Organic farming is nothing new in Israel, but given the fact that several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms have popped up over the last several years and regular supermarkets are pushing organic products, not to mention the Eden Teva supermarket chain, you would think that Israel has just been introduced to the organic way of life.
It is quite the contrary. In 1958, a group of people of various backgrounds decided to create a moshav based on a vegetarian, vegan, and organic lifestyle and ideology. The founders of Amirim were among the pioneers of the vegetarian movement in Israel. The Israel Bio-Organic Agricultural Association (Tuv Hassadeh) was founded in the late 1970s by an 84-year-old farmer, Mario Levy, from Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in the north of the country. It was quite difficult in the beginning to convince Israeli farmers to forego the use of pesticides, but now there are over 500 farmers who are members of the association and produce 13% of farm products in Israel.
Organic products and produce could always be found in the various health food stores in Tel Aviv, but now there is a dedicated famers market at HaTahana (The Train Station), the beautifully renovated Ottoman-period train station on the Tel Aviv-Yafo border. The Tel Aviv municipality and the Israel Bio-Organic Agricultural Association opened the farmers market as a joint project.
Every Friday, approximately 40 stalls with food growers and manufacturers, all certified members of the association, sell products such as cakes, dairy products, eggs, and of course beautiful seasonal fruits and vegetables.
The vendors at Shuk HaCarmel are always finding clever, but generally noisy, ways to advertise their products to the crowd of shoppers. The organic farmers market, by contrast, was relaxed, peaceful and unpushy.
At Orbanic, the attractive vendors smile and proudly talk about their produce, with passion in their eyes, and visible pleasure, the results of their hard work. Like on the face of Or Glicksman, who gives you a big beautiful smile when he describes his organic vegetables from his father’s farm on Kibbutz Gal-On in the southern part of the country.
And the cute guy from the Negev who was selling his sweet and juicy little mangoes and perfectly round cherry tomatoes.
There are vendors selling organic large-leafed purslane, from imported seedlings from France that are acclimated in hothouses at Kardesh Barnea in the Negev, and large shoots of lemongrass, waiting for a Vietnamese stir fry.
You can even take home the much sought after Aba Gil’s organic hummous, quiches, and brown rice pilaf. Their quiches are egg, wheat and dairy free.
And you can also take home romaine lettuce seedlings, which I bought for my garden along with 1 kg of spelt flour, 3 desert mangoes, a yellow and green striped pumpkin, olives marinated in red wine and herbs, and pickled baby eggplants.
Mario Levy must be smiling on his cloud as he looks down and sees how even in the big city, the movement that he helped start has achieved so much popularity.
Orbanic Farmers Market
2 Yehezkel Kaufmann Street
Open: Fridays, 0800-1500