PHOTO: Hannah Saiger and Sophie Raiskin-Wood joyfully spread compost on a layer of cardboard in the Kindness Farm tunnel (similar to a greenhouse). The two were among 23 Tivnu gap year members who volunteered at the farm Jan. 27. Unlike other volunteer parties, the Tivnu team did not wear masks because they are all part of a “bubble” or “germ pod.”
BY DEBORAH MOON
After a 32-year journey across three continents, Lou Levit feels at home in Portland, where she has created “one of the biggest passions of my life” – the Kindness Farm.
The Kindness Farm is an all-volunteer project created to sustainably grow fruits and vegetables on donated land using donated resources. Most of the produce will be donated to create vegan meals for the homeless and provide free, fresh, organic produce to low-income families. A small portion of the produce will be sold to fund applying for grants and other expenses.
“Kindness is not only the most feel-good way to exist, but also the most practical way for the world to function,” says Lou, adding the farm is the first project of The Kindness Model.
Lou says the model “is definitely in line with tikkun olam (repairing the world),” and the values listed on the website correlate with Jewish values. Those values include kindness for Earth and for people, people and land belonging to one another, and abundant giving.
“All the methods we use are regenerative – they nourish the soil and consistently give back to the land,” says Lou. “A lot of modern agriculture depletes the land.”
At Kindness Farm, seeds will be planted later this month in planting beds layered with cardboard and compost. Each year, another layer of cardboard and compost will be added to the beds (since compost settles, the beds should remain the same height). Lou also plans to offer classes online, at the farm and around town to teach others how to nourish the land as they grow their own food.
The Kindness Model is the latest venture Lou has launched with her partner David Tendrich. The two met at the Jewish day school in Georgia where Lou’s mom teaches Hebrew. Lou and her mom moved from the Ukraine to Israel when Lou was 2 and then to Georgia when she was 13. Lou and David left college at age 20 to launch the first of a few marketing and software startups, some of which have won design awards.
“We are serial entrepreneurs,” says Lou, adding David sits on the board of the Kindness Farm.
Lou says she and David never felt at home in Georgia and began searching for a place to call home. When they arrived in Portland about six years ago, “I felt myself arriving at my true home – a home where I could grow roots and help create the kind of world I’ve always longed for.”
Lou managed 10-30 employees at some of the companies, but since moving to Portland she has focused much of her time on “growing our own food and helping other people do the same. … It’s one of the biggest passions of my life to date.”
She has drawn on the skills she honed at those previous startups to launch the Kindness Farm. “I learned how to really hustle to make things happen. … One of my biggest skills is I call until I get what I need.”
With that persistence, she has found companies and volunteers (see list at right) to supply everything the farm has needed to date including the multi-year lease on 1¼ acres near 122nd Avenue and Foster Road, which includes a greenhouse, growing tunnel and a half acre of food forest with walnut, apple and pear trees.
Lou’s great grandparents were all farmers in the Ukraine, but her grandmother and mother were drawn to the city and the connection to the land lapsed.
“For me, it feels so good to bring it back.”
KINDNESS FARM SUPPORTERS
Dirt Hugger: 100 yards of “incredible, rich compost that will allow us to grow beautiful produce all year.”
Walsh Trucking and Boring Bark donated the deliveries of the compost.
Other in-kind donations came from PBOT, Portland Nursery, One Green World, Recology Organics, Deep Harvest Seeds, the Cat Rental Store and many more.
Charles Dowding, a renowned no-dig teacher in the UK
Alan Adesse, an expert Oregon seed grower for over 30 years
Adam Kohl, head of Outgrowing Hunger, a Portland nonprofit that provides growing space for immigrants and refugees
Since the farm launched in November, volunteers have contributed more than 230 hours to prepare the land for planting later this month.
“It’s a safe way to socialize and do something good for the community,” says founder Lou Levit. “It’s all outside in big spaces, everyone wears a mask and we limit the number of people.”
To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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