Karen Flotte

Karen Flotte at Central Reform Congregation’s mitzvah garden. Photo: Bill Motchan

Central Reform Congregation’s Mitzvah Farm and Orchard received the 2019 Irving J. Fain Social Justice Award at the Union of Reform Judaism Biennial in Chicago on Dec. 12.  CRC was one of 21 congregations across the country recognized this year by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA). The Irving J. Fain Social Justice Award recognizes excellent congregational initiatives that promote a world filled with wholeness, justice, and compassion.

“The Torah instructed our ancient ancestors that the food they grew on their own fields needed to be shared with people who had no land of their own,” says CRC Rabbi Randy Fleisher.  “At CRC, one of the ways we live out that teaching is to donate all produce from our Mitzvah Farm garden who are facing food insecurity.  Thanks to our partnership with nearby Trinity Episcopal Church and their wonderful food ministry everything we grow directly feeds those who are hungry.”

Over the past 10 years, Missouri has become the second hungriest state as food insecurity has risen dramatically in the United States.  The issue of food insecurity is especially relevant as global environmental changes create an urgency to restore ecosystems and extend resources to vulnerable populations.

Four years ago, CRC established the CRC Mitzvah Farm and Orchard in response to these issues.  Led by a group of volunteers with a small budget, the CRC Mitzvah Farm grows 1,500 pounds of produce annually, a consistent supply of fresh food to Trinity Food Ministry which serves 10,000 guests per year. 

 Children from CRC’s religious school and other schools in the region come to the farm to work, explore and learn. Special events, such as the Sukkot Farm to Table Oneg integrate the CRC Mitzvah Farm with the holiday cycle.  Each summer, “Music in the Garden,” featuring musicians affiliated with the congregation, brings neighbors and members together to relax and enjoy the beauty of the garden. The Farm and Orchard have significant impacts on the environment.

Collaborating with other organizations and gardens to teach and mentor is a significant part of the CRC Mitzvah Farm’s work.  Myra Rosenthal, with Garden of Eden at the J, suggested the St. Louis Jewish community form a group to teach and mentor other congregations to grow food for pantries.  Since last January, five new gardens growing for pantries have been mentored through this effort.

 For more information about the CRC Mitvah Farm and Orchard, or to find out how your community garden can grow for local food pantries, contact Karen Flotte at CRCMitzvahFarm@gmail.com.