in the news
Ginsberg, Johanna. "Livingston native digs into Judaism’s roots." New Jersey Jewish News. July 1, 2020.
On a typical morning, Shani Mink wakes up at 7 a.m. and lets the chickens out of their coop, collects their eggs, and makes sure they have food and water. Then she works the fields of Yesod Farm+Kitchen in North Carolina harvesting, pruning, trellising, and weeding. She manages other projects on the grounds such as mowing, moving logs, and mulching.
By noon she’s ready to head inside for lunch before transitioning to office work for the Jewish Farmer Network, an organization she co-founded in 2017 and is now its executive director.
“Being a farmer is one of the most Jewish things you can do,” she told NJJN in a late June Zoom interview. “Before we were the People of the Book, we were the people of the land.”
Harris, Ben. "‘We’ve been milling our heads off’: For some small kosher food purveyors, the coronavirus era is boom time." Jewish Telegraphic Agency. June 8, 2020.
Like many small business owners, Ian Yosef Hertzmark’s small flour operation saw a precipitous drop when the coronavirus pandemic hit the Unites States in March.
Almost overnight, Hertzmark’s Migrash Farm, which produces certified kosher flour from grain grown in the Chesapeake Bay region, lost virtually his entire wholesale business after local restaurants and bakeries were shuttered by public health authorities.
But while many companies continue even now to suffer from dramatic drop-offs in business, Migrash Farm saw its fortunes rebound almost as quickly as they had sunk. By the middle of the month, the farm’s lost orders had been made up more than twofold as retail customers rushed to buy up dry goods wherever they could.
Kassutto, Maya. "Jewish Farmer Network Embraces Tradition." Jewish Exponent. May 26, 2020.
It seems like every family I know has a garden this year. Everyone and their mother (and maybe especially the mothers) is spending a portion of their days tilling their backyards and planting tomatoes.
There are a number of reasons for this mounting trend in a pandemic-swept country.
There is growing concern over the dissolution of supply chains, the desire to avoid the hazards of grocery shopping and the amount of time that many seem to have on their hands. It is a familiar phenomenon to those familiar with World War II victory gardens, when similar worries over food supply led many to plant their own vegetables for the first time.
While it may seem like an apocalyptic contingency plan, some argue that, for the Jews, turning to gardening is actually returning to gardening. As Shani Mink, executive director of the Jewish Farmer Network, put it, “Before we were the people of the book, we were the people of the land.”
Jewish Community Farming Field Building Initiative & the Jewish Farmer Network. "May All Who are Hungry Come and Eat: Jewish Community Farming in the Face of Coronavirus." eJewish Philanthropy. May 18, 2020.
Last month, most Jews were forced to grapple with how to celebrate Passover in a time of quarantine and lockdown. Our seders became virtual and more intimate, but the seder itself remained unchanged, as it has for generations. And in each home, we raised our matzah and declared: “Let all who are hungry come and eat!”
Burger, Beth. "Coronavirus: Ohio consumers seeking out locally grown produce." The Columbus Dispatch. May 17, 2020.
Local food producers are meeting a growing demand as consumers seek stable local food sources during the coronavirus pandemic.
Donohue, Mary. "Connecticut’s Jewish Farmers." Grating the Nutmeg. May 3, 2020.
Mary Donohue, Asst. Publisher of Connecticut Explored and co-author of the book A Life of the Land: Connecticut’s Jewish Farmers explores the story of Connecticut’s Jewish farmers in the last century. Surprised that there were Jewish farmers? Many people are but scores of newly arrived Jewish immigrants were assisted in making their lives in poultry and dairy farming throughout the state. Some farms developed into resorts catering to vacationing urbanites seeking a bigotry free relaxing vacation in the countryside.
Seldin-Cohen, Judy. "Farmer Daughter/Uptown Mother." Hadassah Magazine. May 2020.
