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Learning Through Places
Family Farms: Jewish Farmers in Connecticut
By studying this lesson, students will begin to understand the importance of geography, particularly Human-Environment Interaction: Places, Regions, and Culture (see frameworks connections below).
This lesson plan is about family farms and features Jewish farmers in Connecticut in the 20th century. The lesson plan highlights immigration, assimilation, and farmland preservation through the story of the Himmelstein Homestead Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut. The farm has been owned by the same family for more than 100 years.
Recommended Students Reading
Where I Live: Connecticut, Connecticut, chapter 1, Geography, pages 5 – 14. You may also like to have students read all or parts of https://whereilivect.org/lebanon/ and Lesson Plan 4 – Rural Town: Lebanon at https://whereilivect.org/learning-through-places-lesson-4-rural-town-lebanon/.
Components of the Lesson Plan
- Connections to the state’s social studies frameworks
- Classroom discussion guide and additional resources. At the end of the lesson plan, your students should be able to engage in a discussion about why Eastern European Jewish immigrants moved to Connecticut to become farmers. What help did they receive and were they successful? Students will also be able to discuss modern farming in Connecticut and farmland preservation.
- Lesson Plan including reading and classroom activities – Family Farms: Jewish Farmers in Connecticut
Family Farms: Jewish Farmers in Connecticut
Family Farms, Jewish Farmers in the 20thcentury, and the Preservation of one Jewish Family Farm, the Himmelstein Homestead Farm
Adapted in part from “Hebrew Tillers of the Soil” by Mary M. Donohue, Connecticut Explored, 2006, and information from Frank Himmelstein, Himmelstein Homestead Farm, Lebanon, Connecticut.
Begin with an in-class discussion about immigration, assimilation, family farms, and the preservation of farmland in Connecticut.
Here are some questions to help guide the discussion.
- What does it mean to immigrate? To move permanently to a foreign country. Eastern European Jews immigrated to the United States in large numbers between 1880 and 1924.
- Why would people want to go to a new country? For religious freedom, for jobs, to escape a war or disaster like famine, or to be able to build a better life for their family.
- What’s the difference between an immigrant and a refugee? An immigrant may have some resources to count on such as money to buy transportation tickets and food, family members who can help them, and an immigrant may have chosen to move to a new country. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence, and who may not have any resources.
- Where did your family immigrate from? Was it recent or a long time ago?
- What is a family farm? A farm that one family operates to support themselves. A family farm is a small business run by one family. They grow crops, raise livestock or take care of other farm animals, maintain buildings and equipment, and sell the products from the farm.
- Why are farms important? They grow the food that we buy at the grocery store or the farmers market, or grown plants for our gardens and yards.
- What kinds of things are grown in Connecticut today? Produce, poultry, eggs, tobacco, Christmas trees, fruit, and nursery plants.
- Why is it important to preserve farmland with good soils for the future? Not all land has the right type of soil to grow crops. Good farmland is sometimes built on or paved over for houses or businesses. This reduces the amount of land available for farmers to use for crops.
LINK TO STUDENT MATERIALS
Next, distribute to the students or have them click on the For Students Family Farms: Jewish Farmers in Connecticut materials (link to printer-friendly PDF provided). Have them look closely and answer the questions provided. Some prompts are provided below.
What do you see in the photograph?
What type of building is this?
What is it used for?
What types of things would you find inside this building?
Do you find this kind of building in the city or the country?
Have you ever been inside this type of building?
Have the students read the story about the Himmelstein Farm and choose an activity to explore family farms.
- Make a poster of your favorite foods. Divide them into two groups: foods grown on a farm and foods made in a factory. Read the labels. Identify where each food was made or grown and put it on your poster next to a picture of the food. Do your bananas come from the Dominican Republic? Do your oranges come from Florida? Avocados from Mexico? Eggs from Connecticut? Or apples from Connecticut? Do you grow any food in your own garden at home?
- Pretend you are a magazine reporter working for Connecticut Farmer Today Magazine. You’ve been assigned a story about family farms in Connecticut. First, find a farm to write about. Do you know a farmer? If you do, interview him or her. If you don’t know a farmer, find a list of Connecticut farms here: https://www.ct.gov/doag/cwp/view.asp?a=3260&q=412796The list is by county so you can find one near where you live (you might have to try a couple to find one you like.) Second, make a list of things you think people would want to know about this farm. You could brainstorm ideas with your classmates. Third, do your research. Go to the farm’s website and find out the answers to your list of things you think people want to know. Include the history of that farm and what they grow. If you can, visit the farm (find out first if it’s open). If you can’t get all of your answers from the website and by visiting the farm, you might be able to e-mail the farmer (ask your teacher or parent first). Fourth, write your story based on what you find on their website, things you learn on your visit, and any answers you get by e-mail from the farmer. Put your story together with your classmates’ stories to make an issue of Connecticut Farmer Today Magazine.
These sites have lots of information:
Silverman’s Farm, https://www.silvermansfarm.com/about-silvermans-farm/
Jones Family Farm, https://www.jonesfamilyfarms.com/farm/about-farm/history
Belltown Hills Orchards, http://www.belltownhillorchards.com/About
Fair Weather Acres, http://fairweatheracres.com/about-us/
Hindinger Farm, http://www.hindingersfarm.com/hindinger_farm_about_us.htm
Maple Lane Farms, http://maplelane.com/about/
Six Paca Farm, http://www.sixpaca.com
Learn more about a farming town at “Rural Town: Lebanon” Lesson Plan 4.
State Frameworks Connections
ECO. 3.1. Compare the benefits and costs of individual choices.
- Why do we live where we live?
- How do we get the things we need to live (food, clothing, goods, etc.)?
- Historically, what goods made in Connecticut have we traded elsewhere?
Human-Environment Interaction: Places, Regions, and Culture
GEO 3.4 Explain how culture influences the way people modify and adapt to their environments.
GEO 3.6 Describe how environmental and cultural characteristics influence population distribution in specific places or regions.
- What is Connecticut’s state identity and in what ways is that identity inclusive of all residents?
- How have various groups contributed to Connecticut’s identity?
- What is the “identity” of Connecticut today?
The Himmelstein Homestead Farm is listed on the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places at
Connecticut Farmland Trust, farmland preservation
Working Lands Alliance, farmland preservation
Information about Barns
Historic Barns of Connecticut, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation
Barns and Barn Design in Connecticut
Barn Design in Connecticut
Connecticut’s Jewish Farmers
The Baron Hirsch Jewish Farmers Community
New England Historical Society
American Jewish Historical Society
Donohue, Mary M., Briann Greenfield, and Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford. A Life of the Land: Connecticut’s Jewish Farmers. West Hartford, CT: Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, 2010.
Books and Media
“Hebrew Tillers of the Soil”
“The Connecticut Catskills”
The Connecticut Catskills
“Late Nineteenth Century Immigration in Connecticut”
“Early 20thCentury Immigration in Connecticut”
“L.B. Hass Company and the History of Tobacco in Connecticut (Jewish farmers)”
Connecticut Agriculture (general overview)