Arizona Is Fertile Ground for New York Matzo

Photo by Edwin Remsberg
Photo by Edwin Remsberg

Here, on a Christian farmer’s land five miles from the Mexican border, lies the holiest of fields for some of New York’s most observant Orthodox Jewish communities. Wheat harvested on these 40 acres is destined to become matzo, the unleavened bread eaten by Jews during the eight days of Passover.

It is not an everyday plant-and-pick operation, and the matzo made from this wheat is not everyday matzo.

Yisroel Tzvi Brody, rabbi of the Shaarei Orah synagogue in Borough Park, Brooklyn, stood at the edge of one of the fields on Monday, stooping to rub a grain of wheat between his wrinkled thumb and index finger. Removing his glasses, he brought the grain close to his eyes and turned it from side to side, like a gemologist inspecting a precious stone.

“It is to ascertain that it’s not sprouted,” Rabbi Brody explained. “If it has, it’s not valid.”

For seven weeks, while the wheat grew in scorching heat under impossibly blue skies, two men clothed in the traditional black and white garments of the Hasidim stayed in a trailer overlooking the crop, to be able to attest that the wheat, once matured, had been untouched by rain or other moisture. Workers were prohibited from carrying water bottles in the field. Dust danced in the air as the wind blew, but unpaved roads could not be wet while the wheat was growing. The goal was to prevent any natural fermentation from taking place in the grains before they were milled into flour and the matzo was baked, sometime in the late fall.

Read more from this June 28 New York Times article at the link below. Tim Dunn, a graduate of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a degree in agronomy, is president of Dunn Grain Company, the durum wheat producer profiled in this article. His son, Kirk, is an undergraduate majoring in sustainable plant systems.

Date released: 
Jul 1 2013