News / Meet your Alumni: Talia’s interfaith farm

Meet your Alumni: Talia’s interfaith farm



13 / 08 / 14


Talia Chain graduated from ParliaMentors in 2011. Her Red Light Campaign project directly led to founding House of Beth, an online ethical fashion marketplace. Now a new project is taking her from fashion to fields.

You’ve started a project to establish a interfaith farm in the UK. What inspired this project?
Earlier this year, I stayed for three months at the Adamah Farm and Fellowship in Connecticut. You pray at 6am, farm all day long and study Judaism and environmentalism in the evening. The farm had fruit, vegetables, chickens and goats. Milking them is so fun! The farm is an intentional community, a little bit of paradise in Connecticut, surrounded by forests. When I came home I thought ‘where’s my community? What will I do? Where will I live?’ There’s nowhere like the farm in Europe. I realised I needed to make it happen so I had somewhere I want to live! That’s meant leaving my job.

What has challenged and surprised you so far?
The challenge is I don’t have a farm yet! My plan now is to volunteer on farms, learn about urban farming and research and fundraise for the project. The surprise is how many people are supportive, saying ‘let’s do it’. I came home and thought no one would want to leave the city, but they said ‘yes, let’s go!’ I think people are really interested in some sort of rural Jewish community. The farm will be one aspect of the community, alongside a retreat centre where people can escape from the city for the weekend and we can host summer camps there.

How important is environmentalism to your faith?
Faith has given me a sense of responsibility to a community. This means not just thinking about the current community, but our children and grandchildren as well as the wider community in general.  I think ‘Green’ is the greatest discussion of our age. If you want to talk about responsibility to a community in a meaningful way, I think it has to take an environmental form. There’s also explicit passages in the Torah on agriculture and environmentalism, such as the shmita (sabbath year), which happens to be this coming year.

I feel the green movement can unite all faiths and communities. We can all get together to work for a more sustainable approach to living and for this reason I want interfaith work to be an integral part of the farm.

How did the ParliaMentors programme influence your projects?
My group created a human trafficking exhibition. The photos made me think ‘who’s working for us?’ I was buying clothes and thinking ‘who am I giving my money to?, where are they coming from?’ It changed my whole outlook. Then one day I was eating food and thinking ‘where did that come from?’ I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, where a journalist tells us where our food is from. I should know where my food is from! The ParliaMentors project started that line of questioning.  I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t been on the programme.

Is it difficult having strong environmental views that your friends and family may not share?
With clothes production, people kind of know injustice because of tragedies like Rana Plaza. But people seem to know less, or care less, about food and the environment. Food is a part of people’s culture that they are often just not willing to change. When you say you’re vegan, some people take real offence because it sounds like you are attacking their way of being – even if you are just turning down some chedder! I don’t want to ‘preach’ or campaign to people. When it comes down to it the reason I do everything is for me, to buy some cool clothes and find a good place to live that fits in with my personal values and if people get effected by the way I live, then that’s great.  Since I started talking about food, and reading out loud bits of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, my husband-to-be makes way better food choices. He eats less meat and knows where it’s from. It’s informed him but he still eats meat and that’s OK. I think it’s about knowing what you are doing and taking responsibility for your decisions.

Read Talia’s blog to learn more about her project and comment below with any advice you have. Talia is also hosting an interfaith discussion on faith and environmentalism at Dunstan Road Synagogue on 14th October.

Talia Chain

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