Building Community: One Zucchini at a Time

The Hazon CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) program represents  one of the many ongoing efforts from Hazon to promote local, sustainable agriculture in the American Jewish community. Founded in 2004, our CSA program has 58 sites in the US, Canada, and Israel, and over 2,300 member households. In aggregate, since the program was founded, Hazon CSA sites have put close to eight million dollars of Jewish purchasing power into local, sustainable farms. As the middle of August quickly approaches, we are entering the height of the CSA season for many of our northern sites, and sites in the southern latitudes are gearing up for the fall! What a great time to celebrate the current season, and encourage the formation of many more  new additions to Hazon CSA sites in the year to come!

This week, we thought that this would be an appropriate time to take the opportunity to highlight some of the fantastic, exciting, and meaningful things that are going on at sites across the Hazon CSA network. Here are a few examples of inspiring activities and programming from our sites in Vancouver, Poughkeepsie, and West Hartford.

The Hazon CSA in Vancouver, at Temple Shalom, is bringing their community together for a number of innovative events featuring the CSA. Recently, they brought a local chef to the congregation to prepare a CSA-to-table dinner, using only ingredients that were found in that week’s box!  While they enjoyed their delicious dinner, community members used texts from Food for Thought, to discuss how to bring our ancient tradition of keeping kosher–literally, eating food that is “fit”– to bear on the range of food choices we’re making today.

Traveling southeast on the map – this season the Hazon CSA community welcomed the Poughkeepsie CSA, Pri HaEmek, with open arms.  Moreover, the opening ceremony of the Pre HaEmek Share Distribution Program for 2012 desereves a moment in the spotlight! On June 7th, co-chairs of the program Paula Reckess and Debbie Most cut the ceremonial blue ribbon to officially begin the season, surrounded by local icons such as: Jen Carson from Great Song Farm, Jon Ronsani from Lineage Farm, Charles North, President/CEO of Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Rabbi Neal Loevinger, from Temple Beth El, and Poughkeepsie’s Mayor John Tzazyik. Each of these movers and shakers remarked on this remarkable “think local first” venture, initiated by community members who have carried out the success of the project.

[myquote author=”Ruth Sheets, Poughkeepsie NY “]It became apparent [during the opening ceremony as shareholders pulled out their vegetables], that during this growing season the shareholders would have opportunities to experience new vegetables, try different recipes, and discover more of the bountifulness in our Hudson Valley.[/myquote]

The core group and shareholders of the Poughkeepsie Pri HaEmek CSA look forward to a wonderful season of growth for all involved: the farmers, the shareholders, and the greater CSA community.  Hazon is enthused and grateful to welcome the new, thriving Pri HaEmek CSA to the Hazon CSA community!

Through our CSA training calls, each of the CSA coordinators has the opportunity to learn from each other and share ideas. Our last training call led way to many ideas and suggestions that CSA core groups are considering for implementation. One creative and useful yet simple idea, was brought up by Margo Lynn, of the CSA in West Hartford. Margo Lynn suggested the use of a program for CSA family members to come to the synagogue to “make your own CSA bag!” This is a great way to provide a community-building activity for the CSA members to get to know each other, and additionally, it is a concrete and easy way to bring the support for sustainability to the next notch! Go pick up your CSA box for the rest of your season with the reusable bag that you and your family crafted yourself, along with your CSA community, family, and friends.

Starting up a CSA in your community, or any community, is a fantastic way to bring excitement and new ideas to your synagogue, support local agriculture, bring healthy and sustainable food to your table at home, and get the chance that you might not otherwise have to know your fellow congregants and their families. Furthermore, many people who have not yet had the opportunity to discover their Jewish identity, find joining a Jewish CSA to be a helpful step towards their Jewish journey through areas they are passionate about, and a community that they feel welcomed by.

Some people cannot truly grasp the breadth of the advantages and gained until they are a part of  a Hazon CSA. However, it is typical for membership in a CSA to inspire individuals not only to eat more healthfully, and to cook more often. Cooking for yourself rather than eating-out presents you with the great advantage of knowing where your food comes from. The ability to be knowledgeable about where the food on your plate originated and the journey that it had to get to your plate creates a more enjoyable, responsible, and sustainable meal for you and whoever you are sharing the table with. Starting a Hazon CSA in a community that does not yet have one is giving them many great gifts, and empowering each individual involved to take charge of what they eat in a healthful, sustainable, and exciting way. Hazon is proud to acknowledge the hard work from all of the CSA sites from the current season, and hopes that these existing CSA sites will provide insight and “plant seeds” for more ideas to help welcome  new Hazon CSA communities in the future.

Want to get involved?

Bring the magic of a Hazon CSA to your community! Hazon staff will support you through the process of building a relationship with your farmer, gathering a community of members, and creating an amazing CSA in your Jewish institution. Visit for more information.

Come to the Food Conference! Our annual event brings together passionate people who are working for sustainable food systems in their own lives, communities, nationally and abroad. There will be specific sessions on CSAs and how to start one in your community. Visit for more information.


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