Tag Archive | Baltimore Free Farm

The First Policy – Expulsion

One of the most exciting about working on the Point A project is that we get to work with lots of different communities.  Several of these communities are young, so unlike the places i live (Twin Oaks and Acorn), they don’t have a long history and well established culture of how to handle tricky situations.  Also, a number of these places are anarchist identified, so they often think that they don’t need policies or pre-existing agreements.  They think they will just figure out what they need to do when it comes up. This is naive. Trick_or_Treaty There are a handful of completely predictable community crises in which a relatively small amount of work in advance can save you tremendous heartache and damage.  And, in the case of how to manage the expulsion of a member, if you don’t design the policy/agreements before you need it, your entire community can fail the first time you have to decide if you are going to throw someone out.

Why?  Communities are not like jobs where you can relatively easily fire someone or lay them off (and even this is often not easy). Communities generally start with friends who have come together because they want to live together.  It is hard enough to create community so that these friends have to be fairly heavily invested in each other to be able to get the community off the ground in the first place.  Strong friendships and trust are the thing good communities are made of.  And when these break they don’t break evenly.

It never said

It never said, “Don’t eat the apples.”

Almost always, if something goes terribly wrong in a community and there is a need for some type of expulsion process, there are some people in the community who don’t want to lose their friend by throwing them out.  If the person that could be expelled has no friends or has done something so bad that no one wants them to stay, then that person generally recognizes that they have poisoned their relationship with the collective and no process is needed because often they just up and leave, before a process could start.

Even Acorn, which tries to avoid fixed policies as much as possible, takes on this problem with the ironically named “Peace and Love Accords“.  If you look at this anarchist policy (yes, this is not an oxymoron), you will find a lot of it has to do with protecting the rights of the focus person and making transitions smooth, even if there have been serious problems.  And as with all good anarchist policy, it gives the group the right to bail on the policy and do something different, if everyone agrees. The advantage of having this type of policy is that in the trickiest expulsion cases often not everyone agrees and then, rather than fight about what you should do, the policy creates an agreed upon fall back position which can keep the group from descending into chaos. When you are designing an expulsion process often you will want to figure out what appropriate grounds are for expulsion.

Can't we all just get along? Sometimes no.

Can’t we all just get along? Sometimes no.

Here is what Twin Oaks has decided are valid ground to consider expulsion: [Twin Oaks uses “co” as a gender neutral pronoun to replace “she or he”.]

Expulsion of a full member may, but need not, take place for any of the following reasons:

1. Co openly repudiates the principles of the Community and works against their implementation.

2. Co is found guilty by local, state, or federal authorities of some crime or misdemeanor and the Community therefore feels it is no longer appropriate for co to remain a member.

3. Co consistently does less than cos share of the Community work.

4. Co absents coself from the Community for more than three weeks beyond the point of legitimate vacation according to current Community policy or without having made satisfactory arrangements with the Community with regard to cos absence.

5. Co physically, sexually and/or mentally abuses another member or guest of the Community, or any child, by any aggressive action and/or words which the Community interprets as sufficiently serious and/or likely to be repeated to warrant expulsion. The application of the foregoing provision to abusive words is not intended to inhibit the free expression of information, opinion, belief or emotion. It is intended to apply when oral or written language is presented in a threatening, harassing, or violent manner such that it would be reasonably expected to cause physical, sexual or mental harm. Guidelines for Applying the Mental Abuse Provision of the Bylaws

6. Co repeatedly and/or flagrantly violates the equality principle by appropriating to cos use items (including but not limited to cash) intended for the use of the Community as a whole or property designated for other use; or co repeatedly or flagrantly steals property belonging to someone else;

7. Co is discovered to have made bad faith declarations of the extent or disposition of cos property when entering the Community or subsequently, or co grossly violates the Community Property Code (Article IV below) with regard to the disposition of said property or the disposition of any income co received while a member.

8. Co deliberately and overtly attempts to destroy or disband the Community by any legal, extralegal, or financial means or in any other manner, provided that this shall not be broadly interpreted to refer to the holding of disapproved opinions or to behavior which from time to time might be considered dangerous. It is intended to refer specifically to deliberately making trouble between the Community and civil authorities, involving the Community in a lawsuit, involving the Community in unauthorized financial obligations, and such similar hostile acts or attempted hostile acts. The above provisions shall not be taken as requiring the Community to expel a member, even for these reasons. The Community may, but need not, expel a member for any of the above reasons. The Community also has the option of substituting other remedies or sanctions.

