CHIEF RABBI, HACHAM SHAUL KASSIN 5681 – 5779 / 1921-2018

Past Articles:
TOVAH FAMILY FARMS: “FROM HARVEST TO PRODUCT IN ONE DAY”

By: Ellen Geller Kamaras



Nobody wants bugs in their food.  But it’s not merely a matter of taste.  It’s essential for your health and religious observance.  The Torah prohibits us from eating insects, stating: “All the swarming things that swarm on the ground you shall not eat” (Vayikra- Leviticus 11:42).

Approximately four years ago the owners of Tovah Family Farms, a privately-held business, decided to create a company that would provide top-quality, bug-free frozen vegetable products to kosher homes worldwide and would offer them at reasonable prices.  They also recognized the need for superior and stringent bedikat tolaim (checking for insect manifestation) processes.[1]

Why Choose Frozen Over Fresh Vegetables? 

The average consumer probably assumes that fresh vegetables are better for us. But surprisingly, research shows that frozen vegetables may be the healthier option. 

The global frozen vegetable market was valued at nearly $25 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach a market size of $30 billion by 2022. 

When considering whether to choose frozen or fresh veggies, it is important to take into account when the vegetables were picked and how long ago.  Homegrown vegetables and vegetables harvested for purposes of commercial freezing are generally picked when they are fully ripe.  This is the time when vegetables have the most nutrients.  They are also frozen soon after they are picked.

The typical fresh vegetable sold in your local supermarket or produce store is often harvested under ripe, and sits on a truck before moving to your grocery shelf, and then landing in your refrigerator or on your counter.  When a vegetable is picked too early it does not reach its nutritional potential and also loses more vitamins in storage.  Vegetables can lose as much 50% of certain nutrients during the two weeks that may pass from when they are picked until they are eaten.  When attached to a growing plant, a vegetable keeps on producing nutrients, i.e. vitamins and minerals.

Why Choose Tovah Family Farms? 

Tovah’smission is to treat every single customer as a member of its extended family, and therefore its stakeholders established the highest quality processes and procedures, from the planting and harvesting, through the picking, cleaning, checking and packaging of its vegetables.  Its management has transformed the kosher frozen vegetable market with “quality control” as its mantra.  Excellent care and detailed attention to the highest level of bedikat tolaim and commitment to purity are woven into each of its processes and procedures.

Kashrut andBedikat Tolaim

The kashrut process at Tovah Family Farms is unmatched, as they go above and beyond the most stringent humrot for tolaim within the industry.  The initial bedikah is done after each piece of hand-picked vegetables is washed.  Pure well water (containing no chemicals) is utilized for the washing in high-pressured jacuzzi baths.[2]  This scrubbing and inspection cycle is repeated an additional two times, using a highly efficient triple filtered water purification process. By adhering to the most stringent kashrut standard above and beyond nekar ayin[3], Tovahis ensuring that its customers will only serve the best tasting, highest quality, kosher mehadrin min hamehadrin, farm fresh produce at their table and at non-exploitive prices.  Tovah’s produce is certified by three entities, the renowned leading expert, Hadayan,Rabbi Asher Eckstein from Brooklyn, Hadayan, Rabbi Mordechai Gross from Bnei Brak, Israel, and the OU.[4]

Everything, from start to finish, from harvesting, cutting, cleaning, inspecting, to freezing and packaging, is performed in China.  China has evolved into a powerhouse for the kosher food industry.  One of the Tovahowners clarified that China has become the most efficient venue for growing the vegetables and cutting, cleaning, inspecting, freezing and packaging them.   China’s new President, Xi Jinping, known as “the chairman of everything,” has implemented multiple improvements in the last five years[5]  (such as pollution reduction, enhancement of the hygienic landscape).  Some kosher companies have started growing produce in Vietnam in an effort to cut costs. The experiment has been disappointing; the conditions in Vietnam are not as clean or efficient as in China.

Tovah’svegetables are grown in greenhouses located on farms in the countryside of China.   Greenhouses provide a more careful and controlled environment for growing insect-free vegetables.  Produce grown in greenhouses are less likely to be damaged by inclement weather conditions such as rain and wind, and are protected from many diseases and bacteria.  The most compelling reason for growing produce in a green house is to enable crops to be grown when they cannot be grown outdoors. 

Tovah’s products are frozen within six hours of harvesting!  Once frozen, the vegetables maintain their freshness for three years. 

Given that China is 7,200 miles away from the U.S. and is fairly new to the kosher produce industry, Tovah has instituted a rigorous examination protocol for its vegetables.  This includes the training of all supervisors and staff by Tovah owners, management, and by mashgichim.  Tovah’s staff includes trained checkers who are supervised by the mashgichim on the farms and in the factories.  Checkers take a substantial number of samples from each greenhouse. If one bug is found during the testing of that greenhouse, that entire harvest in canceled.   One Tovah owner related that he brought one of his key Chinese supervisors to Israel for ten days to be trained by the best mashgichim.  This supervisor is responsible for training the local staff in China.

Hadayan Rabbi Asher Eckstein is on site to ensure that appropriate procedures are followed and to answer questions from the checkers.  A rabbi also supervises the harvest to make certain that only bug-free, clean, and fresh vegetables are sent to the factory, which is also in China, for processing.  Approved vegetables are sent in sealed sacks to the washing factory, where another rabbi separates the sacks by greenhouse.

Tovahis proud to say that it is the only kosher frozen vegetable producer that tracks and reports its harvested vegetables and the related checking procedures using What’s App.  The head mashgiach is informed via What’s App about each harvest, every day of the harvest.  The sacks of vegetables that are picked and cut are tracked by greenhouse and are reported via What’s App when loaded onto the truck and sent to the factory.  When the truck arrives at the factory, a staff member compares the number of sacks taken off the truck to the numbers on the What’s App report that was posted by the farm staff when the sacks were put on the truck at the harvesting farm.  As a former auditor, I recognize how valuable these cross-referencing controls are.  If the two totals do not agree, that harvest will not be used, and the farmers are out the money.  Therefore, these checks and balances ensure that the bedikah is accurate, and they serve as an incentive to the farmers and their staff to practice quality control and assurance.

Tovah offers multiple product lines across the entire United States and globally.  Its most popular products are mixed peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, butternut squash, and sliced zucchini.

What’s Next on Tovah’s Radar Screen?

Stay tuned for Tovah’s frozen vegan burgers. Tovah is developing a full line of veggie burgers containing no flour or eggs.  Gram flour is used, which is chick-pea (protein) based with lots of nutritional value.  Tovah is also working on harvesting and freezing frozen strawberries without using any halachic loopholes.

If you want to make sure you and your loved ones are eating the finest, fresh, and halachically bug-free veggies, please consider joining the Tovahfamily.

Place in small sidebar:

Contact info for Tovah Family Farms:

917-509-1019 – Production

973-523-4101 – Distribution

info@tovahfamilyfarms.com

http://tovahfamilyfarms.com/

Sponsored Message

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.   Ellen helps people find their passion, purpose, and positivity in life and relationships and conducts personal growth workshops throughout the year.   Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).


[1]In some respects, new or organic pesticides have brought new insects.  Broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach are the most problematic when it comes to bugs.  Bugs can fall into the green leaves and require more checking and cleaning.

[2]To avoid pollution found in Chinese lakes and rivers.

[3] The three factors that govern the Biblical prohibition against eating insects are:  rov (the majority), nir’eh l’ay’nayim (visible to the normal eye), and bitul (nullification).  The concept of rov when applied to insect infestation divides vegetables into the following three categories:

Miyut she’ayno matzuy, vegetables in which insects are not commonly found, muchzak b’tola’im, vegetables that are commonly infested, and miyut ha’matzuy, meaning those for which only a minority of such vegetables would be expected to exhibit insect infestation. Such infestation is nevertheless considered relatively common.  Before eating such vegetables, there is a rabbinic requirement to check for infestation.  For more details, see http://www.kashrut.com/articles/Bugs_in_Lettuce/.

[4]Tovahalso koshers all of its machinery and equipment used in the farms and factories it outsources to.

[5] Xi Jinping was re-elected for a second five-year term in October 2017. To learn more about him:  https://www.newstatesman.com/world/asia/2017/12/chairman-everything-why-chinese-president-xi-jinping-will-change-history.