Frequently Asked Questions
What is Jewish Farm School's Organic Farming Alternative Break (OFAB)?
It is a weeklong farm-immersion experience in which students will be volunteering on urban and rural sustainable farms. Over the course of the week, participants will learn a wide range of skills in sustainable and organic agriculture such as planting, harvesting, natural building and composting. To complement the physical work, participants will have the opportunity to engage in text study and discuss with experts, topics such as Jewish agricultural laws, the agricultural roots of the Jewish calendar, and global food security. They will gain exposure to the growing food justice movement, both within the Jewish and secular worlds.
Who will staff this program?
The staff will be comprised of one or two Jewish Farm School educators, a Hillel staff person as well as farmers and educators from the host farm.
What are the farms like?
We run our trips on different, amazing farms across the country. We work with both rural and urban farms that are working to promote an increasingly healthy, just and sustainable food system. Some of the farms we work with focus on education while others are more production oriented. The farms and farmers who we work with are typically not Jewish but sometimes are.
Is this a religious program?
The program will provide opportunities for participants to celebrate Jewish life together, though students will not be required to join in organized religious activities. In order to be as inclusive as possible, vegetarian food on kosher dishes will be served and no travel or work will be required on Shabbat. Student participants are empowered to shape the trip's Shabbat experience with staff support.
Who goes on these trips?
College students from campuses across North America will participate in the Alternative Break program. Typically, 10-18 students from one or two schools make up each trip.
How do I apply to the program?
Students apply and register for the OFAB program directly through their campus Hillel. If a student's campus is not running a trip with us they should speak to their Hillel representative or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I need to make my own travel arrangements?
Each Hillel is responsible for organizing travel arrangements with the support of Jewish Farm School staff. In the case of air travel, Hillel's will typically encourage students to fly on the same flight together. Jewish Farm School is responsible for the ground transportation between the nearest airport and the host farm.
What kind of work will I be doing?
Participants will be assisting the host site in projects ranging from planting, weeding, building, animal husbandry and food processing. The work will sometimes be physically demanding and occur in less than ideal weather conditions. Participants will also be involved in preparing group meals for the group.
Do I need to have any prior experience in a garden or on a farm?
No! No prior experience is necessary, only a positive attitude and eagerness to learn and serve.
Do you have suggestions for films, books and articles that would serve as good preparation for the trip?
We have compiled a list of links to books, articles and films we find interesting and informative. Consider this your pre-game guide.
What are the housing accommodations like?
The accommodations are typically fairly basic. They are usually either dorm style or cabins with bunk beds and communal bathrooms. Details about your housing will be sent to you ahead of your trip.
Are there any expenses while on the trip that I am responsible for?
There are no required expenses while at the host site/s. Over the course of the week there may be an occasional outing during which students will have the option to use their own money for purchases if desired.
What if I get sick? Do I need my own health insurance?
If participants get sick during the break and need medical attention, Jewish Farm School staff will personally transport the sick individual to the nearest hospital/clinic. It is necessary to have your own health insurance to participate. Please see the application for details on health insurance.
What is the kashrut policy for the trips?
Jewish Farm School OFAB trips strive to be pluralistic and to allow the participation of individuals from a wide spectrum of Jewish observance levels and various dietary philosophies/regimens.
The following guidelines are true at host sites for all groups traveling on Jewish Farm School OFAB trips.
- Food will be cooked with lacto-ovo vegetarian pots and pans used only for JFS groups.
- Food will be served on lacto-ovo vegetarian dishes used only by Jewish Farm School groups.
- Dairy products, including cheese, may be served.
- Preference is made in every situation for all cheese (hard or soft) to be certified kosher. If hechshered cheese is not available in the local area, we will accept cheese made only with vegetable enzymes (as opposed to any animal based enzymes). In the case that non-hechshered cheese, vegetable enzyme cheese is purchased for the group, the status of the cheese will be made public before being served/cooked with for group meals. If any of the group participants do not eat non-hechshered cheese, alternative options will be available for group meals.
- Eggs will be served.
- Meat will not be served. On rare occasion, fish may be served though vegetarian options will always be available.
- Group meals will not be cooked on Shabbat and will be prepared prior to the onset of Shabbat. Individual participants may elect to prepare additional food during Shabbat at their own discretion.
- If the group visits a restaurant, food choices will be up to the individual; we will work to make sure that vegetarian and vegan options will be available.
- Jewish Farm School will try to accommodate individual participants who adhere to stricter kashrut observance. These individuals should communicate their needs to their Hillel professionals who should, in turn, contact JFS directly.
Any questions about Jewish Farm School's kashrut policy can be directed to JFS Director Nati Passow.
Jewish Farm School understands that in certain groups all or most participants will desire strict adherence to laws of kashrut. As providing a strictly kosher environment is complicated on these trips, we cannot promise to accommodate these needs and will discuss them on a case-by-case basis. If a group falls into this category, they must communicate this need upon signing their contract.