On Friday, October 23rd, about twenty people convened at The Francisco Homes to join Richard and Erika from Alma Backyard Farms to plant the first seedlings in our community garden. It was a beautiful day on a number of levels.
Residents Hugh, Loi, Steven, Tony and many others put in hundreds of hours over the past three months with the design and working supervision of Alma transformed old weary turf into a delightful landscape of California native plants, succulents, fruit trees and a vegetable garden suitable for the most discerning chef at local cutting edge restaurants. “Richard and Erika are amazing”, exclaimed one of the residents. “They’re so knowledgeable and talented. They helped us so much.”
We planted lacinato kale, bright light chard, chioggia beets, bulls blood beets, graffiti cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cilantro and red onions in twelve 4’ x 12’raised beds.
Sister Teresa met Richard and Erika at a workshop and soon began to collaborate on our first project together. “We plan to work with Alma at our other homes as well. They communicate and work well with our residents,” said Sister Teresa. “Our upcoming women’s home has a large south facing backyard which we hope to transform this next year.”
When asked, Erika let us know the cilantro will be ready to pick soon while many of the other vegetables will be ready around Thanksgiving. What a feast that will be! Alma Backyard Farms is really a special organization. Their three tenets are to Re-claim lives of the formerly incarcerated, Re-purpose land into urban farms and Re-imagine community that supports reintegration. They also speak of a much deeper meaning within their work. Richard says, “Gardening is healing. It’s like personal transformation. You have to dig deep. The work is slow, it takes time and if you want to make any meaningful progress you have to get your hands dirty.