We are excited to tell you about Noam Cohen-Levi, a new local farmer joining our cottage industry producers. The reason we’re so excited by this news is that Noam is an ex-Chubeza worker, and he is charming, professional, thorough and talented. He grows sprouts in Moshav Sataria, not far from Chubeza. But we will allow him to introduce himself, his products and his work methods:
My name is Noam Cohen-Levi and I grow sprouts, arugula and distinctive leafy green assortments in Moshav Sataria. For just over a decade, I have worked in the realm of agriculture (including Bat Ami and Alon’s amazing field) and learned the secrets of organic agriculture. Two years ago, I decided it was high time to put my experience into practice, drawing from everything I learned, to make it my own.
Our agriculture is based on the working hands of my family and myself, and we believe in simplicity and hard work. We work only manually, with no heavy machinery, attempting to preserve the natural surroundings as much as possible.
We started our small company with our sprouts, which we grow from organic seeds that are neither sprayed, fertilized or assisted by any such artificial conditions as refrigeration, heating or lighting. Everything we grow is organic from seed to box, though we are temporarily without supervision. We believe that our sprouts and other greens are receiving the best conditions to grow as healthy, nutritious and fortifying vegetables. We are happy to work the land for you and serve you authentic, natural food.
Add Noam’s sprouts today to your boxes (sprouts with soil, see photograph) via our order system, under “Sprouts and Mushrooms”.
This week we would like to request your help in expanding the circle of the Chubeza community by spreading the word about Community Supported Agriculture and direct purchasing from the farmer. Before we tell you exactly what we need from you, let’s take a moment to discuss the larger picture of the idea and phenomenon.
When Ecclesiastes said, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” he was surely referring to the CSA movement ideology of partnership between farmers and consumers – a movement Chubeza is a part of. And not just because farms grow vegetables in season and send fresh produce in boxes, but also because this model arose simultaneously and independently in Japan, Chile and Europe– without either country being conscious of the other (in the pre-“like us on Facebook” era). This happened in the 1960’s, when an awareness of the dangers lurking in modern chemical-based farming and global market economy were beginning to emerge. Countries were losing farming viability because import was more economic (sounds very relevant and familiar). In short, people began waking up to the problem of agriculture that moves further and further away from the mouth that consumes them, and began searching for answers.
At that time, Japan became concerned with food safety following a disturbing revelations on “Minamata Disease“, where a village was badly struck by mercury poisoning. This episode, among others, caused more and more Japanese citizens to opt for organic food, but they encountered difficulties in this endeavor as well: on one hand, the increased import of agricultural produce posed a threat to local Japanese farming. On the other hand, forgeries and fabrications in labeling organic products sent consumers in search of an alternative. Japan is a country with a longtime tradition of cooperatives, thus it’s no surprise that a small group of woman formed the first farm-consumer cooperative, going in search of a farmer who would create a partnership of mutual support. They integrated the TEIKEI commonly translated as “food with the farmer’s face on it.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world:
At the beginning of the 20th century the anthroposophist movement was established, based on the ideology of philosopher, architect, and Austrian teacher Rudolf Steiner, and on his writings in education, medicine, arts, religion, economy and agriculture. The anthroposophist philosophy is broad and complex, and its specific relationship to agriculture is otherwise known as “biodynamic agriculture.” The foundations for applying anthroposophist tenets to practical farming were set out in a series of lectures given by Steiner in 1924, in which he characterized the optimal agricultural system as a complete ecologic system where people, animals, plants, microorganisms, earth, water and air exist in a dynamic balance and equilibrium.
Steiner also focused on “associative economics,” to create an alternative to a competitive economy by cultivating reciprocation and communication between manufacturers, merchants, credit suppliers and consumers to deal with issues of fair prices, actual needs, reduction of poverty and expansion of social equality and environmental influences. Is this sounding a little too “Summer of 2011”? To think that this happened nearly a century ago!
A combination of the two approaches–biodynamic organic agriculture and an economy based on cooperation and reciprocation–served to create the ultimate model: a partnership forged between farmers and the non-agricultural community to confront these issues.
At the end of the 1960’s, the Buschberghof Farm, a German collective farm based on these principles, was established alongside a “collaborative agricultural community.” In Switzerland, a similar process took place, influenced by the Chilean cooperative movement during the regime of Salvador Allende (1970-1973).
