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Archive for : Adamah

Repair Interview: Sabrina Malach on Shoresh

Over the last two decades, the Jewish environmental movement has grown from a fringe afterthought, to an important aspect of the mainstream Jewish community. Organizations like Hazon and programs like the Jewish Farm School, Teva, and Adamah have made a big impact in the States. Now, an awesome organization called Shoresh, founded in 2009 in Toronto, is helping to expand this awareness to the Canadian Jewish community. Repair the World recently spoke with Director of Community Outreach, Sabrina Malach, about Shoresh’s programming, gardening across the generations, and realizing the dream of land-based Judaism in Canada.

What was the inspiration behind starting Shoresh?
Both the founder, Risa Alyson Cooper, and I are from Canada but lived and participated in programs at The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut. We were fellows in Adamah, the Jewish farming fellowship, and Risa was also a Jewish environmental educator with Teva. We talked a lot about what it would be like if we could bring programs like that to Toronto.

When Risa came back to Canada, she had the great idea of starting a community garden in the suburbs, and that was the beginning of Kavannah Garden. At the same time, there was a huge new Jewish community center in development in the northern part of the city, and she had the foresight to approach them about starting the garden there. Most of our other programs stem from there – overall, Shoresh’s success has centered on offering the right programs at the right time.

What types of programs do you run?
Kavannah Garden is our flagship program. Each spring and fall, dozens of day school groups come to visit. Shoresh developed a curriculum for kids from kindergarten to grade 5. It weaves in Jewish and ecological teachings, but is based on Ontario’s curriculum, so it allows teachers to justify field trips. One program example is, we have this bike-powered blender that the kids love. They’ll go and harvest edible weeds and herbs, then go on the bike and turn them into pesto. So it teaches them about plants and nutrition, and helps them learn to see a world where food is everywhere and everything is valuable. It also draws from the Talmudic teaching that it is forbidden to live in a city where there is no vegetable garden.

In addition to the school groups, we have have a family farm drop-in program, and a CSA running out of the garden. It has been so restorative to build this ecological place deep in the heart of the Toronto suburbs. Our hope is that people take the ideas they learn and that they ripple out into their backyards and neighborhoods.

Do you have educational programs outside of Kavannah Garden as well?
Yes, definitely – we work with participants from kindergarten age to people in their 90s. We partnered with the Baycrest geriatric center to develop three gardens. We’ve trained the staff their and also go in every other week to work with clients. It is amazing to sit with bubbes and zaydes there, many of whom have Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia, and talk about growing food. We do a lot of sensory workshops with them, like having them smell herbs. Working with them is a reminder that a lot of the work we do with gardening and food is not new, and that we have a lot of wisdom to glean from our elders.

We also started a new program at the Kensington Market called Maxie’s garden. Kensington was once the center of Jewish food and communal life in Toronto – it was where all the kosher butchers and bakers were located. That is mostly gone now, but there is a man in his 90s who has been living in this house there since 1927. His backyard has some of the best soil I’ve ever seen! We partnered with Toronto’s Jewish Family & Child Services to create a program in his backyard where women working below the poverty line come and grow food. It is amazing to help revive some Jewish food culture in Kensington, while actively bringing social justice into our programming.

What do you have planned for the future?
Our next big project is the creation of Bela Farm, a 114-acre rural center for land-based Judaism, education, and farming in Ontario. Expanding from a quarter-acre garden to a huge farm an hour outside of Toronto is a big jump, so we have spent the last three years visioning with our creative team to think about what we want, and how to make it our own instead of just replicating other farm projects. We hope to fully launch in 2016, but have already started an apiary there, started a small orchard of 17 fruit trees, and planted 300 garlic cloves (originally from Adamah!), which we hope to double this year. We are taking it slow and weaving permaculture and Jewish values like shmita into the design of the space.

How has working with Shoresh impacted you personally?
Personally, it has been so amazing to be able to work with a small organization that does so much amazing work. My own personal interests have been nurtured, and I have had the space to learn and explore while making a difference.

Learn more about Shoresh, Kavannah Garden, and Bela Farm – and see lots of great farm and garden pics! – at Shoresh’s website and Facebook page.

Thanksgiving Harvest: Three Great Jewish Farming Organizations

With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, our collective thoughts are on family, friends and, most importantly, food! That means it is the perfect time to celebrate the world-changing work of three (yes three!) Repair the World partner organizations that put food justice, sustainable food production and the intersection of food and Jewish life at the center of their agendas.

We’ve written about these organizations before. But as turkey day (or tofurkey day, as the case may be) draws near and we break out bubbe’s pecan pie recipe, we thought we’d check back in with them to see what great, on-the-ground (and in-the-field) work they’re up to!

Adamah A pioneer in the field of Jews and farming (the program launched back in 2003), Adamah is known for it’s 3-month fellowships that combine communal living, Jewish life and learning, and sustainable farming. They are also a working CSA, providing farm-fresh vegetables to families in Connecticut, and make uber-tasty kosher, lacto-fermented pickles and cheese (more info on where to buy here).

Jewish Farm School was founded to teach participants about “contemporary food and environmental issues through innovative trainings and skill-based Jewish agricultural education.” They lead all sorts of great, hands-on, in-the-dirt programs (including running the farm at Eden Village, a Jewish environmental summer camp). Their new FeastForward initiative uses visual media (like short films) to raise awareness about food and environmental issues.

