A (virtual) Gathering of Jewish Farmers
The small and mighty Jewish Farmer Network team is proud to present, Cultivating Culture, the virtual edition. Consider this your silver lining amidst an otherwise dark and uncertain winter. We are excited to be able to welcome hundreds of Jewish farmers from around the world to join us. Geographic stumbling blocks are nothing to us now; get ready to tune in from the comfort of your living room.
In order to reduce zoom fatigue, we gathered over the course of two consecutive Sundays: January 24th & 31st . These two Sundays straddle Tu B’Shvat, the “Birthday of the Trees” or “Jewish Earth Day.”
Sunday, January 24th Schedule & Descriptions
Sunday, January 31st Schedule & Descriptions
We gathered with over 320 Jewish farmers, farm educators, homesteaders, parents of farmers, home gardeners, academics, butchers, millers, seed keepers and other food system professionals.
We gathered to:
Continue nurturing the connections that have germinated in our community.
Offer brave, timely and relevant content at the intersection of Jewish wisdom, land stewardship and food justice.
Springboard our community into a conscious commitment to new and creative ways of applying shmitah in their work as modern farmers (the next shmitah year will begin in the fall of 2021).
Songful/embodied community morning practice
Diverse voices from our community sharing about all things Jewish agriculture
Curated “lunch dates” based on geography or interest
Intensive & accessible learning about shmitah
Panels on seeds and land justice
A virtual dance party
Small breakout rooms for reflection & connection
Sliding Scale Tickets
Folks were welcome to attend both days of Cultivating Culture for as little as $36! The full true cost of the conference that would enable us to pay our teachers and staff fairly is $180/person. Registrants have as generously as they were able which enabled us to continue offering these programs to everyone, regardless of finances. Thank you for supporting the education of our whole community!
We are committed to making all of our offerings financially accessible to EVERYONE. If If the cost of registration was still prohibitive, community members were offered free or further reduced tickets, no questions asked.
Teachers & Facilitators
Aaron Philmus is a synagogue rabbi, naturalist educator, and homesteader in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Living in front of the shul has enabled him to raise free range chickens and goats. In partnership with the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island he runs Jewish nature awareness and survival skills programs. Participants learn how shepherding and animal care was the original training ground for our ancestors to learn empathy, responsibility, spirituality, and wonder.
Abrah Zaltzberg-Drezdahl, M.A., is a visionary educator, curriculum designer, and consultant in social permaculture, prison food justice, and Jewish earth-based traditions. She serves as Permaculture Faculty at University of Massachusetts and Omega Institute. She is Director of Regenerate Change and author of the forthcoming book Regenerative Design for Changemakers. As a Jewish cultural artist at the intersection of land and justice, she works with communities to catalyze whole systems change.
Anika Rice is a researcher and educator, studying agrarian change, social movements and political ecology at University of Wisconsin Madison Geography. She works with farming communities affected by climate change and migration in rural Guatemala, and with Jewish food systems and farming education in the US. Anika loves weaving, foraging medicinal plants, the Jewish agricultural calendar, and backpacking.
Arielle is a founder and Executive Director of Ammud: the Jews of Color Torah Academy. She is an educator, performer, and lifetime learner. A former Fulbright research fellow, she received her MA in Religion at Columbia University. She has also taught at the Jewish singing retreat “Let My People Sing” and performs traditional and original Jewish music. More information about Ammud can be found at ammud.org, and music can be found at http://bit.ly/ariellekormanmusic.
Betsy & her husband co-own Seed & Soil, a farm enterprise that consults internationally to produce organic feminized cannabis seed. Samuelson established Common Soil Seed Library in Omaha, NE and has been active in creating the Community Seed Network. She helped draft and successfully lobbied to amend the Nebraska Seed Law and the Recommended Uniform State Seed Law allowing for noncommercial seed sharing. She also co-wrote a chapter in, Audio Recorders to Zucchini Seeds.
