Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The terrorists gathered in secrecy between an abandoned construction sight and an empty parking lot. Many looked over their shoulders in paranoid suspicion; we had to be alert.
We started with a quick discussion about our one and only goal, to disturb the peace of Stanford Campus by any means necessary, which could only be achieved in one: Seed Bombs. Only after we had covered every inch of earthen campus with the treacherous balls of life would we be satisfied.

Before we began we chanted in unison our motto.
“Sprout where you can and plant what you must. Society will be overgrown!”
And the preparations began. We filled our palms with wads of clay and spread them over our hands, then plunged our filthy fists into the bins dirt and compost, and poured their contents onto the center of our clay plates. With a dash of this seed and a sprinkle of that, the clay was sealed. No longer did we clutch dirt in our hands, no, these were bombs.

The seed bombs began to compile in a mountain in the sun until there were no supplies left. Soon Stanford campus would be under attack. The naïve students, having woken up that day under the impression that they would encounter the same landscaping they normally do, would find chaos broken out upon their sheltered lives. Seed bombs would rain down from the heavens in torrential downpours, and the sound of the cries and screams of students would be only surpassed by that of the cracking clay and laughing cackles of terrorizers themselves.

And the horror, the devastation, the terror that would spread over their faces as they witnessed that the bombs weren’t the attacks alone. No, oh no, there would be more. As time passed they would see, the bombs would grow. Oh how they would grow.

Poor Stanford campus. They never saw us coming.

The Free Farm Stand

“Where the hell did all these hipster come from?” I thought as I approached the Free Farm Stand. I had missed the class field trip to the stand a few weeks ago, so in order to make it up and see what all the fuss was about, I went myself. However, having been to the Julian pantry the day before, I was expecting a much different crowd. Instead of the eager older pack I had seen before, disgruntled hipsters starred at me through the lenses of their Ray Bans and creased brows. “Whatever,” I thought, “I guess everbody has a right to dank, fresh, local food.”

Another surprise was what the tables were stoked with. Right beside the piles of fresh organic produce we had helped grow only a few weeks before were heaps of just baked bread, and not just one kind but many.

“Hey tree, how can I help?” I asked. His blissful smile that faces every moment the world throws at him seemed to stare through me, a calm yet somehow outrageously excited, mouth-open grin that’s known just to him. I doubt he remembered who I was, yet he greeted me like an old friend and assigned me to the planter table.

The distribution began and those who had taken a ticket and gotten in line slowly proceeded down the series of tables, while those who had come later lounged in the sun pouring out onto the park. It was an undeniably jubilant scene, the receivers happiness only exceeded by the givers.

            Everyone was only supposed to receive a specific portion from each table, however, the growing plants that I were giving away weren’t very popular, so I handed them out freely. Most of my takers were unsupervised children, who would appear moments later, bashfully behind their parents who would hand me back the baby kale or chard. It was a noble effort, attempting to get people to grow some food themselves, but in a city with limited outdoor space and sunlight, it was futile for many.

            Later, after complaining about the excess of seemingly undeserving hipsters to my TA, I learned an important lesson. The free farm isn’t about giving to the needy or poor, but simply about giving. It’s a beautiful thing to share, but sharing can only be done honestly when everyone is placed on the same plane. Food justice can only be achieved when it is realized that everyone is equally deserving of healthy, fresh, and local food, and the free farm seeks to promote just such a community, where everyone is happy and eager to receive and give to each other without regard of their place or status in society. 

The Julian Pantry

While we entered the church that serves as the Julian Pantry at eight in the morning, a long line had already formed at its door. We entered through the back and found a beautiful sight. Light streamed through the towering windows from above, shining down onto the great circle of fresh produce and goods being laid out by volunteers.

 The church had been cleared, and in place of the benches were tables covered in food. There was more than just produce; one table contained a stack of cereal boxes, another was covered in salad dressing. Our sacks of fruit suddenly seemed much smaller.

