Hazon conference at UC Davis spotlights food, Jewish life
Federation grant helps underwrite Portland delegation
By ELIZABETH SCHWARTZ, Special to the Jewish Review
article created on: 2011-09-15T00:00:00
We came from all over North America and as far away as Japan, England and Israel.
More than 300 enthusiastic, passionate food activists, cooks, teachers, writers, clergy, farmers and learners, most Jewish, some not, converged on the campus of the University of California at Davis for the Sixth Annual Hazon Food Conference, held from Aug. 18 to 21.
“It’s the only place where farmers, rabbis and chefs come together to explore dynamic interplay between food and Jewish life,” said Deborah Newbrun, Hazon’s Bay Area director.
This year’s conference broke new ground in several ways. Previous conferences took place over the Christmas holiday, but this year the conference was moved to mid-August, during the height of harvest season, (an important consideration when planning a conference that serves sustainably and locally grown food to its participants, and emphasizes seasonality in menu choices).
The location for this year’s conference was also different from the facilities and retreat centers used in the past. UC Davis is the University of California’s land grant university and specializes in agriculture programs, including a degree in food science. This fall it will also be implementing a new undergraduate B.S. degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. Davis features a dairy, brewery, winery, commercial food kitchens, experimental farms and processing facilities, all available for participants to visit and tour.
Hazon is a Jewish not-for-profit, based in New York City that helps create healthy and sustainable Jewish communities in the Jewish world and beyond. This year, with funding from a Jewish Federation of Greater Portland Community Impact Grant, Hazon sent 10 Portlanders to the conference, as part of a leadership cohort that will incorporate ideas learned at the conference into Portland’s existing Jewish food activities
The Portlanders were Susan Bivens, Rachel Caron, Eleyna Fugman, Rosi Goldsmith, Natasha Hale, Lannie Kali, Anna Kellerman, Bobbie Kramer, Laurel Poplack, Liz Schwartz, Sara Hope Smith.
Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz, Portland’s Jewish connection to sustainable, ethical food for all, and other Jewish institutions, such as synagogues and schools, will benefit from the cohort’s experiences, skills, enthusiasm and passion for Jewish sustainable food, in all its manifestations. (Check back here next month for an in-depth article about the members of the Portland Leadership Cohort.)
The conference featured a number of different learning tracks, and participants were free to choose whichever sessions interested them:
• DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Food, which gave participants the chance to make seaweed salads, homebrewed beer, potato knishes and medicinal herbal remedies;
• Food Justice and Tikkun Olam, a series of sessions that feature presenters at the forefront of the movement to address hunger, poverty and food access, both here and abroad, while incorporating Jewish values of caring for others;
• Food Systems and Policy, a series of sessions that help participants understand the relationship between government policies and our national food system, including discussions about the Farm Bill, SNAP and animal welfare legislation;
• Jewish Agriculture, which focuses on the agricultural voices from Jewish tradition and some innovative projects, like farms, gardens and chickens, that help re-engage urban Jews with agricultural life;
• Health and Nutrition, sessions designed to understand how to make healthy food choices from physical, social, mental and spiritual health perspectives;
• Food for Thought: Text, Values and Traditions, which use traditional Jewish texts to re-examine our relationship to the land of Israel, money, consumption, healthy eating and more.
Joan Nathan, one of the conference’s keynote speakers, is the doyenne of Jewish cookbook writers. She gave a delightfully anecdotal and historically informed talk about her research for her latest book, “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France.” Nathan also taught us how to make preserved lemons, which, she said, are a must-have staple in every cook’s pantry.
Another keynote speaker, Dr. Oran Hesterman, is the founder of the Fair Food Network, dedicated to building a more just and sustainable food system. He gave a presentation about the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill, which clearly laid out the basis of this complex legislation, and suggested ways Jewish communities can influence it as it comes up for renewal next year.
Hesterman will come to Portland on Oct. 24 for the first-ever National Food Day, to talk about the Farm Bill and his latest book, “Fair Food.” For more information about this free event, go to http://edibleportland.com/content/2011/09/oct-24-celebrate-food-day/.)
With such a wealth of sessions to choose from, not to mention a variety of Shabbat religious services, from egalitarian with guitar to a mechitza minyan, and Jewish yoga sessions outside on the grass in front of our dining hall, attendees at this year’s conference got to sample a rich array of Jewish learning and worship opportunities, as well as make new friends.
The conference ended with the annual eco-fair and shuk, where participants could purchase everything from books and fair-trade chocolates to homemade soaps and sustainably raised kosher meat.
In addition, participants could meet with representatives of various Jewish environmental and tikkun olam organizations including Wilderness Torah, Urban Adamah and the American Jewish World Service, which serve as a springboard for future opportunities in which to grow the new Jewish food movement.
See related story under Health regarding chicken shechting.