My first love was a young ferret named Frisky.
My father took me to choose her on my fifth birthday, and my life was never the same. Animals were always my passion. I remember walking blocks down Chicagoland streets to rendezvous with neighborhood dogs and long hours of watching “Wild World of Animals.”
We moved to Jerusalem when I was 7 and I was smitten with a whole new world of small creatures: chameleons, tortoises and scorpions, not to mention the feral cats prowling around the Israeli capital.
Back in the States again, my childhood bliss was Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, turning over rocks to find crayfish and minnows. As a perpetual kid-from-somewhere else, I felt most comfortable being surrounded by nature. Hiking through a forest, wading through a river, I felt like I belonged.
Conversely, suburban Judaism — as I experienced it at that point in my life — seemed to be a religion completely devoid of nature, and certainly nature with claws and paws and muddy water. It was wild, wooly nature that called me to places so distant you couldn’t find a minyan if you tried, much less a decent slice of challah.
I followed it all the way out to Alaska to work the fishing boats and cruise boats, and experienced nature at her most magnificent. Then, to the Pacific Northwest, astounded and awed by old growth forests, spectacular beaches, sea stacks and giant driftwood. It was there that I discovered my passion for permaculture, a design methodology that seeks its inspiration in the patterns of nature and aspires to create sustainable human communities.
Permaculture led me back to Judaism at the life-changing Adamah Fellowship program in the Connecticut Berkshires. Spending more than two years in those beautiful, deciduous forests, I reconnected to a heritage I had never known could be so vibrant, fascinating and inclusive. I lived in a tent, worked the land and celebrated the Jewish calendar with an ever-changing cast of seekers and teachers, mystics and lost souls.
At Adamah I discovered that Judaism and nature are intertwined. Indeed, each informs the other, and that intersection feels like the most profound, meaningful and rewarding place I can be.
I followed that intersection to the Baltimore area in 2011 when my now-wife Teri and I moved to the Pearlstone Center to develop and work on what was then known as Kayam Farm. Eight years later, I share my love for nature with my 2-year-old son, and I have the privilege of manifesting my ideals while working for my own business, Edible Eden Baltimore Foodscapes.
Edible Eden creates productive, beautiful food gardens for homeowners, businesses and schools, and installs and maintains ecological and edible landscaping.
I founded Edible Eden with the belief that every square foot of land we steward is an opportunity to do good in the world, and that the knowledge, practice and understanding of how to grow food is the birthright of every human.
I feel truly blessed to see those ideals reflected in garden beds overflowing with fruits and vegetables, and pollinator plants abuzz with bees and butterflies.
In Genesis, it says we were put here to steward and care for this Earth. While different readers have chosen to interpret that line in various ways over the years.
For me, it feels like a personal commandment.
Josh Rosenstein is an Israeli-American farmer, chef, writer, permaculturalist, entrepreneur and founder of Edible Eden Baltimore Foodscapes.