These past few days have brought with them introspections on independence. Working in the field is somewhat like raising children, moving from the first stages of intensive protection and caring, to development and growth with less need for supervision–and more need for faith and letting go. The young seedlings just peeking out of earth sometimes need a plastic cover, a daily water inspection, and constant weeding to lessen the competition with the weeds. As they grow stronger, they send deep roots downward and are able to reach the water themselves; they are better able to face cold and heat, and they create foliage that successfully grapples with the surrounding weeds.
Our farm is not a baby anymore either. We’ve been around for seven years, and we’re slowly beginning to realize that we have become more independent. We’re more sure of ourselves, our experience, and our ability. And we’re confident that this whole Chubeza puzzle constructed of earth, plants, animals and insects, workers and clients is all marching together, where we’ve been living together for awhile in a balance that is stable and blessed. Independence is also accompanied by an outward openness and responsibility. When my eldest, Netta, first learned how to dress herself, she took upon herself the responsibility to dress herself every morning. When she learned to pour water into a cup, she could do it for her sister as well. Part of the maturing of Chubeza was expressed over the past year in a close collaboration with small manufacturers, most from our area, who prepare various products in modest, honest and professional labor. We’ve been privileged to introduce them to you.
In one of our upcoming newsletters, I would like to tell you about them a little more, but for now I will only mention Danny and Galit, the Granula people, who started with homemade granola and now also prepare delicious nutritious cookies (with perhaps some more surprises in the near future); Maggie, who sprouts wonderful organic sprouts; Rona and the staff of Yotav who make goat cheese in a natural pasture; Assaf who grinds organic flours, using Israeli wheat; Tamir and Daniella who prepare wonderful natural honey, continuing a family tradition; Yiftach, who bakes the unique sprouted spelt breads; and Kibbutz Samar that grows the most amazing organic dates.
Our decision to offer additional products arose from the feeling that we have grown. We are now able to take an additional step along the path we believe in by attempting to cultivate local productivity; clean, natural, less-processed, less hi-tech labor, which takes upon itself with love and understanding the changes of nature and constraints of the seasons, and sees the abundance, liberty and power of life which they possess, not only the limitations.
You, too, hold a great part within this. In a world where “liberty” and “independence” mean receiving everything I want whenever I want it in the quantities I want, your opting for a seasonal, uniform Chubeza box seems such a contradiction, so limiting and difficult. I am always happy and encouraged to hear your voice, for I am constantly surprised and excited by words like, “Once I did not want you to send the beets, but now that I’ve learned to cook them, we cannot get enough!” or “the surprises in the boxes make me cook creatively, dare, taste vegetables I did not know and do not always recognize…”
I realize that the Chubeza box creates challenges, and that it is certainly easier to take the known route of buying vegetables available in markets all year round (even if growing in wintertime means expending a great deal of energy into raising them in hothouses, on a detached surface or in hydroponics). To me, part of being independent is being daring and prepared to face the challenge. When my three-year-old will not let me button her shirt, and keeps inserting the button with her little fingers (and then doing it over, after realizing she’s buttoned it wrong), she is taking her steps in independence, and will gain self-confidence, despite the difficulties. This is how she grows.
I’ve told you several times about my beginnings in Chubeza, when the caring consultants of The Israel Bio-Organic Agriculture Association (IBOAA) tried to steer me away from the CSA idea, insisting that “Israelis will never buy ‘a pig in a poke’ if they’re not sure what’s in it.” A year after we established the farm, still taking baby steps, I had to part from Chubeza and hand over the reins to Alon. I did this with full confidence in him, which was well-placed. The feedback I received regarding his work in my absence, and to this day, from suppliers and clients, from fellow farmers and young farmers trained by Alon, tell me how things can indeed be done in an honest and straightforward way, in security and confidence in the path we chose, out of full cooperation and not competition and threats, out of pure faith that you can depend and be depended upon.
Today, over 400 families depend upon us to be precise with what we grow and how we grow it, to do everything we can in order to fill the boxes with goodies, to be concerned about their advice/criticism or requests. They depend on us to care, to work with respect and decency in the wide realm of disciplines that touch agriculture: our workers, the earth we cultivate, the animals and insects, social responsibility, the water, the clients, the moshav where our farm in located, the vegetable species we choose, the way we grow them, etc. Over the past few years, more and more small farms like us have been established, maintaining relationships of faith, equity and reciprocity with their clients, the environment, the workers and with agriculture.
We are, of course, a marginal phenomenon, but we exist. For me, in cheerless Israel of 2010, this is a small and hopeful evidence for a different existence in Israel, out of respect, collaboration, trust, caring, decency and confidence in the simple and productive way of life.
And finally, an independent and charming 9 years old child walked with me through the farm on our last Open Day. He had a camera, and in a very professional manner knelt down in precarious positions to take photos of our vegetables with curiosity and fondness. I would like to share his photos with you, and thank you, Yossef Chaim, for taking the pictures, and thanks to his father, Lior, for sharing:
Happy Independence Day from all of us at Chubeza!
This week’s basket includes:
Sunday: cucumbers, carrots, zucchinis, dill, Swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips/radishes, parsley, iceberg or red leaf lettuce, tatsoi, green cabbage.
In the large box, in addition: garlic, beets, leek
Wednesday: zucchinis, parsley, tomatoes, leek, Swiss chard, tatsoi, carrots, lettuce, beets, kohlrabi, cucumbers.
In the large box, in addition: garlic, dill, green cabbage/turnip/iceberg lettuce