The drive from my condo in uptown Charlotte, N.C., to my daughter’s rural community of Fairview takes less than three hours. Despite its geographic proximity, Sarah Julia’s farm feels like a foreign country. She intentionally lures bees and bugs to Yesod Farm+Kitchen to enrich the fertility of the land. I spray poison to ward those pests away from me and my home. I refer to the farm as her property. She says land is stewarded, not owned. I dream of her growing potatoes, tomatoes and onions. She, intent on repopulating native North Carolina flora, plants something called pawpaw trees that won’t yield fruit for years.
Crawford, Belle. "Tikkun Olam." J Voices. May 1, 2020.
Episode five of J Voices is dedicated to the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, and the efforts local Jewish community members are taking to help heal the natural environment through regenerative agriculture and environmental education. We hear from Sarah Julia Seldin and Justin Goldstein of Yesod Farm + Kitchen, and we talk to Jacqui Childs, garden specialist at the JCC's Shalom Children's Center. We also listen to music from local band, Mama Danger.
McKenzie, Jessica. "Here’s why CSAs were in trouble before the pandemic." The Counter. April 28, 2020.
Faced with an unparalleled number of options for purchasing local produce, CSA memberships have been declining for years.
There have never been more ways to get fresh produce sent to your home, from basic grocery delivery services; to “misfit” and “ugly” veggie startups; to bespoke, plant-based meal kits. But at the end of the day, what’s in a veggie box? Is it merely a collection of assorted produce, or is it a value system? Do you spend those dollars simply to fill your fridge, or are you also trying to support small farmers and local agriculture? Does it matter if the items are USDA-certified organic, or if some items are grown several states away?
Towers, Paula. "A roots experience: Australia’s first urban Jewish farm." Plus 61j. April 16, 2020.
THE MENORAH IS THOUGHT to be based on the ancient Jerusalem sage plant, which still grows in Israel and is believed to have been burnt as incense during religious ceremonies held at the First and Second Temples.
The payot (side curls of religious men or “corners of a beard”), which aren’t supposed to be shaven, are based on the tzitzit, attached to the four tallit corners.
And the tallit, in turn, is believed to be derived from the shape of a field and the ancient Torah principle of not reaping its corners (pe’ah) so the underprivileged can obtain food. This commandment is the basis of tzedaka (charity).
Rosenfeld, Arno. "Pushing 80, Mike Tabor is still pushing himself and the causes he believes in." Washington Jewish Week. April 2, 2020.
On the crumpled sheet of paper, a grayscale Mike Tabor looks away from the camera with a grimace. Through the graininess of the tiny photograph you can still make out his full beard and shock of white hair jutting out from under a baseball cap. The photo accompanies a dense block of text that starts: “Michael Tabor — Tireless activist, organic farmer, justice-seeker, husband, father. The ultimate pot-stirrer. A non-conformist.” But unlike most obituaries, this one is written in the present tense. And Tabor is seated at his dining table, looking at the sheet.
Harris, Ben. "Jewish farms are booming. Now the farmers want to grow their community." Jewish Telegraphic Agency. February 26, 2020.
REISTERSTOWN, Md. (JTA) — When Sarah Julia Seldin arrived at the main national gathering of Jewish foodies in 2016, she was disappointed to find no programming aimed specifically at people like her.
There were sessions on kosher cooking, Jewish food ethics and the realities of kosher animal slaughter. But there was little programming at the Hazon Food Conference specifically for those who devote their time and energy to actually growing food.
So Seldin, a farmer who runs Yesod Farm + Kitchen in Fairview, North Carolina, put out the word that she wanted to connect with other Jewish farmers. Some 13 people responded to the invite, including Shani Mink, who was then farming at the Pearlstone Jewish Retreat Center outside Baltimore.
Sherman, Pamela. "'Bob Steffen's' Hardneck Garlic: Try This Drought- and Flood-Tolerant Giant Variety for Changing Climates." Mother Earth News. February 8, 2020.