The development of the CSA movement in United States was quite similar to that of its European counterparts. I won’t go into the details here, but for those interested, I recommend this very informative and interesting article about the origins of the movement, focusing on the nation’s pioneer CSA farms in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
What about Israel? Leah Sigmund was the pioneer of the Israeli CSA. A biodynamic farmer from Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava, she grew an organic vegetable garden in her kibbutz and operated a CSA over the years 2000-2001. They distributed approximately 30 boxes to various places, specifically Eilat, but also to Metzokey Dragot, Mitzpe Ramon and even to a group in Jerusalem! After a few successful years, the program closed down when Leah pursued advanced studies in the U.S.
Leah’s endeavors at Lotan were the example I set for myself when I established Chubeza in 2003. When I first established the farm I encountered a lot of sarcasm from veteran farmers, who assured me, “It will never work– Israeli’s aren’t suckers like the Americans and won’t buy a vegetable they haven’t seen.” or “It’s been tried before, and people are just unwilling to have someone else determine what vegetables they will eat” or “yeah right, just try to tell them there are no tomatoes in January…” In my naiveté, 19 years ago I decided it had to work.
In the beginning, we were loners in the realm. Over time, more and more new and veteran farms chose the CSA path, and they are now thriving and succeeding. Today there are multiple small farms in Israel which act in a similar manner, adhering to the social communal perspective, and not solely out there for the money (though I do not underrate the importance of that matter).
The original idea of the CSA is in its title – Community Supported Agriculture, creating agriculture supported by the community surrounding it. Over the years, many farms have been established under the umbrella of agricultural-community partnership, spanning a wide range of commitment and involvement on the part of the community. At one extreme is the actual communal farm, belonging to, operated by, and supported by the community. In this type of farm, the members set the budget, as well as the annual membership fee to finance the budget. The community is also involved in determining what to grow, how to grow it, the variety of vegetables selected, purchasing equipment, etc. In many such farms, the members commit to a number of hours or work days in the field or in the management of the CSA.
At the other extreme are the majority of CSA’s, farms such as Chubeza that offer a “membership plan” where the clients commit to a short-term period (weekly, half a season or a full season) and pay the weekly fee in advance or by monthly payments. In this type of farm, it is the farmers who are responsible for the ownership and management; the clients are partners by virtue of their willingness to commit to membership and payment in advance for next season’s crop. Sometimes they lend a hand by organizing distribution or by working in the field. On the whole, members’ level of involvement is their own choice, with different people involved in different ways.
The common denominator between the various farms, and what makes them a partnership of farmers and community, is expressed in direct sales from the field to consumer, direct communication via the newsletter, the growing-protocol and the estimated crop schedule, seasonal feedback, and the encouragement of clients to comment and make recommendations and requests. Involvement is almost always augmented through visits to the field, pick-your-own days, planting events and seasonal celebrations. And again, the clients themselves determine the level of involvement and their willingness to take part in these events, read the newsletter, respond or give seasonal feedback.
So it’s true that this phenomenon may be small and relatively marginal, and perhaps this is how it will stay. But these “hedgerows” are so beautiful and green, nourishing and joy-inspiring. In our little Israel, where there are no “suckers,” there are enough people who believe this is a way of life, and choose to receive a “weekly box of surprises” and learn of a different sort of agriculture: one that is manual, varied, balanced, surprising and alive.
This is where you come in. We’ve had some openings freed up and we are glad to welcome new members. We believe the best way to understand what’s it all about is to hear it from someone who already receives Chubeza vegetables and can share his/her experience, challenges and advantages of joining Chubeza.
We’ve prepared an information leaflet (in Hebrew) you can forward by whatsapp or Facebook or any other way.
Thank you for your support throughout the years, and in the present.
Have a good week,
Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Orin and the Chubeza team
WHAT’S IN THIS WEEK’S BOXES?
Monday: Cherry tomatoes, zucchini/onions, parsley/coriander/dill, potatoes, beets/carrots, eggplant/green peppers, lettuce, Swiss chard/kale/New Zealand spinach/basil, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, melon/watermelon.
Large box, in addition: Corn, butternut squash/acorn squash/slice of pumpkin, scallions/ yellow beans/garlic.
FRUIT BOXES: Peaches/nectarines, avocados, cherries, bananas.
Wednesday: Cherry tomatoes, zucchini/onions, parsley/coriander/dill, potatoes, beets/carrots, eggplant/green peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers/fakus, melon/watermelon, corn/butternut squash. And a free gift: Swiss chard/New Zealand spinach/basil
Large box, in addition: Acorn squash/slice of pumpkin, scallions/leek/parsley root/garlic, yellow beans.
FRUIT BOXES: Peaches/nectarines, avocados, cherries, bananas.