My kiddo has been participating in an after school program at Hayes Valley Farm. What was once a freeway on-ramp and off-ramp has been transformed, thanks to the work of many hard-working volunteers (including child labor, yeah!) into an urban farm. It’s located between 37.775443,-122.425311&sspn=0.001917,0.004018&ie=UTF8&hq=Hayes+Valley+Farm,&hnear=450+Laguna+St,+San+Francisco,+California+94102&t=h&ll=37.775159,-122.425209&spn=0.002031,0.003017&z=19">Oak and Fell streets between Laguna and Octavia. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to join the after school program for an end of semester celebration.
I got a tour of the farm, and learned all about the way they have built up soil on what was once a big concrete ramp. When the farm took over the site, in addition to the concrete and concerns about the amount of lead in the soil, there was a lot of very invasive-and-hard-to-kill ivy all over the place. The solution was to flatten cardboard boxes, and cover them with new dirt. The buried cardboard will eventually decompose and become a part of the soil at Hayes Valley Farm. In addition, it adds distance between root systems and the dirt with higher levels of lead.
I was talking to one of the soils experts who explained that the reason for the cardboard mulching at Hayes Valley Farm had much more to do with killing off the invasive ivy plants than it did to do with concerns about heavy metals (contrary to what a parent had told me at a school social function. See, proof parents are wrong as often as possible!). The soils expert also confirmed what I had thought, which is that very few plants absorb lead as a nutrient, and those that do tend to concentrate it in their root system.
When touring the farm, my kiddo showed me lots of fava beans (one of the first things they plant, it helps return nitrogen to the soil – but all I could think of was Hanibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs), as well as squash, corn, strawberries, mushrooms, and more. There is also compost being made onsite, as well as bee hives. We actually got to help plant someÂ broccoli, spinach and fennel seedlings that the kids had started in the greenhouse at the beginning of their Hayes Valley Farm experience.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience, from seeing city kids that were connected to and excited about nature to meeting all of the incredibly energetic and smart volunteers. Plus, there was some guy farming in a terry-cloth bathrobe with a name tag of “Old Elm” – I mean, hello, is this a San Francisco farming experience or what?
If you are interested in farming at Hayes Valley Farm in Hayes Valley, both Thursday and Sunday afternoons are open volunteer hours. Check their website for additional details about how you can get involved!