A greenhouse at Country Roots farm in Riley, where organic produce is grown
Jenny and Brian Schwartz of West Bloomfield with their children Jonah, 7, Eli, 10, and Kayla, 5

Every two weeks, it was a fun surprise. All last summer, Jenny Schwartz, her husband, Brian, and their three children Eli, 10, Jonah, 7, and Kayla, 5, of West Bloomfield, eagerly awaited the delivery of fresh, organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables they would pick up in a box at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.

Their participation in what’s known as Community-Supported Agriculture (or CSA) became a monthly adventure in eating. The children even discovered they love kale chips and pesto.

“The first year we participated, I was introduced to kohlrabi [like a cross between a radish, jicama, broccoli and collard greens] and garlic scapes [the flower bud of a garlic plant] — two delicious vegetables I had never even heard of before,” Jenny explains. “The box forced us to eat and cook with local, in-season food. I planned our dinner menus around the veggies we got in the box.”

The Schwartz family is once again enthusiastically taking part in the Jewish community Hazorim CSA, a farm-to-table program now in its fifth season, where families and individuals purchase a “share” from a Michigan farm. (In Hebrew, the word hazorim means “the ones who sow or harvest.”)

Supporting Local Farmers

Starting in late June and going for 18 weeks, those who’ve signed up will take part in every-other-week pickups at Shaarey Zedek and Congregation B’nai Moshe in West Bloomfield Township. Boxes are filled with two weeks’ worth of food, including arugula, beans, beets, carrots, watermelon and summer squash, corn, cucumbers and more. Eggs and other products are also available for purchase during the growing season.

“This is a great way to support local farmers who are treating the Earth well,” says Allison Gutman, associate director of Hazon Detroit. The nonprofit organization promotes sustainable communities and connecting participants with nature, the outdoors and food.

A greenhouse at
Country Roots farm in Riley, where organic produce is grown

“Farmers often face trouble. From year to year, the weather and their crop can be unpredictable,” she continues. “With Community-Supported Agriculture, you commit to a fair market price even before you see how the season is going to go, regardless of the crop yield.”

The cost to participate is $255 for a “starter share” or $430 for a “family share.” All the shares have been sold for this season. Stephanie Yera is one of the farmers at Country Roots farm in Riley, Mich., the organic farm that supplies the food. The farm does not use pesticides and pays fair wages to workers.

“We love being CSA farmers,” Yera says. “It’s great being able to share our produce directly with people who care about where their food comes from and how it’s grown. There’s no middleman. The food is picked fresh and directly packed and delivered, not waiting on a truck, in a warehouse or on a shelf.”

Jenny Schwartz says while the boxes of produce are not enough to replace a trip to the supermarket for her family of five, the fresh food is a welcome addition.

“I think it’s important to support our local farmers and to eat locally grown food as much as possible. Participating in a farm share is a great way to do this and to reduce our carbon footprint,” she says. “It’s also a great way to teach our kids about where our food comes from. It definitely encourages healthy eating and gives us a chance to try new foods.”

‘Greenifying’ Jewish Detroit

The farm share program first began in 2014. Gutman, a vegetarian, was assistant director of education and youth at Shaarey Zedek at the time. She had been part of a CSA while living in New York and Boston before moving to Michigan and wanted to bring the concept and experience to Metro Detroit. Over the years, dozens of local families have participated. Gutman now works full time at Hazon and is focused on the larger mission of “greenifying” Jewish Detroit.

“We’re part of a national campaign to green Jewish organizations through the Hazon Seal of Sustainability program,” she says. “The seal certifies that a Jewish organization has met a set of criteria marking it as a good world citizen with regard to its food and environmental practices, treatment of animals and impact on climate change.”

So far, Shaarey Zedek, Congregation Shir Tikvah and Adat Shalom Synagogue are involved in the two-year process to receive the seal along with Yad Ezra, Camp Tamarack and Hillel Day School. Several other local organizations are in the first year of participation.

Allison Gutman of Hazon Detroit

On top of everything, Gutman is also the director of the Jewish Food Festival set for Sunday, Aug. 27, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Eastern Market Sheds 5 and 6. The event, featuring chef demos and tastings, discussions, Jewish historical tours, vendors, family activities and more, brought together an estimated 5,000 people last year.

“Healthy food is the fuel for a healthy life,” Gutman says. “Our mission is to create a healthier and more sustainable world for the Jewish community and beyond.”

Robin Schwartz JN Contributing Writer

For more information on Hazon https://hazon.org/about/where-we-are/detroit/ and its programs, contact Allison Gutman at Allison.gutman@hazon.org or call (248) 997-6344.

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