The safety and prosperity of Jewish farmers is inextricably linked to the safety and prosperity of the land and all people who live upon it. We are called towards collective liberation with the land and with our fellow farmers, particularly Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) farmers and stewards of land, who are most impacted by the historic and ongoing theft of lands, lives, and labor. We believe that Jewish agricultural values compel us to seek right relationship with the lands we steward, the Original Stewards of these lands, and our fellow farmers who face systemic barriers to their ability to build livelihoods rooted in the land.
We are inspired by the Jewish agricultural tradition of ma'aser, tithing our harvests for the sake of supporting communal institutions and nourishing those without access to land. We donate 10% of all non-conference profits (income minus expenses) to support the thriving of BIPOC farmers. When we hold conferences, we give 10% of event profits to support the thriving of the Indigenous peoples of the lands on which we gather.
Our first conference, Cultivating Culture: A Gathering of Jewish Farmers, was held in February 2020 on the ancestral lands of the Susquehannock, Piscataway, and Accohannock peoples near Baltimore, MD. We gifted 10% of all ticket sales from our conference – $1,800 – to the Baltimore American Indian Center as a voluntary land-use tax. We gifted 10% of all profits – $818 – from our 2021 virtual conference to the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, which “supports Native communities nationally with advocacy, education, and networking as they revitalize their indigenous food systems.” 10% of all non-conference profits from 2021 will be donated to the Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON), a network of Black farmers in the Southeastern United States who are committed to culturally relevant, ancestrally guided, and ecologically sustainable agricultural-based living.
In the wake of the police murder of George Floyd and the uprisings that began in Minneapolis, MN, Jewish Farmer Network raised $4,698 from our community, which we donated to the African Immigrant Businesses Fund, JOC Equity Challenge, SAAFON, Soul Fire Farm, and the National Bail Fund Network's Emergency Response Fund.
Centering Jews of Color, Indigenous, Sephardi, and Mizrahi (JOCISM) Farmers
As an organization committed to uplifting the stories of Jewish farmers, whose contributions are routinely made invisible in Jewish communities, we know that the stories and voices pushed to the margins are valuable and essential. We seek to not merely include but to center the voices and experiences of JOCISM farmers, without tokenizing or burdening these beloved community members.
We actively invite JOCISM farmers to join our board of directors, to teach at our conferences, and to participate in our programming at low or no cost as needed. We pay our JOCISM farmers for their time and expertise, whether as consultants for our conference planning, to develop Sephardi and Mizrahi content for our Jews and Land Study Group, or to share their perspectives during our monthly community calls.
We prioritize the thriving of our JOCISM community members and our relationships with these Jewish farmers above our desire to appear to be diverse or in solidarity. For this reason, few of our JOCISM farmers are featured on our Instagram. Representation matters but not at the expense of the represented.
We do not shy away from the brutal histories and ongoing realities of theft, genocide, enslavement, and exploitation that pervade agriculture in the United States and across Turtle Island. Through our conferences, online classes, community calls, newsletters, and social media, we share the histories, present struggles, and future possibilities at the intersection of identity, land, agriculture, and justice.
Our Jewish farmers come from a wide variety of social, religious, and political landscapes. Our experiences as a diasporized people give us a unique perspective on the ongoing heartbreak that is the loss of ancestral homelands. We believe that Jewish Farmer Network is uniquely positioned to hold space for Jewish farmers to wrestle with the tough questions about what it means to be in right relationship with stolen land, how to materially support BIPOC farmers, and what Jewish tradition can teach us about growing food for the sake of building resilient, just, and land-based community.
Growing Our Commitments
We seek to be responsive to the moment, grounded in the best our tradition has to offer, and humble in the face of all we do not know. Our commitment to justice, peace, and collective liberation is stronger than any one strategy, and we are excited to grow and deepen our solidarity practices in the months and years to come.
In the words of Rabbi Tarfon in Pirke Avot 2:16:
“It is not our duty to complete the task, neither are we free to desist from it.”
לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה
In love & solidarity,
Jewish Farmer Network