Caleb Peretz is a dairy farmer, milking the sacred Hindu breed called the Gir cow. After graduating from UC Davis with a degree in Plant Science, he has worked with many agriculture ventures across Sonoma County, including dairy farms, holistic grazing ranches, vegetable and berry farms, fruit orchards, cannabis gardens, permaculture landscaping firms, wineries/vineyards, and even as a hay deliverer for local feed stores.
Chana Rusanov is a post-Soviet, raised Orthodox farmer and educator who is part of the core team at Linke Fligl, a queer Jewish chicken farm and cultural organizing project based in the Hudson Valley. They have been tending land and thinking about diasporism with LF since spring 2018, following two seasons of farm apprenticeship with ADAMAH, a Jewish farming fellowship.
For almost 15 years, Chelsea experiences pleasure exploring and studying clinical plant medicine & community wellness. she is inspired by her ashkenazi ancestors, honeybees, the hebrew calendar, queerness, and deep healing for liberation. Her work combines formal education from many traditions including ayurveda, raja yoga, & she was a JOFEE fellow with hazon in 2019. Chelsea currently offers private consultations & herbal remedies for trans-, queer, poc, disabled, and low-income clients.
Cody Nicholson-Stratton is a 6th generation dairy farmer from Northern California, with a degree in Rangeland Ecology from Oregon State University. He spent time working for a multi-national niché meats and Agri-tourism company before returning to the family farm in 2014. He and his husband worked with the family to diversify the farm into a multi-species operation. In addition to producing organic milk for cheese, the farm raises grassfed lamb and beef, rare breed fiber, and pasture poultry.
Dor Haberer comes from a Moroccan, German, and Lithuanian Lineage. He was born in Israel-Palestine and grew up on a kibbutz for his few years there. Dor is a community weaver, soil builder, men's work facilitator, healer, and dreamer. He also creates containers for people to experience the magic of his ancestors, through the ritual of Shabbat, new moon ceremonies, and seasonal holidays. He wants to share the richness he has received from his ancestors with other communities.
Emet Vitale-Penniman is is a multiracial farmer, carpenter, and program leader at soul fire farm. He got an early start with growing and building, assisting his parents with CSA packing, youth programs, and house building. Now, he works on Soul Fire Farm’s Liberation on Land Video Series as well as works on the farm and assists with carpentry around Soul Fire.
finnigan (ze/hir) is a trans & queer reconstructionist jew from newark, de. hir day job is as an autistic self-advocate at spectrum scholars, a college-to-career program for autistic students at hir alma mater. in hir free time, ze nurtures and learns from plant relatives in hir garden. ze's led 'lev from the land' with linke fligl & kab shab with hir shul; hir aspirations are to become a rabbi and a gestational parent. ze has two cat-children, and hir name is legally all lowercase.
Frank Himmelstein is the owner and operator of Himmelstein Homestead Farm in Lebanon CT. It is the oldest active Jewish owned farm in the area being farmed continuously for 108 years. The farm was primarily a dairy farm from 1913 to 2004 but now grows organically grown vegetables and hay. Frank was an Extension Educator in the College of Agriculture at the Univ. of CT for 17 years. He has BS, MS and PhD degrees in plant and soil sciences from the Universities of CT and MA.
After serving as a congregational rabbi for 8 years, Justin left the rabbinate to pursue life as a farmer. Serving as scholar-in-residence at Yesod Farm+Kitchen, Justin continues to teach people of all ages on Jewish thought, culture, mysticism, and ancestral agricultural wisdom.
Ken Greene is founder of the first seed library in the United States, a project he germinated in Gardiner, NY. Greene and his partner Doug Muller grew the library into the Hudson Valley Seed Co., a national seed company and regional seed farm devoted to ethically producing seed for home gardeners and farmers and celebrating seeds through art. Today, Greene is the founder/director of Seedshed, a non-profit organization focused on seed justice.
