Saturday, March 14, 2009

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, 


Monday, March 2, 2009

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? 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,