Growing Greens and Environmental Justice Values

Published Jul 28, 2022
Chicago and San Diego Corps Members at their Shmita programs

Avodah’s 2021-2022 Service Corps Members graduated from the program in late July and joined our 1,300+ strong alumni network. We are excited to see these young Jewish changemakers take their next steps, and are grateful for the impact they’ve made – both in their batim (communal homes) and in their communities across the country this past year. 

Coinciding with Avodah’s teachings on Earth-friendly practices, commitment to reducing use of factory farms, and service in the climate justice field, all of our cohorts contributed to community-based agricultural efforts this year:

Home Gardens & Local Produce 

Cohorts: New York, DC

Cori leading Corps Members through a beeswax wrap workshop

In New York City, Corps Members  planted a garden in the backyard of the bayit. The cohort’s final retreat featured a workshops on sustainable practices, led by the bayit’s passionate gardener, Corps Member Cori. She taught the Corps Members how to make sustainable alternatives to plastic wrap out of bees-wax, as well as lip balm and toothpaste.

Meanwhile, D.C. Corps Members have maintained a yearlong “community-supported agriculture” partnership with Licking Creek Bend Farm, providing the cohort with weekly deliveries of locally grown fruits and vegetables. We are especially proud to support Licking Creek Bend, a family-owned farm that includes a member of Avodah’s alumni community! The Corps Members recently visited the property for its Farm Day celebration. They’ve also dabbled in gardening at their own apartment.

Activism Through Art & Food Access

Cohort: New Orleans

New Orleans Corps Members at Grow Dat Youth Farm and making paper with Hannah Chalew

This spring, New Orleans Corps Members spent a morning working and learning at Grow Dat Youth Farm, a two-acre sustainable farm working to increase food access and education. Our Corps Members’ service contributed to Grow Dat Youth Farm’s annual 32,000 pounds of produce! After lunch, the cohort met up with artist and activist Hannah Chalew. They then got to learn from artist and environmental activist Hannah Chalew. A Louisiana native, Hannah’s work comments on climate change, particularly its effects on Southern Louisiana communities. She led the Corps Members through a paper-making workshop, showing them how to make paper from reused materials.

Connecting with the Earth During the Shmita Year

Cohorts: Chicago & San Diego

Chicago and San Diego Corps Members at their Shmita programs

In May, our Program Directors coordinated programs inspired 5782 being a Shmita year, encouraging Corps Members to connect with the land. The Chicago crew headed to Patchwork Farms, an urban agriculture organization dedicated to greening vacant land in underserved neighborhoods. Corps Members shared a picnic lunch while hearing about the history of the organization, then they got their hands dirty, planting seedlings and weeding plots. Program Director Rose Silverman wrapped the day with a Shmita-based text study and reflection.

Across the country, Avodah San Diego took a trip to Coastal Roots Farm, a nonprofit Jewish community farm. Corps Members met with staff members Kesha and Sharone to take a tour and learn how the organization works to cultivate healthy, connected communities by integrating sustainable agriculture, food justice, and ancient Jewish wisdom. The group shared a meal – eating vegetables pulled straight from the ground – and listened to kids sing farm songs nearby.

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