Floods, drought, ruined harvests--by now many of us have experienced these--and we hear it may get worse. In previous posts we’ve considered paths to resilience through soil health. But the missing piece in every resilient gardener’s toolbox is seed, locally adapted seed, as this story by farmer Betsy Samuelson explains so well.
Garlic isn’t typically grown from seed. It is grown by saving a few of the plumpest bulbs at harvest time, separating the bulbs into cloves, and planting those cloves the very same fall. Nonetheless, folks call it “seed garlic” and grow it each year to continue the existence of favored varieties.
Hackett, Laura. "Jewish Farmer Network cultivates ancient agricultural wisdom." Mountain Xpress. January 23, 2020.
Western North Carolina has long been home to thoughtfully designed, diverse agricultural systems. In the 1920s and ’30s, there was the Farmers Federation — an early pioneer of the cooperative farming system — which stimulated and accelerated farming success across the region. Then, after the historic decline of tobacco, along came a new wave of vegetable, mushroom, fruit and flower cultivation.
Stadlin, Yoni. "To Love Judaism, Be Jewish in Nature-Based Community." eJewish Philanthropy. January 15, 2020.
For thousands of years, the Jewish people didn’t have Jewish summer camps. We didn’t have Sunday school. We didn’t have day school. And yet, we transmitted our heritage, intact, from generation to generation.
What cultural elements were in place, in those times before modernity, that made it possible to so strongly maintain our tradition? Which of these elements can we best draw from now, in today’s increasingly complex world?
First, we lived directly off the land – we had an intimate, reciprocal relationship with our natural environment. Secondly, we lived in villages, in which each person was likely to feel a sense of purpose and role within the larger community.
Houston, Will. "West Marin Jews call for environmental vigilance." Marin Independent Journal. December 22, 2019.
This year’s Hanukkah celebration in West Marin contained many longstanding traditional Jewish practices and cuisine, but also integrated an awareness and response to a modern threat.
There were of course the traditional latkes, this time prepared with organically grown potatoes. Sweet and acidic pink lady and black twig apples were prepared into applesauce and served alongside a fresh, locally grown salad and produce grown by the Bolinas-based organic Star Route Farms.
It was the first Hanukkah celebration since the West Marin Jews organization joined 60 other Jewish communities nationwide in a pledge to incorporate environmentally sustainable practices into their faith and daily lives in effort to confront climate change.
Franklin, Chris. "Jews fled persecution to settle in this piece of N.J. Their story is being told again." NJ.com. November 10, 2019.
A small area of land in Cumberland County, just north of Vineland, doesn’t seem like much now. Passing by, you probably wouldn’t know it once housed a vital piece of American history known as the Alliance Colony, the first successful Jewish farming colony in the country.
Miller, Adrian. "Growing community: How Colorado religious leaders are farming food — and a new variety of faithful." The Colorado Sun. September 25, 2019.
Jewish and Christian congregations gather to eat supper together, feed immigrant and refugee communities and deliver nutrition to the needy
"I'm going to garden!” is not quite what one would expect to hear from a Yale Divinity School student mulling summer internship possibilities. Yet, instead of working in a traditional church setting, Jenna Van Donselaar, a bright and dedicated millennial, figured that working at The Table, an urban farm in Denver, would best further her spiritual growth. She’s definitely the envy of her friends at seminary who chose more conventional internships.
Kushins, Jodi. "The Land Over the Fence: How One New Yorker Moved to the Midwest and Built Her Urban Farm." Mother Earth News. September 16, 2019.
I spent the bulk of my childhood and young adult years in metro New York. The daughter of two hard-working physicians, I wasn’t born to be a farmer. And still, I’m sitting here today with dirt under my fingernails and a to-do list that includes water the seedbed, harvest tomatoes, and clean the coop.
In 2003, I moved to Columbus, Ohio, to attend graduate school at Ohio State University (OSU). OSU is so big it has its own zip code. So, while I never lived on campus, it was the center of my world. I didn’t consider myself a resident of the city as much as the university. All that changed when I graduated and decided to make Ohio my home.
