US: Serving Islam through organic farming

US-born Zaid Kurdieh and his wife Haifa founded the Norwich Meadows Farm in 1998 on a half acre of land behind their house. Today, their farm has expanded to over 80 acres with five acres of tunnels and they sell farm products at farmer markets in New York City and at CSAs upstate and throughout the city. Their goal is to establish that a commercially successful organic farm can benefit a regional economy. Devout Muslims, the Kurdiehs proudly produce food that is not only Halal, but also Tayyib (good) – created in a wholesome manner, to the fullest extent.

Zaid Kurdieh, an agricultural engineer, who was born into an Muslim Egyptian immigrant family, gives credit to his Islamic teachings for his faith-based farming.

Cheating and not cheating. It goes beyond not cheating people, but not cheating the land. It’s a basic tenet of our religion; waste is one of the biggest no nos. Waste, using things beyond their limit. Lands have limits. We try to follow those type of guidelines and in some cases, tenets. The religious guidelines are broad on certain things such as not wasting. In certain areas we have specific instructions. How do you deal with farming the land? With animals there are very specific things, because it involves something that has a soul and therefore has rights. So an animal has the right to life; the larger animals have to live a minimum of six months. Our feeding regimen follows the guideline of what they would naturally eat. A chicken is a carnivore; if a mouse runs across its path, they will attack, shred, and eat it. I don’t feed my chickens any animal products, but there is a small amount of shellfish because of an amino acid chickens are deficient in,” says Kurdieh.

The other big place where religion plays a role is ethics. If I’m selling a tomato and I know that that tomato has a defect, I have to tell my customer. It’s not, let him discover it when he goes home. If they buy it knowing about the defect, then I’m in the clear. That’s something we frequently do at the market; we’ll tell people or reduce the price so people know. Sometimes we get people saying “I don’t even want to know that”, but we’re going to tell you anyway. I think people appreciate the honesty. I want to do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Kurdieh added. Listen to him in a video below.

Kurdieh family is known for donating their product to non-Muslim causes. Last Friday, the Norwich Meadows Farm donated 800 pounds of high-end organic carrots to Masbia, a network of Jewish soup kitchens that provide food to hungry New Yorkers in Brooklyn and Queen (inhabitants of world’s richest state) – reported by JTA on February 14, 2016.

Since the beginning, Islam encouraged the practice of agriculture. Several verses in Holy Qur’an are connected to agriculture, as a part of the creation process and life on earth. Likewise, the hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) that encouraged Muslims to practice agriculture are abundant. Within the same conception, Muslim rulers paid much attention to agriculture as it constituted then as a major economic activity and a pillar of the Islamic treasury. Therefore, a continuous effort was directed towards reforming lands for cultivation, digging rivers and irrigation channels and, wherever appropriate, pieces of land were attributed to those who lacked them, to cultivate (here, here, here).

Barack Obama’s former chief agricultural ‘Monsanto’ negotiator, India-born Dr. Islam A. Siddiqui, who resigned his post in April 2013, is currently a senior adviser at the Jewish lobby group, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). A smart Indian Muslim, like Fareed Zakria (married to a Jewish woman), knows how to make non-kosher money.

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