Want to help the Earth, feed the hungry, learn gardening tips, enjoy the outdoors, schmooze and teach Jewish values all at once? As many Portland Jewish Academy families have discovered, Kindness Farm is the place to do it.
Kindness Farm is a nonprofit located on a 1-acre plot off Southeast 127th Avenue in Portland. Founded and run by Lou Levit this past January, the farm uses volunteer labor and sustainable agricultural practices to grow produce that is then donated to those in need. “Kindness Farm aims to care for people and Earth by regeneratively and sustainably growing nutrient-full vegetables and fruits; cultivating community education of balanced farming practices; and providing freshly harvested nutriments to houseless and low-income neighbors in need,” according to its website.
PJA has organized several volunteering events for families at Kindness Farm, including last spring and during the summer.
“Because of COVID, many of our traditional service opportunities weren’t available, so we were looking for outdoor service opportunities,” says PJA Service Learning Coordinator Elana Cohn-Rozansky. “We connected with Lou through the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and have kept it going since.”
PJA organized two volunteer events in late spring, and then two more during summer. “Kindness Farm is doing so much that we want to teach our children,” says PJA parent and Middle School Jewish Studies Teacher Ben Foote. “Treating the Earth with respect, helping those in need, the joy of working outside in the dirt – these are all things I want my own children and my students to appreciate.”
Volunteers weeded existing garden beds and laid compost for new ones.
“The summer event was great, because it was mostly families new to PJA,” says Ben. “The kids were either digging up weeds or watching caterpillars and worms, while the adults were able to converse and connect.”
Ben was so struck by Kindness Farm he has returned to volunteer beyond PJA events.
“The PJA crews have done a lot of meaningful work at the farm, but we’ve never harvested the food (which mostly happens on Fridays),” he says. “I wanted to see how all this work translated into the actual produce the farm donates.”
Founder Lou Levit reflects on the impact Kindness Farm has already had on the Portland community: “In such a short time, this year alone, we’ve been able to feed over 5,000 of our houseless and low-income neighbors fresh, vibrant produce.”
Lou also expresses gratitude for those who have pitched in to help: “This couldn’t happen without the amazing contributions of our donors and volunteers. PJA families have been so amazing in spending their time on our beautiful farm, helping us create growing beds and gardens. I am truly grateful to the families that come out and support the farm and hope to see more community members as we grow and evolve.”
Harvesting Chesed: Sukkot Shabbat at Kindness Farm
Celebrate Shabbat and harvest season with OneTable and the Kindness Farm (read about the farm above). OneTable promotes Shabbat and holiday dinners for and by young adults.
At 5:30 pm, Sept. 24, young adults (20s-30s) are invited to spend a fun evening volunteering and learning more about the farm, partaking in a delicious plant-based dinner from Aviv and connecting in community through reflective conversations. In the spirit of Sukkot, we invite you to bring your intentions and goals for how you want to engage in more radical hospitality throughout this Jewish New Year, 5782.
Suggested cost for catered dinner is $10/person. Limited capacity to the first 15 RSVPs (address provided with RSVP). For details and to RSVP, go to bit.ly/38TIEPr or onetable.org/portland.
Enjoy Sukkot at the MJCC
Mittleman Jewish Community Center is hosting two events to bring the community together outdoors for Sukkot.
Help build the Community Sukkah at 10 am, Sunday, Sept. 19, at the MJCC.
Then at 4 pm, Sunday, Sept. 26, come and enjoy Pizza in the Sukkah at the MJCC. Masks will be required when not actively drinking or eating. Enjoy an evening of great food, schmoozing, singing and storytelling. Cost is $5/person with children 3 and under free. Register at oregonjcc.org/pizza.