Happy Tu BiShvat: Environmental Responsibility in the Berkshires

February 8, 2012Greg Kellner

During the wintertime, I try to drive up to the Berkshires as much as possible. As an assistant director at URJ Crane Lake Camp, I don’t get so much time to enjoy all that the Berkshires has to offer during the summer. Today is Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees! It’s a great day to get out of the city and experience nature for all that it has to offer. For me, it’s enough to just get out of the city and drive the windy roads upstate, looking at the scenery and rolling hills in Berkshire County. When I think of Tu Bishvat, I picture the chalutzim, Israel’s early pioneers, planting trees in the northern part of the Galilee, and then others in modern day, making the desert bloom in the Negev Desert and the Arava River Valley. Where there were just sand and rock are now massive farms of peppers, dates, figs and so much more. When I spend time with my friends at their farm in the Arava (Moshav Faran), I marvel at how simple they see it to care of their environment and surroundings. In the desert certain resources are scarce, so water is precious and the ability to grow is an art AND a science, where environmental responsibility is valued and necessary to live.

Shomrei Adamah, to protect the earth, a value held dear in Reform Judaism, but protecting the earth can start anywhere, at home, in school, at camp AND around the Berkshires. I want to share with you three places in the Berkshires where environmental and social responsibility is at the forefront..

Farm Girl Farm, Egremont, MA Go to a restaurant in the southern Berkshires, and chances are they will be serving produce from Farm Girl Farm, a small, local and organic farm located about halfway between Crane Lake and Eisner. Last summer, I had an opportunity to spend some time at FGF and see the operation in action. There was no large machinery, and no hustle and bustle, just some people picking in the fields. The whole farm is about 3 acres and offers a wide array of produce throughout the summer including garlic, tomatoes, peppers (spicy and regular bell), lots of kale, zuchinni, summer squash, tomatillos (makes great salsa) and so much more. The best part, the food is fresh and doesn’t travel thousands of miles leaving a carbon footprint from here all the way to South America. Its also about the taste... it is noticeable and such a joy to bite into a tomato or pepper that just came off the vine. Both camps will be using food from Farm Girl Farm this coming summer as part of the Teva program. Kids will use produce from the camp gardens, Farm Girl Farm, and a little supplemented from our kitchen to make a wholesome meal at K’Far Teva. Visit Farm Girl Farm’s website

Jiminy Peak, Hancock, MA 24 minutes north of Crane Lake, just off of Route 22, Jiminy Peak is an example of environmental responsibility in the Berkshires. Most noticeable when driving up is the 386 foot tall wind turbine that sits atop Jiminy’s 2200 foot elevation. Annually, the windmill accounts for 33 percent of Jiminy’s total electrical demands, and during the winter, when the wind is at its highest, more than 50 percent! That’s a lot of wind! According to Jiminy’s website the turbine accounts for a reduction of nearly 7,100,000 pounds of CO2 (a greenhouse gas). This amount of electricity is also equivalent to driving 75 million fewer miles in a conventional automobile each year the wind turbine is in operation (jiminypeak.com). Jiminy has also initiated other environmental projects, such as preserving the trout population in Kinderhook Creek, constructing its own mountaintop reservoir to use the collected water for snowmaking and installing flushless urinals throughout the entire resort. When I am there in the winter skiing, I can really feel the sense of responsibility that this company has to preserving the land. You can read more about Jiminy’s initiatives on their website. Jiminy Peak Ski Resort's wind turbine sits atop its 2200 ft elevation

Barrington Coffee Roasters, Lee, MA (off Route 102) Living in the city, I have picked up Barrington Coffee in a number of places, but I have never been to the headquarters. I just know that Barrington Coffee is a beacon of social responsibility, and while this is not directly related to the way we treat our land, the way we treat others has a long lasting effect on our land and our world. Barrington Coffee Roasters, uses equitable trade pricing and insures that farmers are being paid an appropriate wage for their coffee beans and not being exploited, and possibly driven into poverty. Here are some facts from Barrington Coffee’s website... Our coffees are grown in complex natural agricultural systems by farmers who employ environmentally sustainable methods for their coffee production. We purchase all of our coffees at prices far above the pricing floor established for equitable trade. So, next time you travel up to camp, notice your surroundings, appreciate everything around you, and know that you have a responsibility to our world, just like these folks in our own Berkshire backyard. Start making a small difference at home. Recycle, turn off the lights, use CFL’s, turn the water off when you brush your teeth, start a small garden, get a composting box, plant a tree (in Israel or in your backyard).

There are a million ways to repair the environment... start with one and work your way up! Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam Shenatan Lanu Hisdamnut Ltakein Et Haolam. Blessed are you Adonai our God, ruler of the universe, who has given us the opportunity to repair the world. How are you helping the world on this Tu Bishvat?   

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