Miles, Matt. "Small is Beautiful." Earth Island Journal. Autumn 2019.
SCOTT JOHNSON LIKES TO DO THINGS THE HARD WAY. Or so it might seem to the casual observer walking past the Low Technology Institute on this sunny afternoon in the historic village of Cooksville, Wisconsin. While we talk, he is mowing the front lawn with a scythe, circling a square, working from the outside in.
Johnson has the trim physique of someone well acquainted with physical labor. Long brown hair spills from underneath a straw hat, and his face is framed by a slightly shaggy beard. His eyes flicker with intensity as he talks. I notice a tendency in his speech to spiral out towards related ideas before circling back to the subject at hand. In Johnson’s world, as in nature, everything is connected. He thinks in systems, in loops, in circles.
Baldwin, Isabelle. "From Field to Vase: Local Flower Farms." Alexandria Living. August 31, 2019.
Wearing overalls and a tank top, Sid Egly greets me on his 1-acre flower farm in Poolesville, Maryland, his hair pulled back and wildflower tattoo on display.
Egly is the embodiment of a flower farmer — warm, observant, ready to get his hands dirty. He is one of a few Certified Naturally Grown, or CNG, farmers in Montgomery County. That means Egly's Gypsy Flower Farm specializes in growing unique and beautiful cut flowers without the use of pesticides or chemicals.
Farmers use pesticides to control weeds, insect infestation and diseases, which increase crop production, and, in turn, profits.
For organic growers, however, basing your garden on the theory that “nature knows best” has its advantages, too.
McRobbie, Josephine. "What Does It Mean To Be A Jewish Farmer?" Earth Eats. August 16, 2019.
Ten years ago, North Carolina native Meredith Cohen was working as a teacher. She was experiencing burnout, and wondering how to create a more sustainable life. She was starting to garden, and dabble in homesteading. Meredith was also longing for Jewish community, and was having a hard time figuring out how to find it. “And so when I discovered that Adamah existed, like when I first saw the words "Jewish farm" in the same place, it just sort of planted the seed in my head of like, that's where that's where I want to go, that’s what I want to do” she said.
Lobell, Kylie Ora. "Chabad Couple Runs the Kosher Farm on Maui." Jewish Journal. July 31, 2019.
Each day, after Rabbi Mendel and Rebbetzin Chani Zirkind wake up, they say their prayers, learn some Torah, meet with members of their community, and tend to the chickens, goats, ducks, sheep and geese on their farm — in Maui.
Mendel and Chani, who grew up in Israel and Southern California respectively, married two-and-a-half years ago. Five months after their wedding, they moved to Hawaii to fulfill Mendel’s lifelong goal to work on a farm.
“Since I was a kid, I always wanted to raise the food I was cooking,” he said. “I had this dream of living on a farm and raising my own chickens and sheep.”...
Through some connections in the Chabad world, the Zirkinds temporarily replaced the former Chabad emissaries living in Maui and took over the farm, simply called the Kosher Farm on Maui. Today, they have 1.5 acres of land filled with animals, mango groves, papaya and avocado trees, and banana plants. They provide private catering — Mendel is a shochet — and sell homemade apple and banana chips.
Bernstein, Jesse. "Jewish Farm School to Close." Jewish Exponent. July 11, 2019.
After nearly 14 years of operation, the Jewish Farm School, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching Jews and non-Jews alike about sustainability, farming skills and the importance of connection to land, all through a Jewish lens, will close this fall. The group announced the decision via its Facebook page.
“When Jewish Farm School launched in 2005, the idea of Jewish farm-based education was on the margins of the contemporary organized Jewish community,” read a statementposted on the organization’s website. “Today, that story has changed, as there are over 20 significant Jewish community farming organizations reaching tens of thousands of participants each year.”
