Farming on the Syria – Israel border

Farming on the brink on unclaimed land

The Golan Heights is claimed to be Israel’s land however, in discussions with the United Nations patrol that have a post in this area, it is officially unclaimed land. When I took the picture above you can see that the green agriculture side is Israel and the dry and arid part is Syria, which is divided by the wall.

The rattle of guns could be heard in the distance as we visited a fruit and berry farm just 1500 metres from the Syrian border. The farmers seemed fairly relaxed despite their surroundings.

The farm not only supplies the central markets in Israel with popular fruit such as apples, mangoes, apricots and berries, but 7000 Israeli’s descend on the farm every weekend throughout their harvest season to pick their own fruit for their families.

On my journey to discover ‘more food with less earth’, I think this experience has made it even clearer that I need to have a broad global perspective on the different conditions of some societies and the lengths they go to survive with what they have. I think that as Westerners we sometimes take for granted how easy it is to go to a supermarket, grocer or restaurant, and assume that food and stability will always be there. As farmers we complain about weather, prices, markets, and employees, but I think that collectively we can take the conditions we have for granted.

Well, I have met and shook hands with a number of farmers that are farming (and quite successfully) on the brink of instability and chaos and managing to produce food for their community. Whilst these farmers are well aware of the dangers of farming in this region, the distant rattle of guns don’t seem to shake their passion and intensity for the rich volcanic soils and deep and vast aquifers that make it possible to deliver high quality, safe and delicious produce to their markets.

Similar to my previous post on ‘Vegetable farming on the Dead Sea’, I see the same agenda by the Israeli people here.  At the first meeting we had in Israel at the Volcani Centre, I was shocked at the Israeli’s directness, I actually found them to be quite rude and abrupt. However, I quickly understood that I was judging them, rather than stepping in their shoes and seeing how they had to survive on a day-to-day basis.

Israelis have had to contend with a lot and you can see the strain on their faces.  Each Israeli that I met had a desire, hunger and passion to push through, defy the odds and succeed. This passion from the Israeli community is very positive from an innovation perspective and this is evident through the rapid evolution of their farming and business practices.

In closing, I think to develop a culture of producing ‘more food with less earth,’ we really need to build a resilience to tough times and focus on how we can constructively move forward with not only innovating in agriculture, but teaching young farmers of the future to drive agriculture innovation. To do this we could certainly take some learnings from the Israeli people.

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