Neighbors, city employees and elected officials held a groundbreaking ceremony April 20 for a new large-scale community garden called “Sisterhood Farms.”
Many attendees had been part of three-year planning process since the idea was proposed by Peter Vaernet, a community activist and farm enthusiast who resides in Ocean View.
The name complements the community gardens location on a public plot of land on Brotherhood Way.
“It’s just a tremendous thing that our community has come together like this in all of its diversity to work on this garden and design this garden in a way that we’d like to see happen,” District Eleven Supervisor John Avalos said. “That’s a rare thing in San Francisco and it’s even rarer when it happens in this part of San Francisco.”
The idea for Sisterhood Farms came to Vaernet after it became clear that demand for land was surpassing the capacity of the planters at Brooks Park, a neighborhood garden he set up in 2004.
Vaernet was particularly interested in giving the residents of the apartments at Ocean View Village a place to farm. The city hired the Chinese Progressive Association to do outreach and translate for the monolingual Chinese residents who attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
Although he held a shovel at the ceremony, Vaernet has tried to be as hands off with the project as possible, passing most of the organizing to the supervisor and Public Works.
“I’m stepping back now, in the sense that I’m retiring, so we need to have people down here take ownership of [Sisterhood Farms],” Vaernet said.
Vaernet hopes that the farm will activate the neighborhood as community meeting space and provide a place to grow food in an area which has lacks access to a neighborhood grocery store.
“People on Arch Street say they don’t really feel welcome on Brotherhood Way, but once you develop it a bit it becomes a village meeting place,” Vaernet said
He added that he hopes the gardens will eventually spread all the way to the playground at Head Street.
The project will be funded by $150,000 allocated from the 2015-2016 budget and a $150,000 grant from the San Francisco Environment Fund.
After the groundbreaking, residents were invited to a planning event at the I.T. Bookman Center, one block north of the community gardens.
The planning session highlighted the next step in the community garden’s future—community construction and governance.
Public Works will first construct a concrete pathway flanked by several ADA accessible planter boxes and a stairway connecting Brotherhood Way to Ramsell Street. In June, the construction of additional planter boxes will be led by community members with assistance from city workers.