In Berkeley, California, young Jews create urban farms for $8.48 per bed and grow vegetables even on polluted soil. As part of Urban Adamah, they combine organic farming with social justice.
At the Ekar Jewish Urban Farm and Garden in Denver, the mission is “learn, grow, sustain, repeat.” In 2010, over 1,200 volunteer groups got involved in growing thousands of pounds of food.
Short History of Jewish Farming in America
These young people are latecomers among Jewish farmers in America. Thousands fled anti-semitism in the decades following Tsar Alexander III’s enactment of the May laws of 1882. Many of them settled on farm colonies and became part of the communal Am Olam (Eternal People) movement. Most of the communities failed because of “disease, unfavorable weather, inexperience, poor land and other obstacles.”
The colonies were part of what the Jewish Farmers of America (JFA) call the first period of Jewish farming in America. After 1900, “settlement and collective ownership gave way to settling individual families on farms.” The Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Assistance Society, founded by philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch, helped families establish themselves on farms abandoned near metropolitan areas. They provided technical assistance and loans. JFA describes farming communities that sprang up in New Jersey, California, New York, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Michigan. By the end of World War II, nearly 100,000 Jewish farmers were raising crops.
Photo of Urban Adamah from video
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