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Food

Even Matzo Is Going Local

What do Succot and Pesach have to do with each other? Sages have been asking each other that questions for generations, but the result has never been quite so eco-conscious. This year though, for the first time ever, Yiddish farm is offering the opportunity to purchase local, organic, whole wheat, Shmurah matzah for Passover.

The idea came to Yisroel Bass, current farm manager and co-founder of Yiddish Farm with his counterpart Naftali Ejdelman in 2011. He was at Isabella Freedman’s Sukkahfest retreat and noticed a group of people planting a small crop of wheat. After the holiday, he took some of the seeds back to his own farm in Goshen, NY (not to be confused with Goshen, Egypt – where matzah was made for the first time) to see how it would fare.

It took a few seasons and a couple experimental crops to get the wheat to the point where it would be ready to make Matzah. Planted before the winter, wheat takes the season to germinate and sprouts up at the end – leaving the farm staff with a season to prepare and gather equipment. “At the very least, we’d have a solid cover crop”, Yisroel shared. “And in the best case scenario, we’d have enough to make matzah”. They planted 2 acres of wheat and waited expectantly.

Yisroel walked me through his search for a combine, which not only makes the process of harvesting wheat easier, but actually ensures that it will be kosher enough for matzah. If the wheat touches the ground, rabbis shared, it may get wet and sprout rendering it unfit for Matzah and, the chances of the wheat coming in contact with hametz increases as well. Yisroel also explained that wheat needs to contain just 14% moisture in order to be stored without rotting so they would dry out the wheat on wagons until it was dry enough to store. The wait was worth it.

After the wheat had grown, it was deemed kosher for matzah by a local rabbi. It was then sowed, reaped, milled, and sifted at the Yiddish Farm. Yisroel shared that in the future they dream of having a matzah bakery on site at the farm. But this is already a year of firsts, so they will hold off on that for a while. Instead, it’s created a meaningful partnership with a local Jewish community down the road. The matzo is baked by the Heimishe Matzoh Bakery in Kiryas Joel, under the supervision of Rabbi Yechiel Steinmetz of Monsey.

Passover can be a tricky holiday for those of us who are committed to eating food that is locally produced, organic, and delicious. So much of the food for this holiday, requiring special Kosher-for-Passover hechsers comes from a box or a can and turns kitchens upside down. But during this week, where we celebrate freedom, why should we leave our food values behind?

This year, Yiddish farm is offering us the opportunity to make sure the matzah at our Passover seders sticks to the values we may keep during the rest of the year, by offering locally grown, baked hand-made organic Shmurah Matzah. It’s not only an opportunity to buy local, organic matzah, which is difficult to come by, but a chance to support Jewish agriculture. To order your own box of Yiddish farm organic Shmurah matzah, visit the Yiddish farm website before February 24.

Liz Traison is a Program Associate at Hazon and a health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She is a graduate of The University of Michigan where she received a BA in History and Judaic Studies. She also studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum and Hebrew University. She is thrilled to be a member of the 2014 PresenTense fellowship. She likes being outside, particularly on Skeleton Lake. And also being inside, specifically doing creative workshops in prison.

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