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Leaving Fruits of Young Trees: Connecting with the Land and Community

Freshly Harvested Produce

On a recent Sunday afternoon, my husband and I toured Coastal Roots Farm, a local farm that is unique to our area along the southern California coastline. According to their vision statement they “envision a world in which every community comes together to grow and share healthy food, care for the land, help their neighbors, and strengthen the connections they have with each other.”

Coastal Roots Farm is inspired by ancient Jewish traditions that connect people to community, food, the land, and social justice. They donate 70% of all that is grown to feed those in need in the community and sell the remaining 30% at their local farmstand.

During the tour we learned about the concept of “orlah” which means “leaving fruits of young trees.” Orlah requires waiting to harvest fruit for a tree’s first three years, and donating the harvest in the fourth year. In ancient Judaism, the fourth year’s fruits were considered holy and designated for those who were landless and social or religious servants. Orlah teaches us to care for the trees and allow them to establish deep roots before concentrating on production. It encourages farmers to value trees as more than a means to an end of consumption. The farm recently produced its fourth year of grapes from the vineyard and donated it to a local winery to share in community events. Next year is their fifth year growing and they will cultivate and sell the fruit for the first time.

Especially at this time of year, it is a good reminder of giving back to the earth to nourish the soil, being grateful for the bountiful harvest and sharing with those less fortunate.