Ettlinger, Rachel. "Goshen Farm’s matzo goes organic for Passover." Times Herald-Record. April 14, 2019.
"It’s one thing to be Kosher for Passover, but to be organic and Kosher for Passover?
The Yiddish Farm has both, in its Eretz Goshen Matzo Shumra.
“As a Jewish farmer, it makes sense to make a Jewish product, right?” Farm manager Yisroel Bass said. ”...It’s insane that this product even exists.”
The nonprofit farm and agricultural organization produces organic, Kosher for Passover matzo that’s available to order for the upcoming Jewish holiday through Mon. April 15.
From Goshen land (eretz), the cracker-like bread is watched, or “guarded,” (shumra) more closely than a typical matzo, from the planting of the crops, to the milling of the grains, to the baking.
Yiddish Farm’s matzo is made from wheat and spelt that is grown and milled on Bass’ family farm. Then a dough is made and baked at Monsey Matzah Bakery in Monroe…."
Blake, Ethan. "Could the Ancient Jewish Practice of Shmita Be a New Tool for Sustainable Ag?" Civil Eats. March 28, 2019.
"The practice of letting the land lie fallow after every six years of farming requires a complete reset in sustainable practices—and could gain traction as a way to combat climate change.
...Many farms leave portions of the land fallow for a season. But, says Lucy Zwigard, a farmer at Urban Adamah who has also practiced agroecology in France, “what sets Shmita apart from typical crop rotations is that it invites us to re-imagine our fundamental relationship with the land. Winter cover cropping and no-till farming, for instance, are still production-based and ‘business-as-usual.’ Shmita is a full-stop, reset, rethink of cultivation….”
Futterman, Allison. "Nati Passow: Combining Judaism and Food Justice." Jewish Journal. August 30, 2018.
"When you combine deep passion for environmental issues, agriculture and Judaism, you have Nati Passow. As the co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Jewish Farm School in Philadelphia, Passow works to be a force for positive change, based on Jewish agricultural and religious traditions. The Jewish Farm School uses Jewish history and traditions and applies them to the modern world.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in religion and environmental studies, Passow spoke with the Journal about why his passion for environmental food justice is an intrinsic part of Judaism…."
Lowitt, Bruce. "The Pomegranate: From the Promised Land to the Sunshine State." Jewish Press of Pinellas County. August 24, 2018.
"ZOLFO SPRINGS – There’s a bit of the Middle East here in the middle of Florida, where pomegranates – one of the seven fruits named in Deuteronomy as representing the bounty of Israel – grow in abundance.
It’s called Green Sea Farms, 31 acres, six devoted to 130 varieties of pomegranates, two more acres to a pomegranate nursery, some of the rest open to cattle they breed, chickens and vegetables. David and Cynthia Weinstein bought the property in 2004 after 25 years of living and working on boats and cruising the Caribbean, when St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands was their home port.
'We were in our 50s and didn’t know anything about land life, farming, anything,' David said. 'We bought a conversion van, lived in that and leased out the property to a farmer for cattle grazing while trying to decide what we could do with it. Animals? Solar? Windmills? Fruit trees? In 2011 we decided on pomegranates....'"
Hanoch, Vivian. "Got Chickens?" MyJewishDetroit.org. August 2018.
"Welcome to Farber Farm, celebrating our roots and inspiring kids to eat more veggies at Tamarack Camps.
Do you believe in miracles? Come, plant the seeds of change in the landscape of Camp Maas and watch it grow in 23 acres earmarked for development in the new Farber Farm.
A first of its kind in Michigan, Tamarack Camps’ Farber Farm is conceived as a model for educational farm-based programming for more than 1,000 campers during the summer months and up to 10,000 visitors each year. With an initial investment of $2 million in “seed” money from the Farber family, this project was launched and completed in time for Tamarack Camps’ first session of its 2018 season…."
Graham, Conner. "You Should Know…Shani Mink." Baltimore Jewish Times. May 24, 2018.
