Argonne Community Garden’s Ed Dierauf offers his narrative history of Alemany Farm from 1994-2005

The Alemany/St. Mary’s Urban farm is on a large four-acre open space shared by two City departments in San Francisco. They are the Department of Recreation and Parks (Park/Rec) which owns St. Mary’s Park, and the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA), which owns the Alemany Housing Project. The farm is on adjacent parts of both of these properties and borders Alemany Boulevard.

Prior to 1994, the land was untended and used as a dumpsite. The San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG) then began a community-farming project that paid interns to develop a farm that grew a variety of crops and flowers. Initial funding and support came from both the SFHA and City College of San Francisco.

A Youth Garden Internship (YGI) came into existence that employed 50 to 70 teenagers each summer. They were paid a wage and worked 20 to 35 hours a week. Activities included preparing the land for farming, constructing a community garden for Alemany tenants, planting an orchard, constructing a greenhouse, restoring native habitat, building a wetland and a pond, bee-keeping, fruit tree care, and composting. They grew vegetables and flowers for distribution to the surrounding community. Crews of 6 to 8 teenagers did the work, supervised by SLUG staff.

Funding came from a variety of sources including the Mayor’s Office of Community Development (MOCD), Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth, and Their Families (MOCYF), Neighborhood Beautification Fund, Education Foundation of America, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Park/Rec, and SFHA.

A graduation occurred at the end of each summer’s work, attended by parents and City dignitaries including Mayors Frank Jordan and Willie Brown.

The Farm operated for six years but came to a sudden close after the summer of 2000. Rumor has it that SLUG missed the deadline for submitting a 2001 grand proposal. In any event, SLUG crashed in 2002 because of financial mismanagement and entanglement in City politics.

The Farm lay idle after this although some SLUG volunteers worked to save the fruit trees and perform other emergency tasks.

At the start of 2005, a group of gardener volunteers started showing up on Sundays to weed, prune, and revitalize the Farm. They later became known as the “Guerilla Gardeners.” They grew vegetables and fruit, distributing the harvest to the local community, and involving them whenever possible. They are currently launching the Alemany Farm Project, seeking to move beyond backyard and community gardens and farm on a near-commercial scale. Goals include integrating the farm into the surrounding communities, increasing community self-reliance by bringing urban people into closer contact with food sources, growing food for community organizations and people working on the farm, educating themselves and others about farming and food systems, and encouraging broad participation in a way that is accessible, empowering and sustainable for all involved.

–Edward Dierauf, A Brief History of the Alemany/St. Mary’s Urban Farm 1994-2005, October 30, 2005