Yesod Farm+Kitchen seeks collective liberation with the land through Jewish agriculture, mutual aid, and growing relationships across difference. We steward 16 acres of Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee) and Catawba homelands, 25 minutes from Asheville, NC. We embody Jewish ancestral wisdom by offering this land as a resource for collective nourishment and safety for those most impacted by systems of harm, namely BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ folks, and justice seekers. Yesod offers free and sliding scale retreat space, experiential education at the intersections of Judaism and agriculture, and free produce to people experiencing food insecurity, in partnership with Root Cause Farm.
Shmitah 5782 at Yesod Farm+Kitchen
Shmitah - the agricultural and economic year of remission in ancestral Jewish wisdom - is the culmination of the intersection between land ethics, food ethics, and economic ethics. At Yesod Farm+Kitchen, striving to be in relationship with, act with, and steward the land with the principles that allow for Shmitah to be possible is the foundation of our efforts as responsible stewards of the land. We recognize that according to traditional application of Jewish law, those who steward land outside of Israel/Palestine are not religiously obligated to participate in the Shmitah year. We ask ourselves the question: What does it mean to steward ancestral Cherokee and Catawba land in Western North Carolina as Jewish Americans in the 21st century? It is not our land because, as descendants of an exiled people, we reside far removed from our own ancestral land. It is not our land because our presence here in the US South is as beneficiaries of the Colonialism and genocide which stole this land from its ancestral holders. One of the most important lessons explicitly mentioned in the Torah which influences Shmitah - both in its literal and figurative applications - is that the land belongs to no human.
Because Shmitah is an important influence in our efforts at Yesod Farm+Kitchen, we have started the practice of maintaining 1/7 of our growing space as fallow land as a visual reminder of the importance of allowing for the land to rest. In the Shmitah year 5782, it is our intention to maintain 1/7 of our growing space in production. In part, our intention is to let the land rest; however it is also our intention to give ourselves as land stewards more time to reflect on where we would like to be in Shmitah year 5789 and beyond.
The purpose of Shmitah, according to the Torah, is to allow for access to food to all inhabitants of the land. Inspired by this teaching, our intention is to spend the Shmitah year exploring our macro-, meso-, and micro-relationships. This means that we will spend time investing in and learning with our larger communities with whom we share common purpose and values; that we will more intentionally explore our relationships with our neighbors and neighboring communities; and, that we intend to deepen our interpersonal relationships with one another and the land which we steward together.
As this is our first Shmitah year, we recognize that this is an experiment and an opportunity to explore how we can grow more in line with the ideals and values which are essential to actualizing a society that can weather agricultural and economic remission and celebrate its benefits. In light of this, we remind ourselves that this Shmitah year does not need to look “perfect,” or “complete,” rather that each Shmitah cycle should look more like Shmitah than the last Shmitah year.
Our hope is that being in deep relationship with the values expressed in Shmitah, we will also deepen our understanding of our responsibilities as land stewards as we invest time and learning in understanding land management, food waste, community building, our inner and outer boundaries, and broader systems of inequity. By engaging in these ancestral practices and principles we see ourselves as part of a larger story in collaboration with our ancestors, using the values expressed in ancestral Jewish wisdom to guide our relationship as stewards of land, of community, and of creation.