Practical Ideas for Shmita

In preparing for the Shmita, we are laying the foundation for an Edenic world

The Shmita year has the possibility of being one of the most revolutionary and profoundly Jewish ethical experiences because it serves as a foundation to synthesize so many of the values that we hold as important in our daily life. It has the transformative power of turning these values, which we aspire to, into real direct action that can change our mind frame, our relationship to the earth, and our relationship to each other.

Shmita, like Shabbat, has the power to be a consciousness changing experience. It presents us with an opportunity to change our acquisitional mind-frame, and to experience peace. We invite you to join us as we begin our preparations for Shmita, 2014, on our farm. Although we’ve started late (it’s the 6th year already!) and we’re not in Israel, we think that the project has so many important aspects that we’re opting in to see what we can accomplish.

Shmita means, among many things, a commitment to the earth. It also means, by virtue of the sabbatical year, a commitment to learning, connecting with others, and treating ourselves with care. The list of preparations below taken wholly illuminates some of the ways in observing and preparing for Shmita could enable us to see ourselves and our relationship to the earth in a new light.

A switch to a more Shmita like thinking might help us to combat global climate change, social injustice, and hunger issues. The cultural implications are dramatic and far reaching.

Preparing for Shmita could look like:

Increase the practice of cultivating perennial food producing gardens, and eating wild foods

  • Planting and tending perennial edibles gardens
  • Planting fruits, nuts and berry bushes to prepare for the Shmita to come
  • Learn about and practice foraging
  • Set up perennial food sources for our animals to eat

Experimenting with planting the year before:

  • Carrots, beets, garlic, melons
  • Dump heaps (a method of piling up old melons, etc. and seeing what grows next year)
  • Volunteer encouragement (covering seeds from tomatoes that happen to be on the ground with soil
  • Fall seeding lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, turnips, radishes, peas, etc.
  • Covering fall seeded crops in winter
  • Fertilizing the soil in fall with manure, and other sources of nutrition

Increase our awareness of, and commitment to, the health of the land and the plants and animals that live on it.

  • By exploring long-term fertility experiments
  • By exploring our relationship to land, plants, and animals through text study and discussion.
  • By spending more time in nature, observing and participating rather than extracting

Plan, plant, harvest, and then dry, freeze, sauce, can, pickle, and generally put up crops grown in 2013 for consumption in 2014.

  • Grow extra root crops for preserving, canning, pickling, etc.
  • Grow winter crops with excellent storage, such as butternut squash and certain types of onions, garlic, peanuts, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Build a large array of solar dehydrators on the field to create a steady stream of dried tomato, tomatillo, ground cherry, pepper, eggplant, kale chips, and others.

Prepare spiritually with a Shmita Chevurah, which meets regularly to explore the meaning of Shmita.

  • Discuss relevant: texts, films, and outside organizations
  • Learn to preserve food, and prepare those crops there will be an abundance of during the Shmita year.

Learn about and conduct outreach on Food Justice issues, including the farm bill.

  • Through petitions
  • Through workshops
  • Through partnering with other organizations
  • Through making resources available.

The above list is one that we came up with as realistic possibilities for Pushing the Envelope Farm. Just putting it together made me consider the project that I work on in a new way, and many of the things on the list are things I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time. When put in the context of Shmita, seeing all of them together makes their value more apparent.

Kate and Elan, Pushing the Envelope Farm

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