Winter growth at the Leichtag Foundation

leafy low tree with single red pomegranate

A pomegranate lasts into January in Leichtag’s food forest

In January, I grabbed the chance to visit the Leichtag Foundation — and, as it turned out, munch the most delectable fruit I’ve had all year.

The window of time was small. It was early 2018, and my husband and I were ending a honeymoon/family visit to the West Coast. The next day, we would fly the 2,700 miles back to our work and lives in Washington, DC.

From afar, I had admired Leichtag, an organization that boosts sustainable Jewish farming. In my writing on the topic, Jewish farmers spoke of a gathering there as a point of transformation and bonding. Yet I never imagined I would make it to the headquarters. Planning a visit meant wrestling with that eternal researcher/freelance writer dilemma: Keep this the West Coast trip purely for fun, or… fire up the laptop, dig into the subject, develop preliminary questions, and make a pilgrimage?

Couple stands at sign reading "Leichtag Foundation"

David and I pose for a final honeymoon photo at Leichtag Foundation HQ.

David, my husband and balance monitor, encouraged the latter. Within hours, we drove through the gate of what is known as Leichtag Commons. As we passed the on-site vegetable fields and buildings labeled Butterfly Farm and The Hive, I knew that coming here was the right decision.

Soon after, we hopped on a golf cart with Jessica Kort, Senior Manager of Philanthropy and Communications, to see as much as we could of the 67-acre site. And I won’t go into it all here, but in short we saw a vineyard, gathering places, and the first glimmers of a “food forest” and a silvo pasture. We visited a co-working space and business incubator known as The Hive and met staff and small business tenants. We also stopped at Coastal Roots Farm with its pay-what-you-can farm stand, chicken coop, and produce growing from schmita-friendly “soil socks” atop the ground. The farm is where I bit into the best culinary experience of 2018, a record that still stands. The experience was a strawberry, grown outside during the coldest months of the year and just as sweet as any summer berry back east.

The Leichtag Foundation focuses on community development in North San Diego County, with grants and influences felt around the world. The fruits of their work include collaborations among Israelis and Palestinians, Syrians and Americans, observant Jews and those who are unaffiliated. The sights, sounds, and conversations gave me fodder to enhance and shape my writing project about the new Jewish food movement. As a bonus, David caught a runaway chicken. It turns out balance isn’t his only talent.

 

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