The Future Action Reclamation Mob FAQs:
What is FARM?
FARM is an acronym for The Future Action Reclamation Mob. Over the years, the nation's funding to assist the homeless has plummeted. Many mental institutions in the 1980's closed due to a lack of funding. Migrant workers are considered "illegal," placing them into dangerous and vulnerable social and occupational situations. Environmental deregulation has increased. Corporate farming and agribusiness has all but killed the family farm, they receive the largest subsidy payments from our tax dollars, and they have created a market for genetically modified seeds—a short term and dangerous "solution" for increasing crop yield. FARM is a reaction to these events that affect us locally at CCA. Hooper Street has sporadically been "home" to transient populations (homeless and day laborers). The soil is contaminated with lead, yet the city continues to ignore it and to reject proposals for change. We are responding by building FARM.
Why are you doing this? What is it for?
For a long while, students have been watching Hooper Street and wondering what to do with it. Past efforts have resulted in very little actual change, for a variety of reasons. In an effort to appeal to the culture of participation, positivity, and progress, we are building this FARM as a symbol of needed change. We are overtly reacting to events and situations we believe are unjust. We are publicly and productively making our opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion and government policy—we're just doing it in a voice that feels right to us. Some are calling this "slow protest."
Is this a CCA-sponsored activity?
While CCA is extremely supportive of what we're trying to accomplish, they are not officially sponsoring this activity (institutionally or financially) at this time. CCA has offered great advice and they've pointed us toward excellent resources. Currently, we are an ad-hoc organization and all materials have been funded by soliticited or unsolicited donations. FARM is a 2009 recipient of the SF Parks Trust Innovator's Award.
Who can work on the FARM? Who can eat from the FARM?
Anyone can work and anyone can eat. We ask that you respect the FARM and protect it, as you might do in your own treasured garden. Land is precious in a crowded city like San Francisco. Please occupy public space before it is taken from you. Play, eat, and sit in the farm.
What are you planting?
The first planting area (closest to Eighth Street) is all herbs. The next planting area contains strawberries and will have blueberrys and raspberries soon. The third planting area will have lettuces and green leafy vegetables. Underneath the FARM and throughout the parkway strip, we will use species that pull lead from soil surrounding the FARM. This might include mushroom spores (mycelium), sunflowers, alfalfa, mustard, cilantro and some California grasses. The FARM will include species that will grow on a northwest facing side, require little water, and are wind tolerant. Please feel free to offer suggestions for planting. We are also looking for seed donations if you have a garden and harvest your own seeds.
Are you bioremediating? What's that?
We are bioremediating! That means we will be trying to fix the toxic soil that already exists, rather than digging it up and carting it off. There are plants that can "pull" the lead from the soil. Then we harvest those plants, send them to the incinerator, and we're left with the actual lead. We are keeping the lead—in a safe manner— as a visual manifestation of our progress. We will bioremediate while we plant the FARM above. This can happen simultaneously!
How toxic is the land on Hooper Street?
Hooper Street has low to medium levels of lead, but high enough that it can not be zoned as a children's playground, but it's safe for the "kids" at CCA (??) Fortunately or unfortunately, we don't play in that dirt parkway strip.
Can you eat from the FARM if the land is contaminated with lead?
Yes, the way we've designed the FARM is safe. We do not advise eating from lead contaminated land normally. Luckily the FARM is safe, as we will have a protective plastic layer between the remediation project and the sheet mulch that we add. Additionally, we are planting crops that grow UP (no root vegetables) and we will keep the ph levels high (acidic). We are in close advisement with the San Francisco Permaculture Guild, who farms toxic land often. For the lead to enter the plant, it would need to travel up (which is does not do on its own), break through the protecive layer, then it would need to travel another 18-24 inches to find roots of plants. The high Ph level keeps the roots of the crops from traveling down too far.
What is sheet mulching?
This is a method of permaculture gardening that serves to mimic a forest floor. There is a "lasagne" of layered goodness beginning with cardboard (acts as a sponge to hold water and mimics the fallen tree), compost, granite dust, mulch, and mycelleum (mushroom). These layered materials eventualy compress down and biodegrade to become new, rich soil.
What is the advantage of the large mounds?
This is a typical permaculture technique. There is a lot of material under each of the mounds (the sheet mulching). It also allows us to get more surface area, it looks pretty cool, and you won't put your back out when you're working because there's not lot of bending over.