Maybe the best kept secret at GFE is our Harvest Program. Every Saturday morning, a small band of dedicated volunteers harvests fruits and vegetables from all over the garden, makes a beautiful bouquet and an herb bundle, and packs everything into a spicy fragrant box of freshness. Our much-loved Food Runners volunteer comes before lunch to pick up the box (and trailing blossoms) and drive it over to a shelter for homeless and at-risk youth (part of Larkin Street Youth Services). There, the kids and staff unpack the box, read the newsletter, hang the herbs to dry, and cook the veggies. They empty out their old bouquet from last week, and fill their vase with fresh flowers. So far, we have delivered over 400lbs. of food through this program.
Our harvest program is a powerful example of a win/win situation for urban agriculture. Everyone who touches that box in the course of a Saturday is inspired, and benefits from the wake-up for all the senses that comes from handling truly fresh and fragrant food and flowers.
We, on the other hand, benefit from the food production laboratory. We are now in the second year of production, and we have learned a lot about what we can reliably harvest year-round. Although we do take a break over the winter holidays, we can pretty much count on having cooking greens, like kale and Swiss chard, in every box all year. Salad greens, both whole lettuce heads and mixed baby salad greens, scallions and radishes go in the box all year long, as do some kind of legume. Our climate allows fava tops in winter, then favas and peas in spring, beans in summer, and peas again in the fall. This year we hope to expand our potato production, another crop that can be harvested virtually year round in our mild climate. Many other fruits and vegetables go in the box seasonally, everything from A to Z, artichokes to zucchini.
Now that our best kept secret is out, how can you get involved?
First and foremost, you can participate any week just by showing up in the garden on Saturday morning and joining the harvest crew. You can learn a lot about succession planting and year-round food growing specifically for Bay Area climates just by participating. Our staff, volunteers, and interns all love to talk and teach while we work.