There were many volunteers other than ourselves, and before the distribution began we organized ourselves in a large circle, the students between the volunteers so that everyone was next to a new friend.

I stood between two older Latino women, one of which whispered “esto es hermoso,” to the woman on my other side. The coordinator began to speak, explaining the plan and assigning positions. Each volunteer would work a stand, distributing its fruit evenly to everyone.

The circle broke and the non-volunteers had a few moments before the crowed came in to claim some produce for themselves. They filled their bags with happy enthusiasm, and clearly overjoyed with their efforts and compensation.

We took our places when they were done and the doors to the church were opened.

A massive line had assembled outside and it slowly began to file in.

 It moved much faster than we had suspected and the tables began to empty quickly, especially with the help of one very enthusiastic, yet quite small, celery distributor. 

Yet even with the speed of the distribution, almost everything lasted until the very last person in line, with only our rosemary and celery remaining after everyone had left, which were taken by some volunteers in the end.

All of the fruits of our gleaning had been claimed, along with the heaps the Julian Pantry had provided themselves. 

The Purge of the Persimmons

It was an ordinary morning. A light breeze rustled through campus, carrying the fallen autumn leaves past the unsuspecting doorsteps of the Iberian Studies Center and Hammarskjold. The ten o’clock student class rush had come and gone, and those who were awake were now busy trying to stay awake in class. Only moments ago they had strolled beneath the lush bulging canopy behind their houses, taking the dangling treasures above for granted, not even taking a second to glance upward.
            Needless to say, the time was ripe.
            A cloud poured over the sun and darkness fell over the Iberian Studies Center and Hammarskjold. A cold fog quietly flooded the block, enshrouding the houses in mystery and filling the spaces between the branches and trees.
            From no particular source, silent figures began to appear from every which way, hunched shapes little more than shadows. They carried with them sharp hooked claws on extended stakes and empty sacks hung from their shoulders. They wasted no time.
            Arms groped through the fog into the canopy, only reaching back to their source when their clammy fingers firmly groped the squishy golden and red sweetness above. The only sounds were the continuous snaps from above as persimmons and pomegranates were extracted from their nestled homes in the trees, the occasional cackle that wisped from beneath the downturned head of a mysterious gleaner, and the drip-drop of the thick pomegranate blood as it ran down their faces and arms and splashed on the pavement with jubilant gore.

            The trees spilled their riches and the sacks claimed what was lost until they bulged with fruity dankness. But not even the many fruits could satisfy the gleaners’ righteous greed. They crawled horribly to the front of the houses that stripped the branches of the rosemary growing there.
With nothing left but sullen lonely bushes and trees, the Iberian Studies Center and Hammarskjold began to notice something treacherous afoot. A nameless face was seen at one of the windows and its mouth dropped in horror, realizing what had been done, what had been stolen.
“Why?” it gasped.
The fog began to recede and the shadows with it. It was too late for the folk of the Iberian Studies Center and Hammarskjold. One gleaner turned in her retreat to answer, nothing more than a hunched silhouette.
“We are the gleaners of the greedy, and the givers to the poor! What’s grown but unenjoyed we shall purge!”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pomegranites, Apples, and Quinces, Oh My!

Last weeks glean was a quickie but a goodie.

The member turnout was sparse but more than enough, with most of our volunteers being freshmen. 

We headed off the Flo Mo apple tree first thing, while the other group hunted down some quince. 

The apples were crispy ripe and bountiful, leaping from the branches at the slightest nudge and waiting for us in heaps at the trunk of the tree. 

Although they were mostly small, they built up to a few hefty sacks in no time at all.

            Behind the grove we scavenged the fruits of a pomegranate tree that sagged under the weight of its bulging branches. 

We quickly filled some sacks, but in the meantime we couldn’t resist a sampling of the bloody fruit, and soon enough red splatters covered had stained our clothes while the gorey juices ran down our lips and forearms.

            For the lack of variety that we encountered, our final fruit count was enormous, and another fruitful glean behind us.