I live in Hayes Valley and there has been a transformation a few blocks down from where I live. The square surrounded by the streets of Oak, Octavia, Fell and Laguna used to be an ugly site. It has been a closed overpass since traffic was diverted to Octavia Boulevard. Now, Hayes Valley Farm blooms in this once abandoned concrete space – it is a 2.2 acre non-profit community run farm and urban agriculture education and research project that was given funding by the city and the San Francisco Parks Trust. It opened its gates to the community on January 24, 2010. It is open to the public and volunteers on Thursdays and Sundays.
The mission of Hayes Valley Farm, as stated on their website, “is to serve as a community and agricultural hub encouraging San Francisco residents to connect with one another, grow their own food, and learn about sustainable ecological systems.” Using a system of permaculture, the farm uses strategies for urban farming such as “using minimal inputs, upcycling local waste, replenishing the landscape, and maximizing community involvement and resources.” For example, the first thing done at the farm was to revitalize the soil through sheet mulching. “Sheet-mulching is a technique to build new, fertile soil. Cardboard is laid down to cover ivy and weeds and suppress their growth. It also prevents soil disturbance, absorbs water, and retains moisture”. After the cardboard is laid down, volunteers and farm staff add layers of manure and mulch three to four feet deep. Fava beans and clover are then planted to fix nitrogren in the soil which in turn balances out the carbon rich cardboard and mulch. The manure and mulch then transform into new rich soil that breaks down the cardboard.
Planting the Fava bean and clovers waere just the first step in the growing cycle at Hayes Valley Farm. Now produce such as squash, leafy greens, potatoes, and herbs are being grown. All the varieties of produce being planted grow well is San Francisco’s cool coastal climate.
As a community organization, Hayes Valley Farm is asking the community for support. Their starting grant and funding has gotten them this far but they are now trying to raise $20,600 by Sunday, November 14 as a party of a Kickstarter campaign. They have already raised $12,112. Money for the campaign goes to the following: bringing in urban kids for the day to the farm to learn where there food is coming from and introduce them to organic produce, pay for volunteer coordinators that facilitate between 50 to 100 community volunteers, and purchasing needed material and supplies for maintaining the farm.
Since opening the gates, volunteers and community participants have volunteered over 16,000 hours and 800 cubic yards of organic material and 88,000 pounds of cardboard has been diverted from landfill and instead been transformed into fertile soil in a beautiful farm in the middle of San Francisco. If you would like to keep this wonderful farm going you can make a donation on their website or learn about how to get involved by visiting www.hayesvalleyfarm.com/visit.html.