Is there a new Jewish back to the land movement? Let’s talk about it together on June 14th when we gather at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for the Farm Education and Sustainability Food Fest and take a tour of Green Things Farm. Certainly Nate Lada, who with his wife Jill Sweetman are the owners and operators of Green Things Farm, sees a connection between his Hebrew Day School education and his commitment to sustainable agriculture. When he was a guest speaker at a UM Hillel Tu B’Shvat seder in 2012, Nate talked about the importance of agriculture and respecting the Earth as central to the Jewish tradition. Twentysomething graduates of the UM where they both studied Environmental Science, Nate and Jill have taken advantage of several opportunities created by longtime Ann Arbor environmental activists such as the Ann Arbor greenbelt program, a thirty year investment voted on in 2003. With the goal of starting a family farm, Nate and Jill spent two years (2011-2012) as part of the first cohort at Jeff McCabe and colleagues’ Tilian Farm Incubator Program. There Nate and Jill learned many of the basics of the business of farming while taking advantage of the program’s land, equipment, farming mentors, and community support. The land they bought to start their own farm, on Nixon near Warren about 5 miles north of downtown, was also part of the greenbelt program, in which the city of Ann Arbor bought development rights on the properties, making the land affordable for farming.
The core of Green Things Farm is a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. A CSA is a farm share program in which members agree to buy a share of the farm at the beginning of each season in return for their portion of the harvest each week. For instance for summer 2015, a share in Green Things Farm cost $300 for a once a week pickup of about 6 pounds of freshly picked fruits and vegetables, June 4- September 10. The summer shares are all sold out, but Fall shares are still available. AARC member Carole Caplan, a charter member of Green Things Farm CSA says, “As a long-time member of a well-established CSA in Illinois, I was excited about the varied CSA opportunities in Ann Arbor. I choose Green Things because I loved their passion and energy. They welcomed me warmly as a volunteer on the farm, and I have learned much from them–not to mention the wonderful veggies I enjoyed all last season. Can’t wait for the first pick-up of this year’s share this Thursday, June 4th!” Pick up points for the weekly CSA distribution includes UM Hillel and the JCC of Ann Arbor, another connection between Green Things and the Jewish community. In addition to individual family CSA members, Green Things Farm sells their produce to local restaurants, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and at a farm stand.
So, is there is new Jewish back to the land movement? Farm Education Day and Sustainable Food Fest makes it clear there is definitely a vibrant national Jewish movement seeking locally sourced, sustainably grown, fairly traded and priced, humanely raised and koshered food. Beginning in 2014, the Jewish Alliance for Food, Land and Justice in Ann Arbor organized programs designed to bring us closer to those who grow, prepare and sell our food. With trips to Detroit’s Eastern Market, D-Town Farms, and The Farm at St. Joes, the Jewish Food Alliance has made a broad range of local connections. A terrific article about the event and all the work of the Jewish Food Alliance is on the front page of the summer Washtenaw Jewish News, read it here. And see you on June 14 (10am-2pm) at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Green Things Farm! This event is free and open to all regardless of affiliation or religion, and is supported by an Impact Grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor.