EXCLUSIVE: Europe’s only kosher farm given six-year stay of execution

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EXCLUSIVE: Europe’s only kosher farm given six-year stay of execution

Sadeh Farm won't be put out to pasture after owners the Jewish Youth Fund announced it can remain operational until the end of its 10-year lease in 2028.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Sadeh farmer residents make a flatpack sukkah.
Sadeh farmer residents make a flatpack sukkah.

Europe’s only Jewish farm won’t be put out to pasture after all after owners the Jewish Youth Fund announced it can remain operational until the end of its 10-year lease in 2028.

Sadeh Farm is located on JYF-owned Skeet Hill House, a mansion property on a seven-acre site Sadeh has been using it as a kosher guesthouse. But in May this year, after notifying Sadeh of its intentions in January, the JYF put Skeet Hill on the market, placing it with Savill’s estate agents, with an asking price of £1.5 million.

Philippa Strauss, one of the JYF trustees, told Jewish News: “The desire to sell Skeet was not a desire to stop Sadeh from what they are doing. We are very supportive of the work that they do, it’s an important part of our Jewish ethos. But we had this great big house and piece of land sitting there, no income generated from it, a lot of capital tied up in it, and we felt that if we took that capital and invested it, we would then be able to provide substantially more funding to Jewish youth than we are currently able to do. We also felt [moving to another site] would relieve Sadeh of all the responsibility of managing a Grade II listed building”.

Ms Strauss said that the JYF had engaged with Sadeh to help its team find an alternative site “closer to the heart of the Jewish community. There is land available, and we would have helped. But those discussions didn’t come to anything. And because we were unable to offer Skeet Hill House to a potential purchaser with vacant possession, Sadeh will now remain.”

Talia Chain, chief executive of Sadeh, said she and her team were “very excited to learn that we can stay. We have put thousands of man-hours into this place, we have planted 900 trees, we have a meadow, an orchard — and it is a heritage site. My grandfather used to come here when there were goats”. Skeet, she said, meant a lot to thousands of people.

The Jewish Youth Fund is a charity originally established in 1937 as a healthy respite location for Jewish children from the East End of London. Post-war, Skeet Hill House became a popular centre for youth groups who held annual summer camps there.

The Sadeh team — since getting the original news of their pending eviction — have been running an intensive campaign asking for support from the Jewish community for the farm and guesthouse to stay. Most prominent of those asked was Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who formally opened the kosher guesthouse in June 2021.

At the time that the JYF put Skeet up for sale, the chief rabbi said: “I know Sadeh Farm to be an exceptional facility, creating impactful educational experiences for all, especially young people, helping them to understand the importance of sustainability and care for our environment. This would be a real loss to our community and I sincerely hope that a favourable solution will be found.”

Philippa Strauss said that the JYF had believed Sadeh could continue to do what it set out to do, “but in an easier framework” — in other words, on a different site. She said that many bids had been received for the property, “but they were all dependent on securing Skeet Hill with vacant possession, and that was not possible”.

Accordingly, she said, the Sadeh team had been advised that Skeet Hill House had been taken off the market and that they would be allowed to remain until the end of their lease in 2028.

With their short-term future assured, the “thrilled” Sadeh team are now planning activities for the rest of the year, including family stays at the guesthouse and educational programmes on the farm, aimed at Jewish youth.

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