Feb 22, 2015  By Adam Ganson  Category: Blueprint Negev,

Farm-to-table events serve up a new kind of delicious in the Negev

Photo: Earth's Promise
Attendees of a recent Earth's Promise farm-to-table event enjoy a fresh, locally sourced meal in Be'er Sheva.  

It was a rainy evening in Be'er Sheva, an unusual and rare occurrence in Israel's south, and a steady downpour had fallen since the afternoon. Many people remain indoors during this type of weather, complaining of the cold and only interested in staying warm. Good thing, because a perfect indoor opportunity presented itself. Inside a finely decorated cafe, about 40 guests filed into the cozy interior as servers prepared for a unique evening, Earth's Promise "farm to table" event. 

"Farm to table" is a worldwide movement that's now making its way to Be'er Sheva. The purpose is to encourage people to make local and fresh food choices. Many restaurants have started sourcing their ingredients from nearby farms and charge a premium for a quality meal. 

Earth's Promise, a Jewish National Fund partner, promotes urban agriculture in the south of Israel in order to support sustainable growth in the Negev region. Earth's Promise recently teamed with local restaurants to promote the farm-to-table idea and provide interesting local food and urban-agriculture opportunities for residents in the south.

In a country as small as Israel, "local food" culture takes on a new meaning. Although it would seem that a local-food movement would make sense, processed-food giants dominate Israel, importing a large amount of the food that Israelis consume. An urban farm in Be'er Sheva run by Earth's Promise offers an alternative by growing organic vegetables within the city, supporting sustainability, and producing events that impart awareness about food while providing a delicious meal.

Photo: Earth's Promise
Our new farm-to-table events started as an idea for a way to connect the farm's produce to local restaurants and pubs. We have already succeeded in bringing local organic produce to people who come to the farm; we wanted to develop a way to "close the circle." 

For the second in our series of farm-to-table events last Sunday, we brought volunteers to the Earth Promise urban farm, where they picked fresh produce. Then we brought the vegetables and herbs to the chef at Lola, a local restaurant, who prepared a beautiful, delicious meal of lettuce and mushroom salad, tabouli, dill soup, and chickpeas and seasoned rice. Food journalist, chef, and cookbook author Tami Sirkis -- daughter of well-known cookbook author Ruth Sirkis -- spoke about the slow-food movement, an alternative to fast food that emphasizes quality food, quality company, and how the two meet. Attendees paid 50 shekels (about $13) for a locally sourced meal plus the lecture.

Earth's Promise is planning a series of these farm-to-table events, including a "prepare your own meal" evening, all with fresh produce that we grow at the urban farm in Be'er Sheva, thought to be the only commercial urban farm in the country. 

We also work with a local food pantry to provide fresh organic produce to needy city residents. These activities are the basis of the Earth's Promise vision of bringing our food sources closer to home, and farming in the city makes these efforts possible. Some people may ask whether farming in the city is worthwhile. The answer in Be'er Sheva is clear. Urban agriculture is improving the quality of life for residents of Israel's south.

Adam Ganson is co-executive director of Earth's Promise. 

Earth's Promise farm-to-table event
Photo: Earth's Promise