Positively Chicago: The Faith Farmers

(CBS) — A special farm has found a home at a house of worship on the South Side.

And it’s across the way from a very famous neighbor.

It’s Positively Chicago, CBS 2’s Jim Williams

Jewish law says farming is an act of faith and that sharing your bounty is a “mitzvah”– a good deed — to be done with a full heart.

There’s plenty of heart among the tomatoes, beans, okra and greens at this farm, in a rather unlikely place: KAM Isaiah Israel synagogue in Kenwood.

The crops are given to hot meal programs at nearby churches and rescue missions.

“We think of this as growing community as well as growing food,” farm founder Robert Nevel says.

In his day job, Nevel is an architect, but all day Sunday he’s a farmer, along with dozens of other caring volunteers.

“We know we cannot solve the problem of food access on the South Side, but we cannot walk away,” he says.

Every Sunday, the crew harvests, sorts, weighs and delivers the bounty — with that full heart.

The farm is a slice of heaven, doing earthly good since 2009.

A pear tree that is now 20 feet tall came here five years ago in a volunteer’s backpack.

That pear tree and the rest of the farm is right across the street from former U. S. President Barack Obama’s Chicago home.

“One Memorial Day weekend, we planned to put in 100 tomato plants and they were home that weekend and we were asked us not to plant that day. But for most part it’s actually a joy to have them on the street,” Nevel says.

Speaking of joy, the synagogue volunteers love to spread it down that very street, also tending to another farm at the Kenwood United Church of Christ. Volunteers in this kitchen prepare food for the homeless.

“The kind of response we got from the women in the kitchen, the joy at the food is I think what motivates our farmers,” Nevel says.

A mitzvah, indeed.

Since 2009, the synagogue has grown and donated 23,000 pounds of organic produce. Amidst the joy, Nevel tells a story that broke his heart. He wanted to give a man some greens, but the man said he had to refuse the offer. He had no place to cook food.

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