Muslim farmer honored with Living Traditions Award at Stony Point gala
By Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – “It was an amazing night.” “The food and the spirit of the people of people there.” “The renewed sense of a community persevering together.”
These were some of the reflections from those present at the annual Farm-to-Table Gala that benefits Stony Point, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) conference center located about 45 minutes northwest of New York City.
“We do this every year,” said Stony Point co-director Kitty Ufford-Chase, “as way of celebrating the food we grow on our farms — and the values of our Community of Living Traditions.”
The Community of Living Traditions (CLT) is a multifaith residential community of Jews, Christians and Muslims who live and work together at Stony Point, helping to run the retreat and conference center, while practicing and studying hospitality, nonviolence and justice.
Each year the gala includes a dinner made from food harvested from Stony Point’s land and other local farms. Stony Point expanded the size of acreage it is farming this year.
In addition to having an acre on campus, Stony Point is now farming an additional acre and a half on a nearby family farm that had no one left to farm it.
“We grew thousands of pounds of food this year,” said Ufford-Chase. “We now have two farmers on staff.”
The Farm-to-Table Gala had added significance this year: It was held on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which celebrates the harvest. During the weeklong holiday, according to tradition, one was supposed to go out in the fields and build a temporary structure — a sukkah — and live in it.
“The whole idea is to remind you of the holiness of the harvest,” said Ufford-Chase, “and the fragility of where your food comes from.”
The CLT spent fellowship time in the sukkah they built, praising God for the abundance of harvest and for their Farm-to-Table Gala, which fell on the final day of Sukkot.
On the night of the gala, as they do every year, they presented the Living Traditions Award to an individual or group that exemplifies one of their core values. With the emphasis on earth care and the gala’s theme of “Seeding Food Justice,” the fifth annual award went to Hisham Moharram, who manages the Good Tree Farm of New Egypt, in New Jersey.
Driven by his Muslim faith and trained as a scientist, Moharram founded the network of organic farms, which are community owned and youth operated. The faith-based agribusiness places great value on its farm produce being made available to the neediest and most disadvantaged in its community.
Stony Point became aware of Moharram’s work earlier this year, when Stony Point’s farmer Amirah Abulughod met Moharram in the Newark airport, where they discovered they were going to the same “Faith and Farming” gathering in San Francisco.
“So, on a Jewish holy day at a Presbyterian conference center we honored a Muslim farmer,” said Ufford-Chase. “It all flows so naturally; it really does.”
It flowed like a song of praise written and composed by one of the CLT community members. Under the night sky, to the tune of Jacob’s Ladder, they sang:
“We are farming for a new world,
We are farming for a new world,
We are farming for new world,
planting seeds of peace.”
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