Urban Adamah Founded as a West Coast, urban version of Adamah, program participants live, farm, learn, teach, and celebrate together in Berkeley, California. Their innovative take on Jewish life and urban farming has gained widespread attention, including articles by Grist and San Francisco Chronicle. The farm also runs a variety of programs for the public, including an upcoming “earth skills” event on Nov. 29 (register here). Apply to be a fellow in 2013 here.

Are you working to transform the food system here or abroad? Tell us your story @RepairtheWorld!

This Tu Bishvat, Wish the Trees a Happy New Year with Service

New Year’s Eve may have recently passed, but on the Jewish calendar it is New Year’s all over again! Tomorrow we celebrate Tu Bishvat – the 15th of the Jewish month of Shivat which, according the Talmud, is the ‘Rosh Hashana L’Ilanot’ or the ‘New Year’ for Trees.’ The holiday marks the start of the fruit bearing cycle for trees in the land of Israel, celebrating the transition from winter to spring, and the time period when the sap inside trees is beginning to flow (even though, on the outside, the trees still look dormant in their winter sleep-fest.)

The arrival of Tu Bishvat reminds us of our inherent connection to the natural world. In the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were told in the Garden of Eden to be stewards of nature, and to care for the natural world. Nature, we learn from their story, is about more than pretty vistas and resources – it is a Divine creation and valuable all by itself. There is a midrash (story) that says an angel hovers over every blade of grass telling it to grow.

This value is also expressed through the mitzvah (commandment) of ‘Bal Taschit,’ which prohibits against purposeless destruction or wastefulness of nature. According to the Torah, during times of war, the ancient Israelite army was forbidden to cut down the fruit trees around an enemy city to make arms, because it would is considered a form of unnecessary wasting. ‘Bal Taschit’ does not just apply to fruit trees during times of war, but at all times and places, to trees, water, air, and the rest of the natural world.

This year, celebrate Tu Bishvat by eating fruits and nuts – and also through tree centered and environmental service! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Attend a Tu Bishvat Seder or Party like this one that the New York Jewish environemntal organization, Hazon, is throwing – or this one, being hosted by Repair the World grantee-partner Urban Adamah in Berkeley, California.

Plant a tree! What better way to celebrate the holiday of the trees? Plant one in Israel through JNF, or plant one in your own backyard!

Grow something. Get involved with local Jewish farms like Repair the World grantee-partner, Jewish Farm School, Adamah or Kayam Farm.

Think globally, eat locally. Join a community supported agriculture (CSA) program through Hazon, find local farmers markets via Local Harvest, or donate the excess produce you grow in your backyard to Ample Harvest.

Let us know how you’re celebrating the New Year for the Trees by tweeting @repairtheworld!

Volunteer to Foster Food Safety After the Cargill Ground Turkey Recall

Yesterday the major United States meat processor, Cargill, announced that it would recall 36 million pounds of ground turkey after it was linked to an outbreak of salmonella.

Meat (and other food product) recalls are a common occurrence in America – and are an unfortunate side effect of the industrialized food industry. But this particular recall, which killed at least one person and caused dozens to fall ill, is among the largest ever.

The recall serves as a stark reminder for us to be as connected to and knowledgeable about the food we eat as possible. Below find four opportunities to support a safer, more traceable food system in your community and across the country.
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Celebrate Earth Day and Passover

This year, Passover and Earth Day (which will be celebrated tomorrow, Friday, April 22) coincide. While Tu Bishvat – aka “The New Year of the Trees – is often identified as the Jewish Earth Day, Passover’s themes of freedom, celebrating springtime, regeneration, and getting rid of chametz (both literal and metaphorical), all fit perfectly with Earth Day’s values of sustainability.
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A Tour of Adamah Fall Projects

This post was submitted by Davida Ginsburg, Fall 2010 ADAMAH fellow.

As the fall Adamah season begins to wind down, I have found it incredibly fulfilling to watch the projects we have begun post-harvest season develop and take on a life of their own. The projects have not only physically transformed the spaces at Adamah, but also they have also changed us. We have cultivated creativity, leadership, and problem solving skills while preparing herb beds on Beebe Hill for Adamah’s new tea line, putting anti-freeze in the greenhouse pipes, raking leaves to create future stores for compost and mulch, and tanning goat hides. While some of these projects may seem rather mundane compared to the glamour of harvesting ripe, juicy tomatoes and karate-chopping leek stems, these activities have illuminated a different kind of splendor: the process of transformation.
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Repair Interview: Lauren Weinberg and Adamah

Despite Jewish tradition’s rich agricultural history, the majority of Jews today would probably not feel comfortable operating a tractor or tending a field of crops. But a growing movement of Jews are beginning to connect back to their roots, both Jewishly and agriculturally.

One of the pioneers of this movement is Adamah – a Jewish farming fellowship housed at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut. Since 2003, the Adamah program has engaged 20-somethings in service of the land through a 3-month Jewish agricultural fellowship. Fellows split their time between planting and harvesting organic vegetables, making pickles and jam, tending their flock of goats and chickens, living and celebrating together in an intentional Jewish community, and learning with and from other leaders of the movement.
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