Shmita invites us into an embodied practice of rest and release. But to get to this place also requires conscious learning, preparation, design and action. These ideas below are all ways we can bring to life the values rooted in the Shmita tradition: community resiliency, generosity, mutuality and trust. These actions are not just what we might consider for the Shmita Year alone; they are valuable design tools to support the emergence of Shmita values during all years of the Shmita Cycle.
These ideas are inspired by the work of 7Seeds, co-founding partner of the Shmita Project. 7Seeds is an educational platform using permaculture design to empower and support the reawakening of Sabbatical Culture.
– Host a Shmita Work Party. Open the day with some grounded text study and then activate your learning by doing, bringing to life some of the values within the Shmita paradigm. This is a wonderful way to engage the community through shared efforts and investments. Work parties can support the commons, through projects at community gardens and art projects. And work parties are just as helpful when supporting one community member in need of extra hands.
– Host a Fruit Tree Planting on unused land at local schools, synagogues and community centers. A Shmita food system in dependent upon perennial plant choices, so the more fruit trees, the happier our bellies will be during the Shmita year. Begin to incorporate fruit tree classes into your local community garden educational programs and curriculums, covering subjects such as tree propagation, tree planting, seasonal pruning, and more. Map the fruit trees growing in your area, so you can realize the abundance around you. Join together as community work groups to tend local fruit trees and share in the harvest.
– Organize a Local Farm Tour. Shmita is all about food accessibility…Get to know your local foodshed and the farmers who are living/working in your area. Learn what each farm grows, and where they need help. Volunteer at each site. If you live in an area with intensive gardening, plan the tour as a bike ride!
– Organize A Wild Food Walk. Shmita is a year of leaving agricultural lands fallow, but such laws do not affect wildlands. Start a local foraging group to go on wild plant walks. Learn to identify wild edible plants, medicinal plants, and mushrooms. Learn their seasons and how to ethically and properly harvest such growth. Learn about their healing and nutritious qualities. Experiment with preparing and/or cooking such foods so they can be easily incorporated into your diet.
– Support Land Conservation: Through donations of time or finance, support local Community Land Trusts that work with wildland conservation and protection, by purchasing land and keeping it wild for future generations. Do what you can so you will have a wild food ecology surrounding you, or close by, when you need it. Similarly, supporting Agricultural Land Trusts preserves land for the use of long-term agriculture, by protecting local farms from future development.
– Organize A Community Gleaning Trip. On the Shmita Year, all agricultural harvests are meant to be shared within community, as needed, in support of fair distribution and local food security. In addition, harvests should not be wasted or thrown away. Connect with a local farm to arrange a visit where you can glean from the fields, and provide to those in-need. If Behar is too early in the growing season, connect with local restaurant and markets, and glean what would otherwise go to waste.
– Host A Crop Swap/Food Barter. On the Shmita year, the food economy shuts down, as foods cannot be sold in the marketplace. This is a perfect opportunity to get comfortable with sharing & bartering. So gardeners, please unite, and bring along your abundance. Bring harvests and seeds and homemade preserves to share and exchange with other gardeners/foodies.
– Host A Community Swap Meet. Do you have perfectly usable items lying around your house that you have no desire or need for? Rather than keeping them in storage or throwing them away, bring them to an exchange market. Let other community members in need enjoy these items, and find other items you are in need of. Swap meets work wonderful for clothing, books, music, art, tools, and more. For more resources on Exchange Market.
– Host A Re-Skilling Fair. We are all teachers/students. We all have a skill to learn and share, and the more skills in homegrown resiliency we can have, the more empowered we will be. Volunteer to share your skills in food preservation & fermentation, brewing, crafting, building. These are the heirloom village skills at the heart of the Shmita tradition.
– Host A Community Crowdfunding Gathering. While the economic focus of the Shmita year might be on debt release, there is also an inherent celebration of the generosity of those giving loans. Community crowfunding is a form of grassroots fundraising that makes it easy to directly support local community-oriented initiatives. Host a dinner and charge $5-$50 per plate, sliding scale. Invite 3 community members to present the vision for their project. After the presentations, divide the pot between the presenters.
– Support Ethical Investing, Spending & Banking. Know how your savings are being re-invested by your banks, so you can make educated choices about where to keep your money. Explore the options of investing your money with local, socially responsible community credit unions and local, public banks. Keep your money circulating as close to home as possible, supporting local businesses and co-operatives. Explore creative forms of social banking networks, such as Time Banks, which allow community members to borrow and lend ‘time’ in the form of services, in which each person’s hour is valued equally.
– Join Financial Mentoring / Investment Circles. In these group circles, members come together to share best-practices concerning financial resource management, family/business budgeting, and debt prevention. This is also a space to educate one another in strategies to best use and invest monetary assets while staying true to personal values. In these models, cooperation is the main incentive, and the competitive market model does not serve: the stronger each individual is financially, the stronger the community is. As the group establishes trust and experience, a next step would be to invest in one another: each participant offering a sum of money to the group fund, which can serve as microloans to other members.
– Host A Gift Circle. The Shmita paradigm works to realign the sensitive balance between giving & receiving. We all have needs and offerings. The gift circle is a communication structure designed to connect needs with solutions. Let others in the group know your offerings (skills, time, items) and do the same with your own personal needs. Network together.
– Host a Community Potluck Feast. Shmita is a year long practice in raising awareness about the foods we eat. Celebrate the food culture you come from. Focus on a menu rich with perennial plant ingredients (nuts, fruits, seeds, herbs), as well as wild foraged foods. Prepare dishes whose recipes come rich with personal story. Through the meal, enjoy conversation and celebration of the rich food culture presented on the table.