Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Farm Talk: The Asparagus Pension Plan

Hi Farm Folk,

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Update:
Our CSA starts the first week of June --- only two weeks away! The crops are doing amazing, and CSA members have a lot of local, organic yumminess to look forward to. We're so excited by the health and abundance of our crops, including spinach, garlic, tomatoes, purple potatoes, carrots, kale, salad mix, peas, rhubarb, arugula, Asian greens mix, Swiss chard, cukes, zukes, green onions, etc, etc, etc. It's not too late to register for your share of the harvest: www.thecuttingveg.com/CSA

Farm Update:
Some crops can be eaten within weeks of being planted. We put onion seed in the ground in mid-April, and we're already delighting in the first fresh green onions of the season. Other crops can take years and years before being harvestable. Walnut trees, for example, can take 15+ years of growth before producing. Last week, we added to our mix of perennial plants, by planting 8000 asparagus roots on the farm. Asparagus joins our all-star team of perennial crops, which also includes rhubarb, oregano, chives, and mint. The flavour of freshly harvested, organic asparagus is other-worldly. However, asparagus takes two years to establish itself before producing significantly, so it'll be 2014 before we can start to reap the harvest of this past weeks work. No instant gratification for us on this crop. Once it starts producing though, we can look forward to decades and decades of asparagus. I think of it as my pension plan. When I am too old to even plant and manage a sizable garden, I'll always have my asparagus and homegrown nuts to live on!

The Cutting Veg in the News:
FoodShare presents: Place Making Solutions in the Food System
Join Debbie Field, Alison Blay-Palmer, and Terry Marsden, chaired by Fiona Yeudall, on May 29, 7-9pm. For more information please visit: http://bit.ly/KU1N29

Kavanah Kids Summer Program: Registration Now Open
This summer, give your kids the chance to discover the many different plants and animals that live and thrive at the Kavanah Garden, Shoresh’s Jewish organic garden in Vaughan! Our half-day, week-long programs feature garden and nature-based activities, crafts, drama and movement, food preparation, storytelling, and more! We are offering two exciting summer programs to choose from!

Dates and Time: Creatures and Critters – July 9-13, 2012 (9am-12pm), Garden Guardians – August 13-17, 2012 (9am-12pm)
Ages: 6-10 years old
Location: Kavanah Garden (18 Lebovic Campus Drive)
Cost: $150/child/session (or $275 for both sessions!)
Space is very limited so sign up today! For more information, visit http://shoresh.ca/camp_programs

That's all from the farm for now. Until next time, Keep Livin on the Veg!

The Cutting Veg Farm Team

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two Daniels --- Rabbi & Organic Farmer -- Trade Jobs

A Rabbi and a Farmer meet in a coffee shop. Both are named Daniel. The Rabbi says to the Farmer, “What if we traded jobs for a day?” One year later, they traded jobs, and this is what they learned:

Rabbi Daniel:

Every day is an adventure for a Rabbi! Last week, I ventured out to the ‘hinterland’, north of the city, to an organic farm known as “The Cutting Veg.” Trading jobs with Farmer Daniel Hoffmann, I was struck by the many parallels between synagogue life and the farming experience. Both professions plant seeds for the next generation. Both Rabbi-ing and farming demand careful, dedicated labour and faith in the future. Both processes strengthen community and foster holiness.

I spent the morning crouching down planting onion bulbs. Side by side, these bulbs would first produce green onions. These would then be harvested for the bulbs. I found myself obsessing about planting the onions just right. How could I make sure that the seeds would grow to their full potential? What would they look and taste like? Could I protect them from danger? I was given reassurances and told not to worry; my novice planting skills appeared to be just fine. I would have to let go of my fears and let Mother Nature take over. Will it be a good harvest? We did the best that we could. Now we have to wait and see. Just like so many aspects of our lives, we are called upon to have faith.

This was messy work, but oh so meaningful! Days later, I still found remnants of the soil imbedded in my fingernails. I’m usually quite concerned about keeping things clean and tidy, but this did not appear to be an option on the farm. As such, the experience was very real! I was reminded that even though I aspire to understand things with right and wrong, good and bad dichotomies, more often than not this is not a reality. It’s in those messy gray areas that we generally discover true value.

Farmer Daniel:

The mystique of the Rabbinate has always intrigued me. So, when Rabbi Mikelberg suggested a job trade, I found myself at the Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto all cleaned up, yarmulke-affixed, and ready to “Rabbi it up!” Our day began with a morning Sabbath service in which two hundred kids connected through music, rituals, and Jewish values. Whether you’re 4 years old, or 400, eating Challah, and singing He Nay Ma Tov never gets old, as far as I’m concerned. We then met with a representative from Jewish Family & Child to explore how Temple Sinai could take a leadership role in addressing the abuse of women within the Jewish community. Since I also have a background in Social Work, this had particular interest for me, as I recognize violence against women not as a “Woman’s issue” but an issue that needs all of our attention. Next we met with a young man in the process of converting to Judaism and visited two congregants in the hospital to offer support and loving kindness. This was followed by an evening Sabbath service, which embodied the themes of relaxation, celebration, and meaning.

