First Meeting of JCA mini-farm
We held our first meeting of the JCA mini farm on Mon eve Feb 20, 2011. Even though we had frigid temperatures and many of our community were out of town on school vacation, twelve eager and adventurous souls showed up.
Ellen laid out a preliminary plan for a garden, which would be sited (hopefully) to the north of the JCA kitchen. Much of the discussion focused around the many opportunities that a garden will offer us as a Jewish community: opportunities to build community, to provide food for those in need, to teach young people (and the rest of us) where our food comes from, to engage in the precious and fulfilling act of growing our own produce, to cultivate new paths for spiritual connection and expression (most of us find God outdoors in nature), to foster intergenerational conversation and relationships,to expand our venues and understanding of prayer (every green plant sings a prayer to God, said the rabbis), and to participate in an authentic Jewish activity.
We also face certain “threats” (in strategic planning lingo) as we contemplate any new venture. Everyone loves the IDEA of a garden/farm, but the reality is that a farm or garden takes thoughtfulness, love and labor; we will need committed volunteer energy. It is essential that we have a good experience with the garden. Just as a beautiful well-cared for farm/garden will lift the spirits of the members of the JCA and make them proud, an untended garden sends a negative message about our community to the public and leaves a bad impression. So our first agenda item is to consider whether we have enough volunteers who are willing to COMMIT to a certain number of hours in the garden each month.
After all the people in the group introduced themselves and spoke a bit about their interest in gardening or farming and their relationships to the JCA, we asked whether we had a minimum of 3 people who would commit to a minimum of 8 hours a month to serve as part of a core group: as either a leader on a shift or a leader of a particular garden project. We believe that we would need this number of people at a minimum to get the project started. The start-up aspects of the project are particularly labor intensive and include decision making about siting the garden, developing a budget, purchasing equipment and tools and soil amendments, and actually turning a lawn into a garden.
Happily four people volunteered to participate in the core group: Bob Winston, Ruth Kane Levit, Shemariah Blum Evitts and Robert Friedman (some may need to ween themselves from the core group after the first phase). Bob Winston has affectionately named the core group: the garden Plot-niks (!). In addition another 4 people volunteered to take on a regular rotation of a minimum of 4 hours a month: Ken Bernstein, Eliezer Huber, Andra Rose & family, and Susan Reisman. David Rabinowitz will come occasionally. The rabbi and Ellen B. will also be participating on a regular basis.
Our new neighbor, Bernard Brennan, from Amythyst farm also attended the meeting and volunteered to be helpful in whatever ways he could.
We heard from the Amherst Montesorri school that a teacher and her 10 students would like to take on a Thursday shift every week.
Other folks who contacted me who were not present included Robin Diamond, Jim Seltzer, Michael Pill and Amy Beth and Nicole Fuller (Montesorri) and Jackie Katz.
Our meeting of the garden plot-niks will take place on Monday Feb 28. Contact ellen.Bernstein@comcast.net if you have interest in taking leadership in the garden and want to attend this meeting. Within 1-2 months, we will come up with a schedule by which other people can either sign up for garden shifts (probably there will be opportunities 3x during the week), and I will be in touch again by then if not before! I will also be posting updates in the JCA newsletter. If you know of others who should receive this note, please forward along to them.
Last but not least! The day after our meeting, Michael Pill gifted us with our first farm tool! Thanks so much, Michael, for this generous gesture! The Ro-HO garden cultivator is presently sitting in the rabbi’s fireplace until we decide where to keep tools! You can see a picture of it by clicking on “Our first donation” on the Blog.