Caitlyn Galloway set out six years ago to prove urban farms can do more than unite neighborhoods. She wanted to show that a city garden could turn enough of a profit to sustain itself without fundraising or sponsorship.
“If farming is to be a permanent fixture in our city,” Galloway said, “then we really feel like coming up with a method in economic viability is very important.”
Galloway believes she has demonstrated such success with Little City Gardens at 203 Cotter St., where she earns enough selling the produce grown there to cover farming costs, as well as provide partial incomes for herself and another gardener.
But now the urban garden, which sells its produce to local restaurants like Tartine Bakery and Mission Pie, faces an uncertain future. Galloway’s one-year lease is expiring at the end of the month, and plans are in the works to build a private school on the narrow parcel. Starting in June, the farm will operate on a month-by-month basis until the property’s owner, Golden Bridges School, decides otherwise.
“I really do recognize that Golden Bridges, they are the property owners, they have every right,” Galloway said.
Meanwhile, neighbors plan to hold a demonstration on Saturday — independently of Galloway — calling for the school to make room in its design for the urban farm.
Golden Bridges School is at the tail-end of an environmental review of their proposed redesign for the site, said Jessie Elliot, a founder and administrative director of the school. Afterward, the project will head to the Planning Commission for approval.
“We have not issued any termination of the lease at all,” Elliot said, noting that they do not charge Little City Gardens to operate on the site. “We’re still trying to figure out what our timeline is.”
The school, which focuses on farming and outdoor education, hopes to partially open on the site as soon as next September before expanding from a K-2 into a K-8 as students grow older, Elliot said.
This year, families paid between $2,000 and $20,000 in student tuition depending on income, she said. The school currently operates out of two locations in The City.
Mission Terrace neighbors, however, are concerned about the potential traffic and noise that a new school would bring. They’re also worried that buildings would contribute to flooding in an area that is already inundated with water during heavy rains. The garden has reportedly helped absorb some of the rain to prevent flooding.
Golden Bridges replaced its first architect after neighbors levied this complaint, among other complaints, and have since proposed a design that covers campus roofs with greenery to absorb water, Elliot said.
Nancy Huff, who lives in the neighborhood, said noise could affect the more than 30 homes that border the garden when the the school opens.
“Everyone is pretty supportive of keeping the lot green,” Huff said. “If you take a drive through the neighborhood you’ll see a number of ‘save the farm’ signs in the neighborhood.”
David Hooper, head of the New Mission Terrace Improvement Association, said building a school there would take away a “major opportunity for education” for the neighborhood because Little City Gardens holds various community events and accepts gardening volunteers.
“It transformed that part of the neighborhood,” Hooper said. “Instead of people considering it to be a barrier, it became a unification.”
The last season has been particularly challenging for Galloway with her lease running out, since farming requires advance planning. Galloway won’t benefit from some produce she just planted for several months — if ever.
Yet Galloway’s fingers are still crossed for the future.
“I will continue to take care of this land as long as I’m able to,” she said.