By Jenny Rapp
Milk and Honey Farm at the Boulder JCC may look like a normal farm, but it is actually full of agricultural connections to Judaism.
There is a greenhouse in which they grow the biblical seven species and there is early childhood programming to learn about biblical laws of agriculture.
There are the fields known as the tzedakah farm where they put some of those laws to practice by donating food to Boulder Food Rescue; they generally donate about a ton of produce every growing season.
Then there are the six garden beds in which they grow plants each corresponding to a Jewish holiday. For Chanukah they have potatoes and onions for latkes. The Rosh Hashanah bed is full of flowers for pollinators, bees in particular.
At Milk and Honey Farm you don’t have to look far to find pollinators. Becca Gan Levy, director of farming and sustainability, keeps bees with her father at the outer edge of the farm.
“My boss had bees and he was telling me . . . how cool it was,” she says, describing her initial inspiration. “So my dad and I decided to go to a class, bought a beehive and started keeping bees.”
The process is quite simple. The bees collect nectar from flowers and bring it to their comb. The bees then distill the honey by fanning the nectar with their wings until the honey is the proper density, before capping it with wax.
When it comes time to harvest the honey, Gan Levy and her father remove the honeycombs, leaving about eight for the bees’ nourishment throughout the winter. They remove the wax caps and let the honey flow through a filter into a bucket where it is ready to enjoy.
Though beekeeping may have once been an easier, profitable hobby, with colony collapse disorder on the rise it becomes more difficult by the year. “Now it doesn’t necessarily financially pan out because you have to buy bees every other year,” she explains. “We lose at least half our hives every winter.”
A major cause of this is the use of pesticides. Gan Levy, who has a master’s in agricultural policy, says that since this is a systemic problem there isn’t much she can do to help outside of her farm.
“We manage this land without pesticides,” she says, “but I can’t help anyone else.”
As a nonprofit, Milk and Honey doesn’t have to worry about the yield as much as a commercial farm, so the Levys can afford to replace bees, but they recognize that it may be difficult for others.
Despite these challenges, Gan Levy and her father manage to harvest at least a gallon of honey per hive every year and are able to distribute it throughout the Boulder JCC.
“I give to volunteers . . . to different partners of the farm . . . we get to use it in our preschool . . . we have a Rosh Hashanah family program that we use the honey for,” she says.
A main focus of the farm is education, on both Jewish and agricultural themes. The farm’s staff use the bees as a starting point to teach kids the importance of sustainability and protecting pollinators. “Just being able to open up the window and see the inside of the hive creates wonder,” she says. “We use it as a jumping off point.”
When it comes to the apples in “apples and honey,” things can be a little more complicated. “The frost and the Front Range are so hit-or- miss in terms of apple growing,” she explains, so if apples don’t grow in Boulder one year they’ll use watermelon instead.
She says that just like the honey flowing in Israel was really date honey, Boulder also has its own unique way of greeting the new year. “This is our local source of sweetness,” she says.
Honey-Sweetened No-Bake Oatmeal Bites
- 1 cup all-natural peanut butter just peanuts and salt in the ingredients, or use plain sunflower butter if you’re worried about allergies
- 1/4 cup raw honey
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats you can use gluten free oats
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- tiny pinch of sea salt
- 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips or raisins or m&m’s or other exciting addition
- 2-4 teaspoons water coconut milk or almond milk if necessary
In a large glass mixing bowl, stir together the peanut butter or sunflower butter, raw honey and vanilla extract.
Then stir in your oats, coconut and sea salt until well incorporated and then mix in the chocolate chips.
If the mixture doesn’t hold together well when pressed into balls, add a tiny bit of water/coconut/almond milk, just a teaspoon at a time until it all holds together well when squeezed into a ball.
Form one inch balls by pressing about 1 tablespoon of the mixture together in your hands.
Store in an airtight container, refrigerated for 1 week, or in the freezer for a month.
Have a sweet new year!