Old Farm, New Farm

by Jacqueline Bull April 25, 2018


coastal-roots-farm_chickens_2017-1Coastal Roots Farm is a nonprofit Jewish community farm in Encinitas. The farm’s ethos is a meeting between ancient Jewish agricultural practices and a new age sensibility (the green, eco-friendly, farm-to-table, sustainable movement).

When they offered me an opportunity to visit the farm in person, I jumped at the chance. It’s exactly what you hope a farm will be like: warm air, the sounds of birds, big wooden buildings.

I arrived in the cool of the morning during one of their volunteer hours. They sat at picnic benches gently prying pepper seedlings from their segmented plug trays and replanted them into bigger containers. They joked about the passions of pepper people, asked for advice for their own gardens and talked about daily life.

Damian Valdez, the Assistant Operations Manager, was leading the volunteer group and chatted with me while weeding. The weeds, he told the volunteers, were to be gathered and taken to the chickens. “It is one way that we keep a closed loop cycle here on the farm. It is not their only source of food, but it helps supplement the food that they do get,” he explained. The closed loop cycle is just one example of both a modern and traditional practice; following the tradition of kayamut (ecological sustainability) that has been brought back into modern eco-friendly ideas.

Damian has been farming for six years and has worked in small community spaces and larger for-profit farms, but in his ethos there shouldn’t really be a distinction between the two (“ultimately the goal shouldn’t be just growing food”).

“I think it is important if we are going to call something a farm – especially in the legacies that we carry with the Leichtags and the Eckes – is that it is important to provide a quality product even if it is pay-what-you-can. You know it should be of the highest quality equal to what you can buy from a more conventional. It should be able to stand that test,” he said.

Damian seems a fitting representative of the mix of ancient Jewish agrarian ethos and the new age. He looks like the farmer you see quite a bit of in 2018, substantial beard, earrings and multiple piercings, kind eyes.

Touring the farm, there is a fair amount of examples of the modern green mood. There is a coworking space, an office shared by multiple organizations. They are developing a food forest, a sustainable and ecologically beneficial forest that will produce food. And they run a large scale composting operation, just to name a few.

If you’re thinking, “Hey caring about the planet isn’t anything new,” I would totally agree with you. In fact, many of the moral desires of today are aligned with early Jewish traditions. And I think the synthesis of those two is the triumph of Coastal Roots Farm.


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