Expulsion Mechanism. The procedure for expulsion shall be as follows: Expulsion may be proposed by any voting member. The Planners and/or such other body of members as the Planner may authorize either ad hoc or as a matter of policy, shall hold a public meeting or meetings on the proposed expulsion — provided, however, that at one meeting or another the member in question shall be given full opportunity to answer any accusations or to explain cos conduct or view and express cos desires concerning cos membership, if possible. If, after the member in question has been heard, the Community desires cos expulsion, if possible co shall be so informed, at which time co will normally be allowed at least three days before co is required to leave the Community premises. Extensions of this period may be made at the discretion of the Community.

So, if you have a new community, and you don’t have time to design your own expulsion policy, you could look at these, hack them up to make them fit your circumstances, and then make them yours until you have time to do it right.

The ass you save may be your own.

StrangeFolx: Infinite Pizza

Brittany ran to me as i was walking through the Ash Street gardens of the Baltimore Free Farm. She was clearly excited to see me.

“I am so glad there is an old person here now!” was the first thing she said to me

I cracked up laughing.  She explained that the party was full of 20 somethings and she thought my experience would be a grounding effect.  Most people don’t find me grounding, but i was still totally flattered.

Brittany dances with chicken at StrangeFolx 2015

Brittany dances with chicken at StrangeFolx 2015

Many folks say they are busy, but you make time for what is important to you.  I really wanted to go to StrangeFolx, the Baltimore Free Farms anniversary celebration.  I wanted to go because i had missed the protests that BFF had played an amazing supportive role in.  I wanted to go because i am regularly impressed with daring, tenacity and street smarts of these punks.  I wanted to go, because i wanted a big, political party that someone else had organized.

StrangeFolx Invitational Poster

StrangeFolx Invitational Poster

On the way to the event i stopped at a roadside stand and got a flat of strawberries.  I was handing them out to the perhaps 100 people who were already at this event by 1 PM.  I walked by Billy who was pumping out pizzas.

Over 100 oizzas came out of this oven that day

Over 100 pizzas came out of this oven that day

As i approached the oven, there was a metal stake sticking up in the middle of the steps which dozens of people would soon be walking.  “Fix that!” i barked at Billy pointing to the offending stake, in the way busy organizers sometimes dispense with pleasantries.  A nearby anarchist reminded me, “You could fix it.”  Billy soon put a purple cup over the stake and pronounced it fixed.  Safety isn’t first with this crowd, otherwise they would not be rioting with the police.

Billy suggested that i change my thinking about pizza.  Moving away from the idea that it would be a point in time in which one might have pizza, to more of a continuum or infinite span of pizza.  And he made quite good on his promise to deliver unending pizza.  Recently toughened up by the tremendous cooking effort done to support protesters of police violence in Baltimore, the Free Farm kids prepped for this 8 hour long anniversary party of a few hundred people.  GPaul asked for a vegan pizza, and in moments it was there.  The advantage of these real pizza ovens is they can cook a full pizza in just a couple of minutes.

A protester throws a tear gas canister back toward riot police after a 10 p.m. curfew went into effect in the wake of Monday's riots following the funeral for Freddie Gray,  in Baltimore. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A protester throws a tear gas canister back toward riot police after a 10 p.m. curfew went into effect in the wake of Monday’s riots following the funeral for Freddie Gray, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

When Billy finally took a break he greeted me warmly and gave me an illegal piece of riot swag.  I was touched and i looked at him curiously.  “We could not have done it without your cooks. It was amazing to have all this help and we desperately needed it.”  When Baltimore exploded, Billy called me.  He asked me to put out the call to Action: Baltimore needs cooks.  So i blogged about it, copied it to few facebook pages and crossed my fingers.   I got great reaction, with cooks responding to the blog post wanting to help.  Many had minor logistical problems (like little money and no car).  I cobbled together ride shares and other minor logistics, but folk were resourceful and wanted to get to Baltimore.  In the end about a dozen cooks ended up volunteering at BFF.  And i felt some pride around networking effectively.

But as though my ego were on some type of zen roller coaster, shortly after this i got schooled by Brittany on how unworkable my clever plans were to try to build coalitions with people of color (POC) activists.  She was clear and firm in telling me that the internship scheme i was proposing would not fly culturally.

