“We sold our house and we’re moving to the north to start a Food Forest.”
Imagine a really long and uncomfortable pause here.
“What? You sold your beautiful house? Why? How did this happen? Do you have any idea of what you are doing? And what’s a Food Forest?”
(According to projectfoodforest.org “A food forest is a diverse planting of edible plants that attempts to mimic the ecosystems and patterns found in nature”. What? That doesn’t explain anything.)
“I’m not really sure how to explain it. And we aren’t really sure what we’re doing but we love the idea of farming the land and creating permaculture.” Permaculture, for the uninitiated, involves using the land and its resources to create agricultural ecosystems that are sustainable, self-sufficient and don’t make waste. Back to the story.
“How long is this little life-altering dream going to take to create?”
“We’re not really sure but we think it will be about five years.”
Five years? FIVE YEARS!
Another really long, uncomfortable pause.
And with that, two otherwise smart, go-getter urbanites, who were always a little granola-ish, waved good-bye to their lives in the center of the country, moved north of the Kinneret and bought seven dunams of what looked distinctly like a field of rubble.
That was two years ago in the middle of the Corona lockdown. They weren’t the first people to take a step back and re-evaluate their lives during Corona, but it’s doubtful most people shut down their otherwise successful lives to begin a risky, independent farming venture in the Israeli north with absolutely no farming experience.
Today that hopeless field is more likely to be called a little miracle and their loosely imagined dream is becoming a reality right in front of their eyes. Most of their wary friends, who previously thought they had lost their marbles when they hatched this plan, are now busy on the sidelines eating crow, or their hats if they are vegetarians. Some have now recognized their initial cynicism and jumped on the dinner-for-harvesting-reciprocity-plan that the new farmers have graciously offered all their friends.
The actual forest continues to grow but in the meantime, they have cleared a large parcel of land and are busy growing the most delicious and gigantic fruits and vegetables you can imagine. Actually, correction, larger than anything you can imagine. The cucumbers and the Swiss chard defy explanation.
It’s all organic, partly because that’s who they are and partly because it’s a niche that needed filling. And because they are Torah-observant, they are careful to keep the halachot concerning the land. It’s not clear where they find their red heifers so the Cohanim can wash themselves properly before eating their allocation, but there are other, much more knowledgeable people who can deal with those questions.
Demand for their organic, Torah-based produce is rising.
With Eco Tourism increasing steadily around the world, it seems our farmers were in the right place at the right time to join a growing movement. It’s at least a little ironic that this is happening in the north of the country. When Isaiah first mentioned the desert blooming about 700 years BCE, and then Ben Gurion repeated it twenty-six hundred years later, they were probably talking about the Carmel, the Sharon and even the Negev. It seems unlikely that either man was thinking about the outer Golan.
You could say that all you need in Israel is a dream and the conviction to follow it. Most people wouldn’t say that, but they could. However, it’s probably fair to say that there are very few people who make Aliyah to literally farm the Holy Land. Some might see it as a dream past its time, and others might say it is plain and simply bonkers today. But our new farmers will tell a different story. They built their organic field of dreams and slowly but surely everyone is coming.