Caitlyn Galloway, who runs Little City Gardens, the only commercial farm in San Francisco, has her dream job – at least for the time being.
“I wear a lot of hats. I notice that on a day-to-day basis. It feels like four different jobs,” said Galloway, recently leading a tour of the three-quarter acre flower, herb and vegetable farm on Cotter Street smack in the middle of the Mission Terrace residential neighborhood.
Being a farmer in a city involves more than digging in the dirt. Galloway stays busy bookkeeping, dealing with customers and volunteers, and doing community outreach.
“It’s valuable that people see tangible models of what urban farming looks like,” says Galloway, who started the for-profit farm in 2010 and now runs it with one other staffer and a handful of interns and volunteers.
The farm sells to restaurants including Bar Tartine, Tartine Bakery, Mission Pie, Outerlands and Californios. A pool of 20-30 committed customers also purchase from the farm on a regular basis in a community-supported-agriculture style program.
The farm’s most popular crops are the nearly two dozen organic greens, herbs and edible flowers comprising its specialty salad mix, including Swiss chard, cilantro, collards, arugula, kale, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme and salad burnet.
“It changes with each season,” Galloway says, offering a visitor a sample of society garlic, a flowering plant with a pungent, blade-like leaf that indeed tastes like garlic.
Turnips, radishes, beets, artichokes and onions also are grown.
Cut flowers, which “contribute to the bottom line,” says Galloway, are becoming a bigger part of the business. Dahlias are a significant crop for summer – while heat-loving tomatoes and peppers, popular with many home gardeners, are not.
Noting that Little City uses less water than similar green spaces of the same size, Galloway says the farm’s practices include mulching and drip irrigation, monitored by a meter installed on the property in 2012.
Folks in the surrounding area couldn’t be more supportive. Galloway says neighbor Bob Short helps shovel manure, and Rick Popko moved in across the street because the farm was there: “We are so walled in with buildings, houses crammed next to each other, buildings covered with spray paint, things that smell in The City… this is a nice respite. It’s so soothing, so calming,” he says.
Yet for Galloway, Little City’s biggest challenge is the “tone of uncertainty” about whether it will remain on Cotter Street. The land, once owned by condominium developers, currently belongs to Golden Bridges School, with whom the farm has a lease and a good working relationship, Galloway says.
Ideally, someday the farm will have a permanent location set up in a land trust, says Galloway, who admits, “We don’t know where we’re going to be a year from now.”
For more information about Little City Gardens, visit www.littlecitygardens.com.