As my time at Adamah (the Jewish farming fellowship) fellow came to a close, I felt like our season as farmers also came full circle. For me personally, the experience on the farm also marked my transformation from an Artistic Administrator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (a fancy-clothes wearing, stress filled employee) to a pickler, meditator, Carhartt-wearing farmer and much more chill person as well.
At the beginning of Adamah in September, when the weather was still warm (though it’s hard to remember back that far!), we went to our field, the Sadeh, on a Monday morning to take part in the shechting (kosher slaughter) of nine of our male goats. It was an incredibly challenging day, to say the least – and even more surreal because just one day before we’d hosted “Feast in the Field,” a beautiful brunch complete with fancy food from the Sadeh and celebration, all in the same location. That said, the shechting took place with intention and with respect, not unlike the experience I had almost one year earlier at the Hazon Food Conference, where we shechted three goats.
At the Food Conference last year, I was a newbie to the Hazon and Adamah communities. I was an outsider. This was not bad, by any means, but being inside and part of this powerful community gave me a totally different perspective on the process of taking the lives of animals. It happened that during this two week period, I was assigned to the chore of goat milking, so the evening after the goat meat was packaged and on its way to owners who had purchased free range, organic kosher goat meat, I went down to the pasture to milk our female goats, some of whom were the mothers of the goats we had shechted. Connecting to the entire cycle of the process was very powerful and would be made even more powerful just a few months later.
Fast forward over two months, after a week-long search for the frozen Adamah goat meat (it eventually turned up in a staff member’s freezer). We came together, with the Adamah and Isabella Freedman community for a lunch of beautiful salads, challot, Adamah squash, and for the main dish; goat stew. Prepared with love and intention by Anna Stevenson, our Farm Manager, this was the perfect opportunity for me to eat my first bites of red meat in over fourteen years.
I did not partake last year at the Food Conference – I simply could not bring myself to eat the meat that I had watched get killed, although philosophically I agreed wholeheartedly with the process. But this year, I could. A friend spooned stew into a bowl, and after saying kiddush and blessing our challot, I set my own intention and took my first bite of meat. It was an amazing stew, with a total depth of flavor and with meat that was cooked perfectly and melted in my mouth. I do not plan on eating meat frequently, but if I know the farmer, and know how the animals were raised and killed, I will likely do so again. I have to say, it definitely beats the soy “meat” I’ve grown accustomed to over the years.
Adamah is now over, and in just over one week, I will join over 550 Jews to partake in this year’s Food Conference. Just over one year ago, this conference changed my life. I am on my way to attend The Natural Gourmet, a whole-foods based culinary school in New York. I am involved with Hazon as a member volunteer Exec Committee planning the conference, I helped to start Chicago’s Tuv Ha’Aretz CSA last spring, and no, I don’t have a desk job anymore.
Those heels and suits will have to sit there accumulating dust. And that’s just fine with me.