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The Willy Wonka of Farming

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

Many articles have been written about this little modest farm in the southwestern Negev over the last 15 years. But I have the privilege of praising this magical place as one of its employees. I have been working as a guide at Shvil Hasalat (The Salad Trail) for about a year now. My job, along with about ten other guides, is to show visitors around the farm and introduce them to the awesome contribution Israel is providing to the world when it comes to agriculture and technology. The farm is a sort of interactive agricultural museum. In the sense that it represents the latest innovations developed by Israel that are being used by farmers across the country, and now across the globe.

Uri Alon is my boss. This is his farm. To describe Uri best would be to say he's someone between David Ben Gurion, Willy Wonka and Old McDonald. What Uri has created with his farm is no less than magical with it's effects both on the visitors and on the western Negev. I have been told countless times by visitors how this farm has affected them on a very deep level. Either by bringing back wonderful memories of their childhood or by touching their soul and connecting them even closer to the Land of Israel, to it's people and to their dream of making Israel a strong Jewish nation.

We begin the tour by telling a bit of history of the region and how it was that Uri came to build this "Field of Dreams". As we continue the tour we explain how Israel has made the desert bloom by using Israeli know-how and chutzpa to push past obstacles such as harsh desert conditions and no local water source. As we move from greenhouse to field to garden, the visitors can pick and eat right from the vine or dig up roots such as carrots or potatoes. This is the most nutritious, fresh flavorful food you'll find (unless you grow it yourself) .

The message of this wonderful farm is simple: to celebrate love of farming in the land of Israel. The offshoot of this ,contains a lot more than that: sustainability, peace, farm-to-table, urban gardening, sharing of knowledge and brotherhood.

This is a rare place where you will see a mix of groups from every spectrum of society. We have representatives coming from all over the world to learn and then go on to share their new found knowledge with their respective communities. Christians, Jews, Arabs, Buddists, religious and secular, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Beduin, Americans, Canadians, Austrailians , Russians, South and Central Americans, Europeans, ... The list goes on.

Politics are never brought to the table. People seem to leave their political views on the bus and just enjoy the sheer pleasure of roaming in between rows of tomatoes, challenging their friends with hot peppers , taste testing herbs and berries and releasing our Pigeons of Peace.

Soldiers come to the farm for a couple of hours of "down" time. Being surrounded by vegetation is therapeutic for our guys and gals constantly having to defend our borders from our relentless enemies . They get to let down their guard, relax, and just enjoy being 18 year olds, even if it's just for a short time. I've watched them transform from feeing tired and guarded to feeling curious , opening up and laughing .

We have groups of disabled elderly, first graders, teen groups, bike riders, university students, politicians, bank managers, families, bar/bat mitzvah trips, scouts, volunteers, professors, scientists, farmers, chefs, and everyone in-between . This is the place to watch it all unfold , come together and come alive.

I've had people thank me with tears in their eyes. I've seen people return multiple times and i've heard over and over how the tour of the farm was the best part of their whole trip to Israel. People get in touch with that little girl or little boy inside of them they lost so long ago. The one who was full of joy and laughter, but got buried with the complexities of life.