Cultivating Shmita: Re-Wilding Our Ecosystem, Our Diet, Our Medicine

By Idelle Hammond-Sass

Drake Meadow took some of us on an illuminating permaculture walk at the Fall Sukkot Retreat. It was especially relevant in this year where we are cultivating a new ‘Shmita mentality‘.

Idelle and Drake examining a plant at the 2014 Sukkot Retreat

Idelle and Drake examining a plant at the 2014 Sukkot Retreat

We learned to find edible and healing plants in our own yards and how those things that many people sacrifice to have a typical American lawn are actually better to embrace, cultivate and use in tinctures and teas. Drake’s knowledge and ability to notice plants reminded me of how little we know about the land around us.

Shmita reminds us to recognize that even when the land is fallow and wild, it can provide nourishment and even healing herbs for us. Allowing the land to rest can bring a different type of harvest as well, as local and native plants regain their footing and provide habitat and food for animals as well as perennial and edible plants for us.

In an article shared recently by Sarah Chandler, (Director of Earth Based Spiritual Practice at Adamah Farm at the Isabella Freedman Center) she demonstrates how to cultivate elderberry plants and make a tincture from it with the Jewish Greening Fellows. (The article is not available online but here are photos of the process.) This dovetailed with some of the knowledge Drake shared with us at the retreat. Drake mentioned making tinctures from other plants we found including goldenrod.

One piece of knowledge passed on by Drake came in handy recently as we toured conservation efforts in Washtenaw County with Legacy Land Trust. I was stung by a bee and Carol found some plantain, (a common plant found in many yards) to relieve mosquito bites, bee stings and other skin ailments. It (and an herbal preparation carried by one of the organizers) helped relieve the pain.

As Sarah said in her article, we appreciate the opportunity to “create new ways of connecting Jewish tradition to our modern lives, and inspiring people into action!”

Save the date! For our next Food Land and Justice Day of Learning – Sunday, December 7, 1-3:30 PM,  we will visit St. Joe’s Hoop House, meet farmer Dan Bair and learn about their efforts to grow healthy local food right in their hospital setting. We’ll learn how we can bring fresh food into our hospitals, schools and other institutions, and meet some of the people creating change in our food system.

For more information on Food, Land, and Justice/Shmita activites at AARC, click here.

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