Becoming Jewish Farmers: The Education Department Visits Kayam Farms

A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Chana the goat at Kayam Farms

For the past month or so the Education Department at the Jewish Museum of Maryland has been working on what I would consider one of our most exciting projects ever. We are partnering with ExeterGardens(http:///­) inAlbemarle Square, a neighborhood adjacent to the JMM to create a community garden.  TheExeterGarden website says that the “project aims to transform an abandoned, ramshackle concrete lot into a model urban green space forBaltimore city.” The JMM is looking forward to participating in a community garden that will embrace the diversity and culture of the neighborhood.

Elena, Rachael, and Hasdai learning to becoming Jewish Farmers at Kayam Farm

When talking with Lindsay Thompson and Hasdai Westbrook, two of the key organizers of the garden, the JMM education staff realized that our newly formed partnership with Kayam Farm (http:/// would be an asset when developing this urban community garden. We quickly coordinated a time to meet with staff from Kayam to talk about ways in which they could help us visualize and create Exeter Gardens. As part of this process the JMM Education staff and Hasdai agreed to be trained in Jewish Farming techniques. Although Jewish farming is only one component of Exeter Gardens, we thought it useful to start the visualization process of how the garden may look as a whole and what type of Jewish educational programming we can provide at the museum. The JMM staff is especially excited about the development of this community garden because it ties in so nicely with our upcoming Chosen Food exhibition.

Morris and Elena discussing where her breakfast (oatmeal ) came from.

On Tuesday of this week the staff from the Education department (Deborah, Elena, Ilene, and myself), and Hasdai fromExeterGardensparticipated in the first of our training sessions to learn about Jewish farming. We have excitedly been referring to this training as first step in becoming Jewish Farmers, something I never expected to when taking this job. Morris Panitz, one of the Kayam Farms educators, helped each of us to understand the similarity between the values of Jewish education and education about farming and Jewish farming. We learned about how connected so many of the Jewish holidays (Sukkot, Purim, Shavuot, etc.) are to farming and the four seasons.

Team “Pest:” Hasdai, Deborah, and Ilene

Finally, we had a chance to go outside and experience an educational activity that we will be using with students. The goal of our activity was to teach the difference in mono-culture versus poly-culture crops.  Large scale mono-culture crops, so often used for commercial crops, are much more easily susceptible to attack by pests and therefore rely heavily on pesticides. In order to illustrate the difference between the two types of crops our group was divided into two teams: crops and pests. The first round illustrated mono-culture crops and Elena and I acted as corn crops while Ilene, Deborah, and Hasdai acted as pests. The pests chased the crops, which resulted in me taking one for the team and rolling down the side of a hill. Unfortunately in the end I was still caught by a pest (Deborah). During the second round Elena, Deborah, and I were pests, but the crops were diversified and it was much harder for us to tackle the crops.

Deborah and Elena embracing their role as pests

We had a beautiful and informative day at Kayam Farms and cannot wait to return to learn more about Jewish Farming. The Chosen Food exhibition opens on October 23 and when it does look for programs related to ExeterGardens and Jewish Farming.

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