Frequently Asked Questions

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Here’s where you come in.

You’ve been to the farm once, were there every week, or have just heard about it. This is still a project in the making. What seeds would you like to plant? What soil do you want to build? Who do you want to meet outdoors?

What was Hayes Valley Farm?

Hayes Valley Farm wasn’t exactly a farm. It was an urban commons, a food forest and a place to tend the wild. Hayes Valley Farm was a place to grow food, gather for events and share knowledge to facilitate ecological resilience.

 – Grow Food –
At Hayes Valley Farm we not only grew food for humans, we also grew food and habitat for animals. This is at the foundation of a viable commons. Commons and community have the same root words, and both mean “to share with.”

 – Gather for Events –
We had free events and classes most days of the week – from casual (yoga, compost flipping) to larger scale (Farm Film Night and Dusker).

 – Share Knowledge –
The knowledge shared at Hayes Valley Farm came in the form of classes, youth education, non-violent communication workshops, and ad hoc learning that happened whenever people got involved with a project on site. If you wanted to do a class, you could do a class; wanted to do a tour, you may have found yourself conducting your own inquiry-based tour!

Who were the key players in the farm? Can you tell me anything about the volunteers and their role.

Volunteers: thousands of volunteers throughout the 3-½ year project visited the space.  We had open volunteer days 3 days a week, plus the site was open for special events (Interdependence Day, Cardboard Tube Duel, 10/10/10 Day of Global Action, Farm Film night, Dusker) and classes (permaculture training, botany, herbal medicine, beekeeping).

Collaborative governance team: Janelle Fitzpatrick, Angela Goebel, Margaretha Haughwout, Zoey Kroll, Jessie Raeder, Jay Rosenberg, Ron Stanford. Alums: Lindsey Goldberg, Casey Gold, Cyndie Hoffman, Vanessa Roland, Natasha Blum, Meredith Buck, Rachel Buddeberg, Mark McQuillen.

More: photo gallery from various visiting photographers’.

What was the cost of establishing the farm and how did the farm sustain itself?

Hayes Valley Farm was primarily powered by people (tens of thousands of hours of people’s time and energy and enthusiasm), neighbors and community supporters, partners, allies.

Most material came from the urban waste stream (mulch, cardboard, plants, soil from Bayview Greenwaste, manure from the horse stables, local seed libraries, etc.) and locally donated resources.

We initiated the project with the help of a $50k grant from San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. After the first year, a $22k crowd-funded campaign helped us purchase seeds and support our large-scale events.

How was the management of the farm handled? 

We had a fluctuating number of project leaders that ran short term and long term projects. As long as a proposed project met the vision and mission of Hayes Valley Farm and could mesh with the existent current and ongoing projects, it was a go. An ongoing working group called the Energy Consortium tracked the flows of resources and energy for and between projects, and worked to make sure that everyone had what they needed to flourish.

Two core volunteers also worked the gate during volunteer days to greet new people and channel energy to the projects that needed help that day. Some ongoing projects included seeding in the greenhouse, harvesting greens, making soil and potting up seedlings. Learn more about the Hayes Valley Farm history, as told through articles in the press.

Would you say that Hayes Valley Farm was a success? What lessons were learned during the duration of the project?

One of the greatest signs that we were doing things right was seeing a pair of hawks, a keystone species, make their home on the site. Other signs came in the form of native butterflies, ladybugs and deep rich microbial rich soil. Also, many of us involved in the project formed deep relationships, to the people and organizations that passed through the site, and deepened our commitment to working with the environment, building partnerships, and growing community in the city.

The lessons we learned were large and small, and varied from learning what kinds of edibles, medicinals and beneficials grew well in the Hayes Valley microclimate in San Francisco to what kinds of governance structures work beyond the binary of public and private for an urban commons. We learned that alignment is more important than decision making, more important than power-over when it comes to restoring the ecosystem and renewing resources.

Can you describe more about the closing of the farm and how the space has changed since then?

Hayes Valley Farm was a 3.5 year interim use project. The vision was, from its inception, to demonstrate how to create soil and recharge the ecosystem in a brief amount of time so that hundreds — even thousands — of city residents would see what could be done and participate in the process. Challenges and joys came with interim use. Project participants have unique stories to tell of their experiences with the project and the transition off the site onto new soil and new projects.

Two parcels of land are associated with Hayes Valley Farm. “Parcel P” is now condominiums. “Parcel O,” is slated for low-income housing; that project has yet to begin.

See our Transition Statement.

Have a question about the Hayes Valley Farm project?

If you have a question or comment about the project, you can ask it here. We’ll try to respond as soon as we can. This is an all-volunteer project, and participants have transitioned into new projects, so it may take some extra time to respond.