About half the people of the world, composing three of the world’s major religions and spread across the entire globe think of Israel as the holy land. There must be something to it.
Arid, dry and lacking in much in the way of natural vegetation, you wouldn’t think of this place as too conducive to agriculture–but that’s simply not true. Due to techniques older than the Jewish faith itself as well as some amazing modern developments, Israel has become a beacon of farming ingenuity and productivity despite being surrounded by salt water and definitely low in the rain department.
Check this out:
- The way farming is organized in Israel is much different than in other Western countries – There are two types of farming communities, called the kibutz and the moshav. The kibutz is basically a commune where the land, buildings and crops grown belong equally to everyone in the community–which is often composed of several different families. In a moshav, families own their own house, land and the cops they grow, but the community sells and markets their product as a unit. It’s very cooperative in nature.
- Organic is huge in Israel – 13 percent of agricultural exports from Israel are organic. 760 Israeli businesses specialize in organic products and nearly 18,000 acres of this tiny country are dedicated to organic crops.
- They still use the old techniques–because they work! The mountains by Jerusalem are still peppered with terraced land, growing everything from cherries to wine to tomatoes. And nearly 80 percent of the land dedicated to agriculture in Israel is in “rotation,” meaning that land is given a break every 7 years so the soil can regain the nutrients six years of crops took from it. This is a very old technique, one that is less and less in use as modern farmers rely on fertilizer and pesticides.
- They are constantly innovating – Sometimes this is good; sometimes it’s bad; sometimes it’s hard to tell. But here are a few fascinating examples.
- A company called TraitUp is modifying the traits of plants without modifying the plant’s DNA. they can make it need less water, handle more sunlight, produce more the edible parts and less of the non-edible parts–but all without actually modifying the DNA strand. I’m on the fence about this one. What do you think?
- Harvesting dew and watering the crops with it. A company called Tal-Ya Water Technologies makes recycled, reusable trays that collects dew from the air and gives it to the crops, reducing the water load of these crops by up to 50%.
- Pretty sure I wouldn’t eat it, because it’s GMO, but somebody over there developed a type of potato that grows from salt water. SALT WATER!
- Natural pest control – One Israeli company releases predatory mites into the fields to kill pests, rather than relying on toxic chemical pesticides. Plus, they encourage (and provide) the use of bumble bees to pollinate Israeli crops. You have probably heard about the bumble bee problem taking over the world. It’s good people are trying to save it. This particular company is making a splash worldwide and 32 countries are using its services.
Not only is it amazing the ingenuity that arises out of necessity, it’s beautiful to see the OLD methods having an impact. Many of the ailments afflicting the world today (I might even go so far as to say most of them) are a result of trying to modernize our lives–be it food, work, technology, transportation, etc. Not saying we should all live like the Amish, but not forgetting that crop rotation is more natural, more beneficial and yields better results than endless fertilization over long timescales, might help us out. Cooperation might be helpful in keeping small farmers afloat rather than allowing the agribusiness giants take over and dictate what we eat.
Israel is a country with one of the oldest cultures still in existence at the helm. They recognize the beauty and power of tradition. They have always been a culture of intelligent and healthy food policy. We’d do well to learn a thing or two.