Instead Brittany and Billy agreed that the best thing for white allies to do these days is be consistent in providing the type of food services for protesters that BFF and Food Not Bombs have been providing.  And be patient.

Call to Action – Cooks to Baltimore

Baltimore is on fire.

One less police car - Fire in Baltimore yesterday

One less police car – Fire in Baltimore yesterday

But it is not the flames of store fronts and rare police cars.  It is the anger of locals who have tried everything else.  There have been protests in Baltimore for months over police killings of unarmed black youth.  MLK would have been proud of the tireless efforts by local organizers to try to influence the behavior of the police, non-violently.

But with the recent death of Freddie Gray who was arrested for reasons unknown, had his back broken, was denied medical attention when he asked for it repeatedly and then died in police custody, have thrown the city of Baltimore into a crisis.  The important thing to realize, is that this is happening all the time across the US.  Unarmed, young blacks are being killed by the police on a nearly daily basis.  What is also important to understand is the US is unique in this behavior, basically every other country in the world is able to deal with their populations without requiring the police to kill their unarmed civilians.  Freddie Gray did not cause the riots in Baltimore.  The Baltimore police and the mayors office doing nothing for years about this problem caused these riots, Freddie’s death just sparked them.

It is easy to feel hopeless.  It is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do.  This is often the luxurious place of white privilege,  There are things you can do.  Very specifically, if you understand community, you can go to Baltimore and help cook for protesters.  The Baltimore Free Farm (one of the most incredible urban projects in the US ) has made a call to the communes for cooks, if you have ever lived in community or feel like you understand how community works/have strong social skills, you are welcome to help.

We got the following request from our dear friends at the Baltimore Free Farm​ (BFF).

1) There are major protests in Baltimore
2) BFF is feeding protesters and needs more cooks
3) The best cooks for them are people who understand community and are not randos
4) Cooking experience is good, and willing volunteers who are not cooks can be trained and are welcome

If there are Acorn or Twin Oaks cooks (or others community savvy folx) who are willing to go up, they need help immediately and are estimating they will for the next several days to a week.

BFF will house volunteers. If you are interested please contact Billy at BFF.

If your problem is how to get there, i will help you get there. Paxus@twinoaks.org

Almost all protesters are non-violent.  You can help them.

Almost all protesters are non-violent. You can help them.

We do Workshops

There are a bunch of new workshops (and some old standards) that i am doing these days.  I wanted to invite my blog readers to them.

We try to shake up the normal classroom style

We try to shake up the normal classroom style

Baltimore Free Farm Sunday Jan 11

With the Poly Winter Wonderland event at Abrahm’s Creek Jan 16 thru 21

Check out the rest of the program

BFF – Nothing Short of Amazing

Occasionally, some intellectually leaning person will try to make the case against hope.  They will tell you things are bad and that it is important to be realistic, and the cards are terribly stacked against us and you should not delude yourself, and you should prepare for things getting worse, and really this is the reasonable and prudent thing to do.  Nonsense, i say.

For if you were reasonable, you might well just give up on Baltimore. The city has seen a 30% decrease in population since 1950, collapse of infrastructure, a high violent crime level, a spike in heroin use, food deserts and more.  The folks at the Baltimore Free Farm (BFF) however are nothing like discouraged, taking every piece of abandoned property as they possibility can for a guerrilla urban garden or more.

Welcome Sign to the garden - classic anarchist suggestion

Welcome Sign to the garden – classic anarchist suggestion

When you arrive at the Ash Street community gardens you are met with the above sign.  It is the only “security” the garden has, asking people to be respectful and only to pick things if they have been involved in planting there.  Our enthusiastic tour guide Billy says it seems to work pretty well.

bounty of riches - mural beside the Free Farm gardens

Bounty of riches – mural beside the Free Farm gardens

The Free Farm gives away food it grows and recovers every Wednesday.  BFF also has a big warehouse, which it got control over when they agreed to fix the leaking roof.  Inside they also run a kitchen which supports the efforts of Food Not Bombs on Sundays.   So it is not just a “free farm” in name; in practice people are supplementing their diets with locally grown organic fruits and vegetables that they do not need to pay for. For the neighbors and for the economically disadvantaged, this is a significant direct improvement in their quality of life.