But it was the moments in between these activities that were most special to me. In preparation for the evening sermon, we checked out the Torah portion of the week, which addressed the themes of holiness, and also of atoning for one’s impurities. Lively discussion ensued. Is it holiness we should aim for, or wholeness? Are we to try to eliminate our impurities, our flaws, our mistakes, or rather to keep working at being more conscious of them? In our talks, we shared what motivates us to do the work we do. We discussed our relationship with prayer and with our spiritual practices. What a privilege to have access to a Rabbi for an entire day!

Rabbi Daniel:

Over lunch, each farmer reflected on his or her most loved fruit and vegetable. We were asked to think about the growing process of our favorite foods. Such an important question, and yet one that I rarely consider. Hard to appreciate that food never just magically appears on one’s plate! Too often I forget that fruits and vegetables travel a long way before they end up in the supermarket. We have a Jewish tool to open our eyes to this pathway – blessings! Voicing our blessings enables us to pause and express thanks for our many gifts.

That afternoon, on the farm, I also chopped potatoes. I learned that potato bushes grow from segments of potatoes that have an embedded eye. It struck me that we were cutting up perfectly good potatoes in order to put them back in the ground! Was this productive? Yes! In fact – each single potato would go on to produce dozens more. Again, this is reflective of Jewish wisdom. As we build for future generations, we sometimes need to make painful sacrifices.

Farmer Daniel:

Toward the end of the day, a congregant approached me: “How’s it been to be a Rabbi for a day? It must be quite different from farming.” I thought about it for a moment. “Not at all actually.”

The more we farmed and Rabbi’ed together, the more the similarities between our working lives became apparent. Rabbi Mikelberg’s work is all about healthy relationships --- with congregants, Temple staff members, fellow clergy, colleagues in the community. On the farm, we too focus on healthy relationships: with the members of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, with our staff, interns, volunteers, community partners, and with other farmers. Rabbi Mikelberg spends his day sowing seeds --- seeds that grow community & Jewish-engagement. On the farm we not only sow seeds literally (peas, beets, garlic --- yum!), but we also aim to sow seeds that enhance people’s quality of life, and support long-term ecological health.

And to be a Rabbi requires a great deal of relinquishing of control. When we went to the hospital, we didn’t know whether we’d be greeted warmly or with hostility (and indeed we got both). And in farming, we can work our butts off, but we have no control over the weather or the outcome of the harvest.

As we discussed how we approach our work, the synchronicities continued to reveal themselves. We each view our work as part of the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam --- repairing of the world. We aim to be of service to those with whom we interact --- perhaps a member of the congregation in need of support, perhaps a farmer's market attendee needing cooking tips.

Rabbi Daniel:

Significantly, we worked the soil as part of a farming community. This was holy labour! Together we would make a real impact. We planted over 10,000 onion bulbs that morning. On the drive home, I found myself reflecting on the importance of farmers! Away from the city, they are often way off our radar. We need to remember and appreciate that their love of the earth, their hard work and their wholesome intentions are key to making the world a healthy place. As I resume my more traditional Rabbi tasks, I will now bring renewed emphasis to opening my eyes to the natural wonders of our world.

Farmer Daniel:

I found myself realizing during our two days together that Tikkun Olam is possible everywhere. We encountered many others who also aim to be of service: the farm intern who works as a flight attendant and looks out for her passengers with such care; the members of the Temple Social Action Committee who give their time, energy, and spirit to build community and promote social justice. If my day of Rabbi-ing taught me anything…it’s that it doesn’t matter so much what you do.... whether you’re a Rabbi, a farmer, a business executive, or a volunteer ---- it’s not so much what you do, but the intention, the kavanah, you bring to it.

Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg is a Rabbi with the Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto (www.templesinai.net). Daniel Hoffmann is an Organic Farmer with The Cutting Veg Organic Farm (www.thecuttingveg.com)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Our Irresistible Offer

 Thinking about joining our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program this season?
Here's the deal:
You Get...
  • 22 weeks of local, organic produce, from June to October, picked-up at a depot near you
  • Incredible Flavour
  • Enhanced physical/mental/emotional/spiritual health
  • To promote positive values for your kids
  • Access to all kinds of other local & organic goodies, and lots of discounts.
You Support...
  • Folks-in-need in our community through our weekly produce donations
  • The development of a healthy food system
  • Local, organic farming and the local economy
The Cost...
  • $27/week for a Regular Share + $36 annual membership fee.  Total = $630
  • $37/week for a Large Share + $36 annual membership fee.  Total = $850
  • Pay all at once, or in installments
  • Extremely competitive
The Catch...
  • There is none.  If you decide it's not right for you, let us know, and we'll refund you for the remaining weeks.
Register or more info...
The Results...
  • A happier and healthier you.