"For Shani Mink, love of Judaism and love of farming cannot be separated. Mink, a Baltimore City resident and farmer-educator at the Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown, first started working on a farm while a student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. In addition to farming throughout her undergrad, she received a permaculture design certificate from a farm in Israel, and now, back in the states, is putting it to use.
Mink is the co-founder of the Jewish Farmer Network, a group that aims to connect Jewish farmers in regions and countries around the world and provide WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) services for those that adhere to kashrut laws and observe Shabbat. Along with her work in agriculture, Mink is a Jewish educator in Baltimore City and hosts a monthly Rosh Chodesh event for women…"
Kay-Gross, Adina. "The Wow Metric of Success: Jewish Life Blooms on the Farm." The Covenant Foundation. May 10, 2018
"Spring has arrived, and the Jewish community is busy planting with purpose.
In Vaughan, Ontario, the yellow coltsfoot and purple-blue scilla are just starting to flower at the Kavanah Garden, a half acre community garden that’s part of Shoresh, the Canadian-based Jewish environmental organization that includes the Kavanah Garden and Bela Farm. On “Yom Manual Labor” just a few weeks ago, volunteers gathered to turn the soil, plant seeds, paint outdoor tables and participate in construction projects with the Shoresh team, preparing the garden for growing season…."
Lipsitz, Aaron and Koby Ellick. "A Long Life for a Short Holiday." Medium. May 7, 2018.
"Koby Maxwell Ellick and Aaron Jerome Lipsitz are sophomores attending Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. During their spring semester they conducted a research project concerning crop insurance, sustainability and water efficiency on a national level and within Watauga County.
Chuck Lieberman is a small farmer is Deep gap North Carolina. Chuck has operated a choose ’n’ cut Christmas tree farm in the heart of the high country since 1980. Chuck is active member of the Watauga County farming community and a founder of the Jewish Temple in the High Country. Chuck was nice enough to give us an interview and a tour around his farm…"
Liphshiz, Cnaan. "Outside London, British Jewry's first communal farm in decades takes root." The Times of Israel. May 5, 2018.
"CHELSFIELD, United Kingdom (JTA) — Five years ago, Talia Chain and her husband had the best-laid plans for living in a central London apartment surrounded by young and hip high-tech professionals like them.
Unaffordable to most Britons, this English dream was well within reach for Chain, the founder of a fashion marketing startup, and Josh Charig, a successful data analyst and beer connoisseur.
But through an unlikely turn of events, the Jewish couple from London city instead moved last year to the capital’s agricultural outskirts, where they are both involved in setting up the first Jewish communal farm on British soil in decades…."
West, Kevin. "Soil + Shul: A Jewish colony that came and went in the Berkshires." Berkshire Magazine. May 2018.
"Lorraine and Steve German, like many long-married couples, tell stories in stereo: He is eager and provides narrative momentum; she is precise and supplies detail. In their living room in North Granby, Connecticut, they sat down to discuss how Lorraine, a self-taught historian, came to document a largely forgotten period of local history in her upcoming book Soil + Shul in the Berkshires: The Untold Story of Sandisfield’s Jewish Farm Colony.
Established in 1902 with backing from a European philanthropist, the Sandisfield colony peaked around 1940, when Jewish landowners comprised one-quarter of the town’s total population. How the colony came about and how Lorraine became its chronicler are tandem stories, one that begins in 1975, the other ending in 1976…."
Gabison, Yoram. "Israel's Indebted Farmers Are Pulling Up Their Roots and Moving Overseas." Haaretz. April 27, 2018.
"Ask an Israeli which of the nation’s achievements he’s proud of, and he’ll probably name high-tech and making the desert bloom, a euphemism for farming technology.
No question, Israeli agricultural technology has some stunning achievements, including drip irrigation, the creation of new variations of fruit and vegetables, and world-beating crop and dairy yields. Decades before “Startup Nation,” Israeli agritech was reaching remote parts of Asia and Africa…"