First Harvest

Remi Welbel

, Gavrielle Welbel, Lilly Witonsky, Shachar Berkowitz-Regosin, Hannah Kahn Glass, Brendan Campbell, Jesse Savin Miller, Sophia Ludtke, Tuomas Sivula

Zumwalt Acres

About Remi Welbel

This year, I decided to take time away from school, where I would be a junior at Middlebury College studying neuroscience and dance, to establish a regenerative farm, called Zumwalt Acres. Along with my twin sister, Gavi, we have created an organization and emerging farm rooted in Jewish values, and dedicated to teaching, research, and fighting climate change. By integrating groundbreaking research, educational outreach, and community organizing into our farming practice, we are demonstrating how Midwestern agriculture can be integral to the fight for healthy ecosystems and communities. With a team of young farm apprentices, we are growing horticultural crops and establishing agroforestry practices, while implementing innovative carbon sequestration techniques. Currently, we are conducting field trials in collaboration with Yale University, where Gavi is studying mechanical engineering and Earth and planetary sciences, adding basalt rock dust and biochar to our soil. When basalt dissolves, the silicate compounds react with CO2, removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and converting it to calcium carbonate which is transported through the waterways and eventually into the ocean, where it combats acidification and rebuilds coral. Biochar locks carbon in a stable form and boosts soil health.Through it all, Tikkun Olam has driven us and our work.

About First Harvest

First Harvest is choreographed and video-edited by Gavi Welbel, filmed by Tuomas Sivula and Gavi Welbel, and performed by Gavi Welbel, Sophia Ludtke, Lilly Witonsky, Shachar Berkowitz-Regosin, Hannah Kahn Glass, Brendan Campbell, Jesse Savin Miller, and myself. Here at Zumwalt Acres, in Sheldon, IL, on traditional unceded homelands of Kickapoo, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Potawatomi, Myaamia, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples, we are entering our first harvest. In establishing a regenerative Jewish farm, we have reflected deeply on ancient Jewish traditions of land stewardship, including shmita, leket, and pe’ah and how we can usher them into a modern farming context. We are learning from experienced Jewish farmers and exploring what will be most meaningful to us. In our farming practice, we have needed to lean into experimentation, exploration, and uncertainty. This process of trial and error and learning from one another is reflected in First Harvest. In our dance film, we embrace the moments of transition. We celebrate the time spent figuring out how movement works in our bodies, in addition to time spent on bold and expansive dancing. The duality of individual and collective motion on the farm is also represented in First Harvest. In our dance, in our agriculture work, and in our leisure time, we rely on both the strength of the individual and the power of the collective. Changing tempos throughout the dance mirrors the ebb and flow of agriculture. On a daily basis, the pace of farm work changes in rhythm with the weather. Shabbat each week acts as a metronome to stabilize our schedule. Shmita every seven years necessitates that the cadence of the farm be regulated on a much longer time scale as well, working the land for six years to ensure security for a seventh year of rest.