Israel can’t help but be proud of its agricultural achievements, considering its small dimensions, minimal water resources and other challenges. The numbers speak for themselves: in the 1950s, one Israeli farmer fed 17 people; a little over 50 years later, that number is up to 95! Israel is constantly researching new products and technologies, which have allowed it to successfully till the arable 20 percent of Israel’s 21,000 square kilometers.
Israelis like to think that the first “agro-tourists” were the biblical Joshua and Caleb who lugged a huge bunch of grapes to show the children of Israel the amazing fruits of this land. Israeli farmers delight in exchanging knowledge with special-interest visitors. The variety of its produce means that farmers from around the world find a common language with counterparts somewhere in Israel, whether it’s the well-watered north, the subtropics around the Sea of Galilee, the arid lands in the Negev and the Arava, the coast, or fish-breeders (even that is done in the desert). Many of Israel’s farmers are members of collectives (kibbutzim) or cooperatives (moshavim), with Arab farmers in the rural sector specialize in the raising of small livestock, vegetables, field crops and olives. There are also several still-thriving private-venture farms established in the 19th century. Getting to know the people behind the produce and making lasting connections are unforgettable aspects of an agriculture tour of Israel.
Initiative, innovation and wise land and water use, especially saline water to raise grapes, olives and tomatoes, among other crops, has placed Israel at the global forefront in arid-land agriculture. Warm desert winters provide an economic edge, allowing produce to be marketed a month or more the same crops are being harvested elsewhere. Surprising to some is the fact that flowers are Israel’s number-one agricultural export. And good stewardship of the land is never forgotten – dairy-farming and other sectors are now transforming themselves into environmentally friendly enterprises.
An agricultural tour of Israel can be the opportunity to further your knowledge and interests, interspersing visits to the historical, religious and nature attractions that make Israel unique. For added value, consider timing your trip to one of the agricultural festivals or peak seasons in Israel: the Olive Festival in October, grape-picking in the summer, cherries in the late spring, and more.