Radical Trust based Tool library

Radical Trust based Tool library

For me what makes the BFF crew so inspiring is their willingness to take risks.  The tool library is a classic example.  There are racks of shovels and leaf blowers and all manner of hand tools.  They are in a shed which is unlocked.  No librarian, but there are slips for people to sign out when they take things.  And they mostly do.  Billy tells me that they have lost very few items from the tool library.  And he tells me he has never paid for a tool in the library.  People give him shovels and other hand tools, and he often sharpens or fixes them and then they return to the public wealth.

One day someone will walk off with most of these tools and leave no note.  On that day i am confident the BFF folks will pull together some other tool donations, take some more risks and restart the library, perhaps after some cursing.

Rocket stove powered pizza oven.

Rocket stove fired pizza oven, Cooks a pizza in two minutes.

The above photo is a salvaged pizza oven which has been retrofitted with high temperature rocket stoves.  I am told by a mostly reliable source that they can get this oven hot enough to cook a pizza in 2 minutes – and it has that nice almost burned crispy bottom that so many people like.

What Billy points out is that if you know you are going to have a lot of people, due to this speed and the ability to cook multiple pizzas at once, you can feed a tremendous number of activists, musicians, volunteers, revolutionaries, traveling circus performers, homeless people or whoever else might be over that day for food.

Rabbits in their special house

Rabbits in their special house

BFF is not vegetarian.  They have chickens and meat rabbits (whom they also use the pelts from).  The structure of the rabbit hut is a mushroom shaped concrete hat which is on the ground and has fencing all around it, including underground so the rabbits don’t flee (or get attacked).  This concrete mushroom has holes in it so the rabbits can get under and burrow, but can’t go through the fencing under it.  The rabbits seem quite happy and they are quite large.

GPaul in the BFF salvage components greenhouse

GPaul in the BFF salvage components greenhouse

A huge fraction of the material infrastructure at BFF is salvaged materials.  The entire greenhouse GPaul is depicted in above is made from recovered materials.  Including all of this huge gauge plastic tubing that would not break short of a full on ice age.  It would cost a pretty penny to build this from materials purchased at a hardware store.  But the resourceful folks at BFF use their salvaging talents and patience in place of cold cash and the results are impressive.

The fancy dinner is another success story.  For the last 3 years they have had one large fundraising dinner per year called “the Fancy Dinner.”  They go out of their way to make nice food and purchasing organic, and from local sources as much as possible.  In past years they have used their own inputs as well as buying from health food stores.  The event now has something of a reputation and it has grown in both attendance and in the size of the meal.  This year Whole Foods approved their donation request and gave them $850 worth of food.

Fancy Dinner Poster outside BFF

Fancy Dinner Poster outside BFF

More comically, Billy and some of his comrades went bow hunting three times for deer so that they could have venison for the fancy dinner. They failed three times.

On the drive back after the last failed attempt, Billy pulled up next to a hunter with a pickup truck filled with deer he had recently killed. Billy rolled down his window and said “Can we have a deer?”  The hunter paused for a moment and said “sure,” then took the deer off his truck, called in the tag to the police so Billy could transport the deer body legally.

When Billy explained what they needed it for and tried to offer money to the hunter, he declined saying, “When you asked me if you could have a deer, I figured that you must have really needed one.” And thus there was venison at the Fancy Dinner as well.  This year they had 120 people buying sliding scale tickets between $25 and $50. That is a chunk of change for an event with very low costs and all volunteer labor.

These seedlings will be planted in the garden soon!

The Free Farmers are scrappy fundraisers. They have done two successful crowd sourcing projects. One to buy vacant land and one to repair the roof of the warehouse. They were both successful, and $12K went to purchase two small plots of land which are now urban gardens.

But these kids don’t always wait for money to move.  They will find abandoned vacant lots and start planting on them, even if they don’t own it.  Sometimes the land owner will come and tell them to leave and they may even lose some stuff.  But what happens almost all of the time, is that the land owner is happy to have someone maintaining the land in any capacity, because it reduces their costs.  Or they don’t care what happens to their land.

Some of the worst i have seen in the industrialized world

Some of the worst i have seen in the industrialized world

So you can sit with your intelligent hopeless friends and pontificate about the giant potholes and endless junkies of Baltimore.  Or you can pitch in at the Free Farm and actually build a better world.

Spring will come

Spring will come

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]