Navigating through the multitudes of tents, makeshift cabins, bike parts, and other forlorn goods on San Francisco sidewalks provides a brief snapshot into pervasive Bay Area homelessness. It is within this context that Farming Hope was born last June, the combined efforts of Stanford graduates Jamie Stark and Kevin Madrigal. They are a fiercely optimistic and passionate duo. Jamie helped found the El Salvador farm and homeless program that eventually became the original Farming Hope, while Kevin’s passions center around creating a more equitable food system.
A Bridge Out Of Homelessness
Farming Hope’s mission is to empower individuals out of homelessness through urban farming and cooking, “turning the soup kitchen on its head.” Their rationale is this: employ people to grow, cook, and serve food…instead of waiting in line. These individuals work in gardens and kitchens, fostering a sense of service and community while developing sustainable skills. To do this, Farming Hope partners with communities and local businesses to plant these gardens, educate on the use of produce, and host food events. They began hosting pop-up dinners in the home of a generous patron last summer, moving to a monthly series with Feastly in the fall. You can also find Farming Hope dishing out farm-to-table eats at the San Francisco’s Heart of the City farmers market every Wednesday afternoon.
At a past Farming Hope pop-up dinner, co-founder Kevin eloquently explained that “we work with food because it’s immediately enriching. When our participants are cooking and helping grow the food…it makes them feel needed again, and it reminds them of skills and abilities they may have forgotten they once had.” It is this notion that perhaps ranks highest on Farming Hope’s list of first-year achievements. Of their 15 employees, five have “graduated” on to full-time employment. One example is Helen, who went from being homeless herself to becoming a shelter shift supervisor. Others have remained with Farming Hope in peer-mentoring roles, like Phillip, featured in the photo above.
The Future of Farming Hope
Farming Hope aims to expand their influence through the creation of the San Francisco Roving Gardeners Team. This will include 10 new employees and 12 new gardens, upping the percentage of organization-grown produce used for pop-up dinners and at their farmer’s market lunch stand. To kick start this new venture and celebrate a year of accomplishments, they recently hosted a fundraiser fiesta in the Mission on July 30.
Through delicious cuisine from chefs across the city, interactive garden and food events, the sharing of success stories from the inaugural cohort, and a donation auction, Farming Hope raised over $48,000 (surpassing their original goal of $45,000) to further their cause. In addition, they’ve added a second weekly pop-up to their line-up! Every Thursday, Farming Hope will be dishing up seasonally-inspired quesadillas, daily soups, and freshly-brewed teas at The Hall on Market Street. Attend the grand opening on August 17! They’ll also be continuing their regular lineup of Feastly pop-ups, so keep an eye out for new menus and future dates!