La'akea is equal parts farmer and feeler. Born and raised on Maui to two curious scientists, their penchant for farming comes from an early indoctrination into awe and observation of the natural world. They've farmed in the Middle East, the South Pacific, and in North, Central and South America. La'akea sweatily engages in the praxis of farming as a means to hold community, feel present in their body, and to nourish as a means of greater liberation.
Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol farmer, author, mother, and food justice activist who has been tending the soil and organizing for an anti-racist food system for over 20 years. She currently serves as founding co-executive director of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, a people-of-color led project that works toward food and land justice. Her book is Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land.
Micha Chetrit (he/him) is a Mizrahi/Sephardi/Ashk Farmer with roots deeply planted in the Sonoran Desert. He is the descendant of three centuries of Moroccan Desert Jewish Farmers, and after a 70-year-desert-diaspora is not only the first of his family to return to living in the Desert, but also the first to return to farming in this environment. Micha is the Co-founder of the Tucson-based Farm & outdoor education initiative, The Midbar Project and is on the board of the Jewish Farmer Network.
These days Molly is dreaming towards faraway places and sifting through depths within herself. Located on unceded Tohono O'Odham land, Molly spends a lot of time learning from the resilience of the desert, hermiting in ever-evolving and weird ways, and playing with the power of a pause. Molly sustains herself by learning from people much younger than her and creating connection amongst people much older than her. Throughout all of this, she dances wildly in her body + mind.
Michael Fraade is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College and the Assistant Program Director at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education. After earning a BA in history from Yale University, he spent five years in the South working as the Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education Director at the Louisville, KY JCC and on a number of small farms. Michael has learned Torah at the Hadar Institute and the Drisha Institute and is also an alumnus of Hazon’s JOFEE Fellowship.
Born in Philadelphia, Nate graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in 2004. He has worked in a variety of jobs in politics and organizing, and has been involved in activist efforts ranging from the Sudan Freedom Walk to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter. He serves on the board of the Philadelphia Orchard Project and Grassroots Seed Network. He co-founded the Experimental Farm Network in 2013.
Neshima Vitale-Penniman is an Operations and Farming Assistant at Soul Fire. Having been part of Soul Fire’s evolution since she was small, her identity and sense of home are deeply intertwined with the land. Neshima’s contributions include carpentry, farming, graphic design, cooking, harp-playing, and dancing in the rain. After partaking in a year of exploration and transformation, she will be attending Brown University in the fall of 2021.
Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin has been working at the intersection of faith and sustainability for 15 years. She is the Director of the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights, an organization seeking to place the right to a healthy environment in the state constitution. She also co-authored with her husband the Conservative movement's teshuvah (responsum, legal paper) on the Jewish imperative of sustainability.
Ophir Haberer is a Jerusalem-born consultant, community builder, event organizer, facilitator of retreats & mens’ work, a culinary storyteller & (w)holistic chef, Esalen massage practitioner, and an Earth-based Judaism, farm/permaculture, and rites-of-passage educator. He and his brother have led courses/retreats in ReWilding Judaism and Judaism & Permaculture. He is an avid Jewish land tender, and has worked with Canticle Farm, Wilderness Torah and Urban Adamah.
Rachel is an artist, land tender, and spiritual teacher. Shes worked for Eden Village Camp, Urban Adamah, and Wilderness Torah. She now works with Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, evolving their work with Jewish communities confronting the climate crisis with spiritual courage. She was born and raised in a modern day shtetl in Chicago where she learned to fall in love with cycles of Jewish time and the deep wisdom embedded in Jewish practices. She curerently lives in Ashland Oregon.
Sam Panken is a vegetable and livestock farmer. After completing a degree in Art History and Queer Studies at Vassar College, Sam fell in love with the land and its creatures. They currently work with 2200 pastured laying hens at Off the Shelf Eggs in Mill River, MA. Sam also volunteers at Rolling Grocer 19, a fair-priced grocery store in Hudson, NY, and helps manage the Hudson Community Free Fridge Project. Sam is excited to pursue an herbalism apprenticeship in the Spring of 2021.
