From Freeway to Food Forest
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on February 16th, 2010
From “Building a Farm Where a Freeway Used to Be“, by Matthew Roth
A few weeks ago in San Francisco, a number of urban farmers opened a gate in a chain-link fence at Laguna Street, between Oak and Fell Streets, and entered an overgrown lot that has been unused for nearly two decades. The farmers brought with them steaming piles of mulch, which they cast over the edge of the ramps formerly used by cars to enter and exit the elevated Central Freeway spur above Octavia Street, arranging the soil in rows for planting vegetables and filler crops. Since the Loma Prieta earthquake made the Central Freeway unsafe for travel, leading to its eventual removal and the re-design of Octavia Boulevard, those ramps have been one of the more poignant reminders of a distant vision of San Francisco, with freeways crisscrossing the urban environment, whisking motorists above the unfortunate city dwellers below.
The new Hayes Valley Farm (HVF) inverts the paradigm and reclaims the space for city dwellers, if only temporarily. “We call it ‘freeway to food forest,'” explained Chris Burley, Project Director for HVF and former organizer of My Farm. Burley was joined by nearly fifty volunteers at a HVF work party Sunday. “We’re trying to create a successful, sustainable urban farm in the heart of San Francisco.”
Burley and several other organizers were approached by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (MOEWD) last year with the idea to transform the unused lot into a farm. The HVF received a $50,000 grant from MOEWD for the first year of the project, money that comes from the operation of parking facilities along Octavia Boulevard. Burley expected to work the farm for between two and five years, depending on when the economy turns around and the land is developed.
Because the project is temporary, Burley said they are not planning to rip up the existing asphalt, which would cost thousands of dollars. Rather, the farmers will plant up to 150 fruit trees in pots that can be moved to other gardens or planted in back yards. Burley also said that in honor of the old Highway 101, they will be planting 101 beneficial plants among the fruit trees to help with pest control.
“A lot of our energy is being spent in creating things that can travel off-site,” said Burley. “This is more like a springboard for urban agriculture all over the city.”
Burley and other organizers hope to use the temporary farm as an educational resource and are developing a curriculum for schools that are interested in working at the facility. Currently, they are planning to collaborate with John Muir Elementary, the French-American School, and the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Parks Group.
Read the full article by Matthew Roth.