Planning for the future in farm fields at Freedman
By Patrick L. Sullivan
October, 21, 2010
FALLS VILLAGE — Visitors to the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center for Sunday’s Farm Day event got a tour of the gardens, the opportunity to visit the goats and even a chance to participate in a campfire sing-along — with folks who can carry a tune.
The dining room was crowded when this reporter arrived, and several young people — part of the ADAMAH group, who handle the farming and production of cheeses, pickles and other comestibles — were explaining to the guests what makes the food different.
Jaimie Sadeh was in charge of the cobb oven (as in cobblestone), a massive construction of local materials including clay and straw, with fire bricks in the oven portion. The entire thing is shaped like a bear.
Sadeh said that it was hot enough inside the oven for baking bread — yet the outside of the structure was completely cool to the touch.
“Radiant cooking is much more efficient than convection,” she said.
After lunch, and before groups formed for the afternoon’s workshops and activities, the guests gathered at a campfire site by the pond and sang, led by Steven Wynbrandt. It was a pleasant setting, made better by the strong, tuneful singing and expert guitar accompaniment.
A dozen or so people followed Shamu Sadeh (the director of ADAMAH and an expert on ecological garden design) onto a small parcel of land in the hilly area between Johnson and Beebe Hill roads.
He explained that the gardens are designed to mimic what is best and most efficient in nature. For instance, on the steep slopes, ADAMAH farmers grow perennials and don’t till the soil, to avoid erosion.
The orchard boasts a wide variety of species — apples, plums, pears, persimmons — and avoids the homogeneity of commercial orchards, which have row after row of one or maybe two types of plant.
“The loss of diversity in the last 50 years is not just frogs and grizzly bears,” he said. “It’s also apples.”
And they find natural replacements for the fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides of commercial agriculture in composting techniques and strategic plantings.
“We need to treat the earth with great respect and tenderness,” said Sadeh. “That’s what will bring us into the future.”