In today’s world it’s common for people to separate various aspects of their life, their whole. But this isn’t natural, and in fact it’s rather difficult to do completely. A holistic world view is actually quite natural, it’s unnatural to divide everything into “unrelated” segments.
At The Tikkun Homestead our faith definitely informs our farming practices from the livestock we raise to how we treat them to how we plant in the garden. We raise only animal species that are considered acceptable for consumption (Leviticus 11), we treat them with dignity afforded to every living creature (Proverbs 12:10), we mark each firstborn male for a special purpose and do not work him or keep him for breeding purposes (Exodus 34:19), we tithe on our agricultural income (Leviticus 27:30ff), we manage our garden carefully (Deuteronomy 22:9), and more.
We raise cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry. We do not castrate our males, dock tails, dehorn or debeak, or brand our animals (though we do tag them out of necessity for identification purposes). The parts they’re born with, they keep. While we do not have access to a shochet at this time (may this change soon bezrat HaShem) this doesn’t stop us from raising our animals according to a higher standard. We ensure that they do not consume things that would be forbidden and that they are healthy at slaughter time. Currently we oversee their slaughter with a local butcher who is happy to do the things we’ve asked him to do, and we inspect the animals organs to ensure they were healthy. While this is not optimal or ideal, it is what we have at this time until a better opportunity is available.
Our firstborn males are reserved for a special purpose – at this time their value is donated to The Temple Institute. But we also take 10% of our income from the sales of our animals and reserve those funds for holiday expenses and tzedekah. When we’ve been privileged to spend Sukkot in Israel we have spent our farming tithe with great rejoicing!
Even in our garden our faith informs how we utilize companion gardening information and square foot gardening practices by ensuring that different types of plants are at minimum one-and-a-half hand span apart from the other at their bases. The first fruits of our garden and later some of our abundance are donated to those in need (we do not know of a Cohen family in our area) (Exodus 23:19 and Leviticus 23:22 ). While many of these instructions only apply to Jews living in the land of Israel, it is a practice that our family finds benefit from and a reminder that when Moshiach reigns in Jerusalem and all the world bows the knee to him, it will be helpful to at least have an understanding and working knowledge of Torah application. In the Redemption, we believe, everyone will follow Torah’s instructions – even farming practices.
How about you? In what ways does your faith inform your farming practices?