Jerusalem24 – Founded with the objective of providing healthy produce, and creating a space of intersection between social, economic, and environmental aspirations, working on the Om Sleiman farm is a political act par excellence – for reasons that go beyond the fact that Bil’in is a point of friction with the occupation, with the farm itself located in Area C.
To its founders and volunteers, Om Sleiman farm is an expression of the Palestinian ability to act, and of imagination that transcends the reaction – as well as an actual way to bridge the gap between the city and the village.
Sitting on four dunums of land, the Om Sleiman farm is located in Bil’in village west of Ramallah – specifically on the west side of it next to the apartheid wall, a few meters from the Israeli settlement Kiryat Sefer.
The farm sits on land that was seized for Israeli control until Palestinians were able to win a supreme court decision securing their right to use it.
Volunteer Anan Quzmar tells Jerusalem24 that the initiative was started by two young Palestinians from Gaza and Jerusalem as an ecological farm in 2016, after securing access to land donated for the duration of the project.
The founders wanted the project to revolve around three main points, says Anan: ecological and sustainable farming; a community-supported farm that can preserve its cultural heritage; and reproducing and preserving local seeds.
Anan says the crops they grow are both “local and seasonal.”
“We run the farm on local community agriculture, which means that our products go directly to families who are members of the farm. They pay before the season starts, which helps in covering the cost of running the farm.”
“Currently the farm produces over 30 crops.”
“We live in a time where agri-businesses are in control of producing agriculture all around the world, it’s a trend that has swept through traditional ways of farming,” Anan says.
“For us as an [agricultural society], [we] grow produce the way our predecessors and ancestors did with little or no chemical use. We rely on companionship and planting herbal plants, and different plants that work well together: some of them attract the right insects, or repel insects to protect themselves.”
Anan adds that the Om Sleiman farm has received a lot of support and that without the support of the community they would not be where they are now. “We start with the owner of the land that donated it to do our project, our members who pay in advance and share the burden of any risk we’re taking with the crops… The volunteers from the local community, and internationals.”
When his work became remote during the pandemic, Anan decided that he wanted to volunteer at the Om Sleiman farm since the project’s vision spoke to him.
“I think they try to build on existing resources, and sustainable agriculture is not just a way to preserve land but also building a better society for everybody.”
Listen to the full interview on Vibes.