  There is just enough of a fall feeling in the air to keep me going at this time of year.  The air is crisper, the sun lower, the dreamy light more dreamy, and the tasks around winter preparations are….well…similar.  This past Wednesday we had a couple of volunteers at the gardens helping us with our garlic planting.  For those that don’t know, garlic is often planted in the fall to “over-winter” like many spring bulbs.  It is then allowed to grow usually through July in most cases when it is harvested and “cured” for several weeks before processing.  In our case, because of our backyard city scale we’ll likely not allow 80% of our garlic to mature.  We’ll harvest a great deal of it in the spring and sell it as green garlic.  Green garlic has an earthy, hearty flavor that is coveted by chefs everywhere.  It works for us too because it frees up some much-needed space for spring planting.  IMG_0854IMG_0852 While we were on a roll, we took some time to re-mineralize the soil that’s served us so well all summer long.  With some rock dust from a local quarry, volunteer Stephanie Haney adds a light coating of essential minerals to fortify our soil and prepare for some winter planting.

In Other News.

We have an upcoming event on November 7th here at the 111 Minna Gallery in SOMA.  We’re happy to be a part of an event supporting Slow Food SF and the women’s Initiative.  We’ll be there with bells on giving away free seeds and a raffle prize worth over $100 dollars! For more info go to our events page and mark your calendar. Also, our fans can now follow us on Twitter.  Catch updates, news, and the latest blog posts with our tweets. Simply go to http://twitter.com/amyitisgardens. and follow us!

Happy Farming,

David

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