An Educational Afternoon
Today’s guest poster, Eliza Scheffler (PC 2012), shares a story about her afternoon at the Farm with a great group of kids from a Hamden synagogue.
In late February, a group of students from the congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden, CT, visited the Farm with their Rabbi, Alison Adler. This field trip was one of the many sessions of a class the students take at their synagogue on Judaism, food, and the environment. Though only in 8th, 9th, and 10th grade, the students were articulate, creative, and very curious. They were already familiar with words like “pesticide” and “organic” and showed a precocious disdain for the way their cafeteria over-cooked vegetables and served “mystery meat.”
Rabbi Adler had contacted me via a Rabbi at Yale about a visit to the Yale Farm because she thought it would be good for the students to learn about the YSFP. After introducing ourselves and saying what fruit or vegetable best represents us (I was a beet!), I told the students a brief history of the YSFP, and described what goes on in each of the four seasons at the farm. Visiting at the end of February meant that what they could see was a lot of soil patches, a few kale plants, and two large hoophouses, but their imaginations, along with some pictures in a YSFP booklet, gave the students enough of a taste for Spring that they were all excited to come back and volunteer.
No Jewish learning session is complete without a text study, and for this we read and discussed an excerpt that I discovered during a session with my own Jewish Food Fellowship group, run through Hillel by Rabbi Lauren. The text is from Avot D’Rabbi Natan, and states (more or less) “Rabbi Achia ben Yeshaya said: One who purchases grain the marketplace-to what may such a person be compared? To an infant who is cut off from his mother, and they pass him among wetnurses and (still) the baby is not satisfied. One who buys bread in the marketplace- to what may such a person be compared? It as if s/he is dead and buried. But one who eats from his own, (what one has grown or helped grow him/herself) is like an infant raised at his mother’s breasts.” The students had great insights about the literal and metaphorical meanings of the text and how we could apply it to our own lives. (“I think the part about being dead and buried is telling us about pesticides.”)
The highlight of the visit was definitely the last part — inside the hoophouse. After showing the students how to walk carefully so as not to stomp on any of the budding plants, we all bent down and sampled a leaf of spinach. The students then scooted around to the different patches, trying mustard greens, arugula, mizuna and many more. It was like “trick or treating” except healthier, and every taste brought surprise and delight, although some thought the mustard greens tasted like the horseradish they avoid eating on Passover!
The hour ended quickly and the students piled back in the car to head home, but I’m sure we’ll see some at volunteer workdays this spring. Everyone seemed to take away something meaningful from the session. One student thought his dad might be able to help him build a hoophouse, another wanted to tell her teacher about class visits to the Farm. What I loved the most was seeing kids 5 years younger than myself already becoming more conscious consumers, spiritual environmentalists, and developing the knowledge and values that will help them repair our broken food system and repair the world (Tikkun Olam).
Thank you YSFP for always having open gates and sharing your delicious greens with us!