Durham Magazine April / May 2022

Page 52

WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT

MEREDITH COHEN owner and co-manager, One Soil Farm and board president, Carolina Jews for Justice

MOLLY ZIMMERMAN co-manager, One Soil Farm eredith Cohen

and

Molly Zimmerman

labored over trash cans stuffed with vegetable scraps in the pre-dawn hours of a summer morning. They egged each other on, humsinging the “Rocky” theme song as they hauled the loads of compost from the dining hall up a hill to where chickens huddled in their coop. Meredith (right) and Molly (left) were two peas in a pod by the time they completed the Adamah Fellowship – a three-month residential program at a Connecticut farm for adults in their 20s and 30s that meshes organic agriculture practices, a farm-to-table lifestyle and Jewish learning and community with social justice – in 2013. Their meeting altered the paths of both fledgling farmers. “We had a really transformative experience learning to farm in a place infused with Jewish ritual,” Meredith says. “It was totally life-changing.” Both women returned to the farm to live and work as staff members for the next two years. They both loved that “there was no separation between farming work and spiritual life,” Meredith says. Blessings said in a field

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over a harvest rooted them in a religious experience that was also intensely physical. “I had two separate interests of farming and agriculture, and growing up Jewish and “[JCSA connects] being culturally Jewish – not realizing the people to where connection,” Molly says. Understanding their food how interconnected the two are was a comes from. It’s a way to “spark moment” for her. connect people Fast forward nearly seven years, and the to a sense pair are still laughing and working together of place and home, which, as as they pore over a spreadsheet, plotting the Southern Jews, crops they’ll plant this season, inside a newly is particularly constructed greenhouse. It’s positioned at powerful. And, the center of One Soil Farm on 10 acres of it’s a way of connecting land in Cedar Grove that Meredith bought people to last year. Most of the property is wooded, a spiritual but 4 cleared acres lay waiting to bear experience cucumbers, radishes, heirloom tomatoes that’s not just intellectual or and nearly 100 other vegetable varieties. from a book – The fields will eventually be home to more it’s much more than veggie seedlings, too. Meredith plans embodied.” to build a house on the property with her – Meredith friend Rikki SaNogueira, and add a chicken Cohen coop or even an orchard. From April to November, the farm’s bounty will be boxed up each week for pickup at Beth El Synagogue and the Levin Jewish Community Center by those who take part in One Soil’s Jewish Community Supported Agriculture subscription. Meredith and Molly hope to have 100 people sign up this year, double the number in 2021. The increase allows them to work full time at the farm alongside a part-time employee and a handful of volunteers. It’s what Meredith, a Hillsborough native, has worked toward since she moved back to North Carolina in 2016 and began forming roots in the local Jewish community while taking on seasonal farming gigs. She was working part-time at the Durham Co-op Market when she founded One Soil in 2018. Molly settled in Northgate Park in 2020, leaving California to join the farm. But moving across the country wasn’t a blind leap of faith; rather, it was years of talking about the idea on phone calls and FaceTime coming to fruition. 


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