Connect Your Food to the Land

by Leiba Chaya David
 
Where does your food come from? Sometimes it seems like it comes from the refrigerator or the grocery store. Wherever you buy your food, and whatever types of food you eat: before it was processed, packaged, and transported to you, it began with the land. As we begin the spring season, here are some suggestions for getting more connected to your food and the land it comes from.
 

Grow your own food

Growing food in Israel is uniquely tied to the blessing of rainfall and subject to a variety of special halachot (Jewish laws), all of which can help you to remember that G-d is involved in the gardening or farming process. But wherever you are, getting connected to the physical source of your food is one step closer to getting connected to G-d, the spiritual source of your food. Growing organically helps to protect G-d’s Creation by minimizing the negative effects of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
 
Useful Websites:
Jewish Farm School: http://www.jewishfarmschool.org/
Kitchen Gardeners International: http://www.kitchengardeners.org/
 

Support a Community Garden or a CSA

Even if you don’t have the wherewithal to start your own backyard vegetable garden, you can participate in the wonders of growing by joining a community garden. Community gardens not only give ordinary people the chance to be farmers, they also bring diverse members of communities together with the shared goal of growing food, greening urban neighborhoods, and learning basic principles of sustainability. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations allows you to “buy in” to the farm, receiving fresh, organic, seasonally appropriate produce.
 
Useful Websites:
American Community Gardening Association: http://www.communitygarden.org/
The Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association: www.biodynamics.com/csa.html
In Israel:

SPNI Jerusalem Community Gardens Network:   http://www.greenmap.org.il/
 

Buy food and other products that are grown or made locally, in season

Buying products in season from your region supports endangered small farmers, strengthens local economies, reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packaging needed to transport, protects open farmland from development, and allows you to know exactly where your food is coming from. Indigenous species tend to use water more efficiently and require less maintenance (such as soil alteration and pest control). On top of all that, food that hasn’t just endured a thousand-mile road usually tastes better!
 
Useful Websites:
Slow Food International: http://www.slowfood.com/

Local Harvest: http://www.localharvest.org/
 

Visit, live in, and learn about the land of Israel

The mountains and seas, flora and fauna, food traditions, seasonal cycles, festival celebrations, and everything in between comprise a rich local culture that is part of every Jew’s inheritance. Make it part of your daily living and learning routine.
 
Useful Websites:
Israeli Eco-Tours and Environmental Action: http://www.sustainable-jerusalem.org/
Biblical Nature Reserve: http://www.neot-kedumim.org.il/<  

Don’t waste the blessing of food

Ensure that all people have access to food and that good food does not go to waste (see drash on Bal Taschit).
 
In North America: http://www.tabletotable.org/http://www.secondharvest.org/
 
Leiba Chaya David moved to Israel from the U.S. in 1996 and ever since has been exploring the Land of Israel and the Israeli environmental movement.  She studied for a year at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and is a certified field guide of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI).  She also holds an MA in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University. Currently, Leiba Chaya is director of Ru’ach HaSviva, The SPNI Center for Jewish Environmentalism.  She lives with her husband and three small children on a moshav near Jerusalem

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