Sarah is a Brooklyn-based Jewish educator, ritualist, artist, activist, and poet. Currently, she serves as the program director of Romemu Yeshiva and the CEO of Shamir Collective. She teaches, writes, and consults on issues related to Jewish earth-based spiritual practice, farming, and mindfulness. Ordained as a Kohenet (Hebrew Priestess) in 2015, she is studying as a shamanic healer apprentice at The Wisdom School of S.O.P.H.I.A and Kabbalistic imaginal dream work at The School of Images.
Sarah is a first year Rabbinical student at Hebrew College. In 2017, the JOFEE fellowship brought her to the Pearlstone Center where she worked as a farm and forest educator for over three years. She has worked with people of all ages while cultivating a deep relationship to the land. Sarah has experience as a case manager, community educator, and community organizing around climate justice. In her free time Sarah enjoys singing in community and spending quality time with her bunny Rabbit Akiva.
Shamu Fenyvesi Sadeh is the co-founder and director of Adamah. He teaches Judaism and ecology, turns the compost piles, maintains the orchards, and supervises and mentors staff and Adamah Fellows. His wife Jaimie and kids Yonah, Ibby and Lev keep the bees, help harvest and pickle, and DJ staff dance parties.
Shani Mink is a seasoned farmer, experiential Jewish educator and the co-founder/executive director of the Jewish Farmer Network. At the age of 18, Shani began her farming journey at Even’ Star Organic Farm and has since traveled up and down the east coast working as a farmer and farm based educator. Her work with the land has deepened her spiritual path, and the wisdom of the Jewish tradition has lent endless meaning and intention to her work as a farmer.
Raised in Seattle, WA in the 1980's where ecology was already in the water, Shauls' journey brought him to Israel in search of a Judaism connected to it's motherland and engaging today's challenges. Shaul received ordination and lead the Eco-Activist Beit Midrash, a program combining Jewish environmental learning and volunteering in the Israeli environmental movement from 2006-11. Today he lives with his wife and family in Tekoa and is co-director of the Israeli-Palestinian initiative, Roots.
Shoshana Mackay is a beekeeper, compostodian, farmer, and educator currently growing at Yesod Farm & Kitchen on Cherokee and Catawba land in Western NC. She's farmed in Northern & Southern California, Wisconsin, and Oregon. They also do live bee swarm rescue/removals and teach workshops on composting, gardening, and canning. She’s a co-founder of Queer Jewish Farmers, where she brings together her passions for queer community empowerment and personalized Jewish ritual.
Simcha Halpert-Hanson is a teacher, song-facilitator, drummer and ritual leader. Simcha has led tefillah workshops, klaf (holy parchment) production workshops, text study and facilitated rhythmic and songful prayer experiences in many communities across the Northeast. They're the founder of Avodas Lev Northampton and co-founder of Nishmat Shoom, TransHallel and Queer Jewish Farmers. Simcha is currently in their second year of rabbinical school at Hebrew College.
Sol Yael Weiss lives, prays and farms on Schaghticoke Mahican land as part of the core team at Linke Fligl, a queer Jewish chicken farm & cultural organizing project. They are a non-binary trans white Ashkenazi illustrator and organizational development nerd who facilitates communal experiences of liberatory Jewish ritual and anti-colonial land connection. Sol finds nourishment in catching songs, growing food and dreaming of a rematriated land-based collective future.
Suzanna & Stephen Goldblatt Clark arrived in Vermont with their three children in February of 2020 to begin a new venture as farm owners in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, on unceded Abenaki land. Suzanna manages the farm’s administrative end and as the only ranch hand, assists with day-to-day work as needed. Currently their focus is on raising lambs from Dorper x Katadhin ewes and seasonal contract grazing at solar sites in New England.
