EACH spring Lisa Bates visits a produce stand piled high with locally grown organic vegetables and fills her cloth bags with the weeks bounty. Her weekly routine doesnt include Boulders farmers market; instead, Bates visits a stand outside her synagogue.
The location, next to Bonai Shalom, is shady, sometimes buggy and always social, she said, a time when her Jewish friends hang out and chat while bundling radishes and weighing tomatoes.
Its a very nice, non-hurried time, said Bates, who is also the site coordinator for Tuv HaAretz, the Boulder-based Jewish community supported agriculture (CSA) group.
The success of the CSA, which in its second season last year attracted 140 members, reflects a growing Jewish interest in locally produced food as well as sustainable agriculture, farming practices that enhance the soil.
ALONG the Front Range there are four Jewish CSAs, including Boulders Tuv HaAretz and Ekar Farm, Denvers urban Jewish communal farm, and Gan Kehilati, adjacent to HEA.
Theres also a Jewish egg project, where 14 Boulder families own 30 cage-free hens, as well as a community garden run by Nevei Kodesh, where last year more than 500 pounds of produce were donated to the needy.
The concentrated interest in sustainable local farming caught the eye of New York-based Hazon, a Jewish nonprofit whose mission is to create healthier and more sustainable communities. The organization recently hired two staff members to expand its presence in Colorado, including Becky OBrien, Hazons new Boulder-based director of community engagement, and Sarah Shulman, the new Denver-based director of community education.
Jewish people around the country are interested in these issues, but Boulder is ahead of the curve, OBrien said.
Nationwide, organized Jewish interest in sustainable agriculture began six years ago, when Hazon became involved in the new Jewish Food Movement, defined by Hazon as eating in a way that is both deeply Jewish and deeply sustainable.
Hazons CSA program was the first effort in the American Jewish community to support local, sustainable agriculture and has grown to be the largest faith-based CSA program in the country, Hazon said. Its CSA programs span more than 45 locations across the US and Israel, and more than $1 million from Jewish CSAs have supported small, mostly organic farms.
In CSAs, members buy shares to provide revenues that help farmers avoid going into debt before the growing season.
In return, participants receive weekly shares of locally grown, usually organic harvests, and they have a relationship with the farm and farmers.
CSA members are also willing to risk bad growing seasons, which can result in low yields.
With Jewish CSAs, Hazon helps Jewish communities find farmers and facilitates information sharing between the Jewish communities who have CSAs.
It also provides training for CSA site coordinators.
IN Boulder, Tuv HaAretz is entering its third season. Its roots began with a 2008 Yom Kippur sermon about the Jewish food movement by Rabbi Marc Soloway of Bonai Shalom.
Soon after, a committee formed that also included members from Boulder congregations Aish Kodesh (Orthodox) and Nevei Kodesh (Renewal) and the group partnered with Red Wagon Organic Farm, a certified-organic farm in Boulder.
One year later, The Adventure Rabbi, Pardes Levavot (Renewal) and Har HaShem (Reform) joined the effort.
The first year, approximately 70 families joined the CSA; that number has since doubled. Bates said that the organizers of Tu HaAretz hope 200 families will join this year.
The term Tuv HaAretz, which is found in Deuteronomy, means both the good of the land and good for the land, Rabbi Soloway said, meaning that the CSA provides goodness from the earth to eat and that its environmentally responsible.
One of the things we can look for in the Torah is the Torahs vision of our environment, food supply and agriculture, and a very deep and sacred relationship with the land, said Rabbi Soloway, who co-chaired the West Coast Hazon conference in December.
To live a life that is consistent with those Jewish values, we need to recognize that we can each do our part in creating a more sustainable world.
Hes also interested in the new hechsher, Magen Tzedek, which takes into account how the workers, the animals and the earth are treated during food production.
Its all part of widening our consciousness of what it means to eat kosher and to eat food at all, Rabbi Soloway said.
For me this whole journey has been amazing hearing people who feel connected to the Jewish tradition saying, Enough. This is not how we should be producing food or how we should be eating.
In February, Tuv HaAretz, Boulders Jewish CSA, will begin accepting applications for the 2011 growing season.
Information: Lisa Bates, firstname.lastname@example.org.