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What’s a Gardener To Do?

Riki Goldstein

The Sabbatical year is tough on farmers and can be confusing for consumers, but shemittah-observant gardeners, a largely unheralded group, also struggle through the year. Yet despite financial loss and at-best sporadic employment, these landscapers are unearthing their own wellsprings.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When Roni Stern married off his eldest child this year, the first-time father-in-law soon realized that expenses would easily exceed expectations. He was of course happy to extend himself for his oldest son, but when a man is out of work for a year, the costs of any special event are a bit harder to absorb. Roni is a Jewish gardener in Eretz Yisrael, one of many who has hung up his tools for the shemittah year. “On a regular Sunday morning I would have a full week of work scheduled,” Roni says. “During shemittah, I have no idea what I will be doing and whether I and my Jewish worker will have jobs this week.” While the heroic farmers in Eretz Yisrael have been brought into the public eye by Keren Hashviis, there is a smaller but no less valiant group of shemittah observers who are often forgotten: gardeners. With no organization to provide support or guidance, gardeners have been left to fend for themselves during this elevated but difficult year. Roni, for instance, began to set aside money for shemittah over the last two years, but since “no one gets rich gardening,” his savings won’t last. To supplement his nest egg, the Stern family has felt Hashem’s favor in the form of unexpected demand for permitted work. “A man whom I haven’t heard from in a long time suddenly called about putting up a fence for him — two days’ work,” Roni says. “A new client wanted a large area of synthetic grass laid — that was a week’s work, out of the blue.” But steady work? According to Roni, “not this year.” 

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