Yadidya is a shochet, poultry farmer, and teacher. Ten years ago, Yadidya decided to learn kosher slaughter so he could process his own naturally raised animals. After receiving certification, Yadidya worked in a kosher beef plant and studied humane animal handling. Today, Yadidya teaches about shechita and animal wellbeing, is starting Lev Farm, and serves as the Executive Director of The Good Shepherd Conservancy, a non-profit which advocates for the preservation of Standardbred poultry.
The goats of Ivy Rose Farm are jumping for joy at the chance to be a part of this year's conference. Ivy Rose Farm is located in Clermont, GA in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains. The farm is owned and run by Laura Labovitz and her husband Shawn Bernard. Growing up Laura always wanted to have a farm or ranch, and has now been farming for about 8 years. The farms main focus is raw goat milk and growing peppers for pepper jelly.
Am I Jewish “enough” to attend?
Yes!!! Jewish Farmer Network formed from the need and desire for a Jewish community that centers and uplifts Jewish agrarians, from every point of the kaleidoscope of Jewish (and agricultural!) identity, background, and experience. We are not gatekeepers or arbiters of who is Jewish. If you hold Jewish heritage or identity, you are welcome. If you come from a multi-tradition household/family, you are welcome. If you are a Jew-by-choice, you are welcome. If you have never stepped into a Jewish space before, you are especially welcome. Come as you are, as you are. We are thrilled to meet you, to learn from you, and to craft ever-more accessible spaces for learning and connection.
Do I need to be Jewish to attend?
No! Jewish Farmer Network holds spaces and programming that center Jewish agrarian wisdom, community and individuals – because that is who we are, and we are tending to our roots. If you do not hold Jewish heritage or identity but have a sincere and peaceful interest in the places where Judaism and agriculture meet, you are welcome. We encourage non-Jewish allies to honor that this is a Jewish-centered space by listening. If you feel the need to contribute, ask yourself first: what am I trying to accomplish? Am I centering myself in this conversation? Evangelizing, hate speech, and/or abuse of any kind by any participant will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to remove participants from the conference without refund.
Do I need to be a farmer to attend?
No! Farmers and agriculturalists of all kinds, at any stage of your journey (current, future, lapsed, retired, questioning) are welcome! Gardeners, seed keepers, shepherds, land stewards, landscapers, vintners, brewers, compost people, foragers, arborists, fermenters, herbalists, natural crafts makers, hydroponics people, aquaponics people, cooks, chefs, food system folks, lovers and eaters of food… if you are or are seeking to be in relationship with land and/or the abundance of the earth, we know there’s something for you here. Even if you’re just curious, you are welcome!
What if I can only come to one day of the conference?
Your conference ticket grants you access to both conference days. So cool! Show up for what works for you. We are unable to offer a further discounted rate for those who can only come for one day, but we hope you will join for as much of the conference as you are able. All sessions will be recorded, and we intend to share them with all participants. Please do not share your access information with a friend for the day you cannot attend. Every person must register separately.
What if I need financial support?
We believe in the education of our whole community, regardless of financial status. We embody that ethic by offering all our programming on a sliding scale. The true cost of this conference is $180/participant, which we are offering for as little as $36 – no questions asked. If $36 is beyond your capacity, WE STILL WANT YOU TO JOIN! Email JFN co-founder and board chair SJ Seldin at email@example.com with the subject “All of Us” for more information about free and reduced tickets.
Can I get a refund if I cannot attend?
We do not offer refunds, and all sales are final. Even if you cannot attend, we still need to pay our teachers and staff fairly for their time and brilliance. If a refund is the difference between financial hardship and financial ease, send an email to SJ Seldin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will sessions be recorded?
All sessions will be recorded, and we intend to share them with all participants. Even if you can’t attend all the sessions you want to live, you can still learn from them after!