Alliance Historic Model Vineyard

ACRe co-founder Malya Levin and Eli Silins of Camuna Cellars walk along the farmland property border and future site of the Alliance Historic Model Vineyard.

OUR GOAL

We plan to grow a kosher organic vineyard on the Levin family's historic farmland in Pittsgrove Township, Salem County, New Jersey, the site of the first Jewish farm in America. We have partnered with vintner Eli Silins to steward the land for his own kosher winery, Camuna Cellars in nearby Philadelphia.

Together we will produce “vine to bottle” kosher wine from the oldest family-owned Jewish farm in America.

Wild grapes grow around the Moses Bayuk House

Moses Bayuk tends to his vineyard in Alliance circa 1900

HISTORY

Our farmland property is located in Alliance, part of the greater area of Vineland, New Jersey, so called for its grapevines.

Thomas Welch of Welch’s Grape Juice got his start in Vineland, NJ in 1869.

The Levins’ farmland has been in the family for five generations and is part of the Alliance Colony, the first successful Jewish farm community in America, established by Russian Jewish immigrants in 1882.

ACRe co-founder William Levin’s great great grandfather Moses Bayuk grew grapes on their family farmland in the early 1900s and sold kosher wine in Philadelphia.

A handful of vineyards operate just a few miles from our own property, where the newly dubbed “Outer Coastal Plain” of New Jersey is gaining a reputation for grape growing.

There are very few organic—and no kosher organic—vineyards on the East Coast.

THE FARM

We have 50 acres of USDA Organic-qualifying farmland in Pittsgrove Township, NJ. We will establish the model vineyard on a small private lot of historic Alliance farmland with a half-acre paddock and a large pole barn, adjacent to 5 acres vacant farmland ready for expansion.

Dec 26, 2022, Steve Becker of Vinetech and Eli Silins of Camuna Cellars survey the paddock for growing grapevines.

THE PLAN

Alliance Community Reboot (ACRe), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization building Jewish farm-based community in South Jersey, will fiscally sponsor “Levin Yards,” the partnership between the Levins and Camuna Cellars.

Levin Yards will provide farmland and infrastructure and Eli Silins of Camuna Cellars will oversee the creation, stewardship and maintenance of a small scale experimental kosher organic vineyard on the Levins’ historic farmland. They will work with local vineyard management company Vinetech to install and maintain.

ACRe will host seasonal holiday events with Eli Silins, introducing their model vineyard to the public with educational tours and wine tasting. ACRe will also publicly share social media and data collected during their organic trials.

Levin Yards will start with half an acre of choice varietals and scale up to 5 acres if the vines show promise after one year, expanding onto additional surrounding property if commercially viable, thus concluding the ACRe incubation phase. We will resort to using as few chemical substances as possible for treating vines if 100% organic proves impossible. Prep begins January 2023 and installation in Spring 2023.

Vat of grapes by Camuna Cellars

FINANCIAL

YEAR 1 startup cost is $18K. This will cover the cost of vine starts and VineTech fees for installation and maintenance, including soil testing and amendments, and trellises on half an acre of farmland.

Friend and anchor funder Manuela Zonensein has pledged $15K to kickstart the project.

Salem County Historic Re-Grant program has awarded ACRe $7,510 in 2023, a portion of which will support this project.

Funding for this project is a tax-deductible charitable donation to ACRe.

YEAR 2-3 depending on funding and project viability we may expand into the adjacent 5 acres field.

YEAR 4+ Commercial Vineyard

  • Vines require 3-4 years of growth before they can be harvested, both practically and halachically.

  • Silins will utilize most or all of the harvested grapes for Camuna Cellars wine. Any extra can be sold or used for private winemaking.

  • We may crowdfund this stage of growth.

We can share more specific details about the startup costs and commercial potential of the project upon request. Please contact us by email.

FUTURE POSSIBILITIES

  • Grow orchard fruits and berries for other fermented beverages.

  • Restore the Victorian era Moses Bayuk House to function as a winery and tasting room.

MEET THE TEAM

Malya & William Levin

MALYA & WILLIAM LEVIN founded the nonprofit organization Alliance Community Reboot in 2014, dedicated to rebuilding farm-based Jewish community in South Jersey.

As a great-great grandson of Moses Bayuk, leader of the Alliance Colony, William had never truly connected with his Jewish agricultural roots or the historic farmland his family still owned. After buying the farmland from their family, the Levins soon realized they had the potential to contribute to the Jewish farming movement, which has experienced a resurgence among the younger generation of American Jews.

Malya is a lawyer admitted to the NY and NJ Bars, and is the Senior Staff Attorney at the Weinberg Center for Elder Justice, the nation’s first elder abuse shelter, and serves on the Executive Committee of the NYSBA Elder Law Section. In 2018 Malya was named one of New York Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36.”

Eli Silins

After working on a biodynamic vineyard in Australia in 2004, ELI SILINS started making wine in California in 2013. He has long been interested in sustainable agriculture systems and the intersection of ancient and modern holistic farming practices. In 2019 Eli moved from Berkeley, CA to Philadelphia, PA and took Camuna Cellars with him. He is currently exploring the bounty of the Mid-Atlantic and experimenting with grapes, apples, and honey and their various combinations: wine, cider, mead, cyser and pyment.

Steven Becker

Steven Becker, Co-Owner and Manager of Vinetech is a South Jersey native from Rosenhayn ... and lives just 5 minutes from our farm! Steven attended Franklin and Marshall College where he studied Environmental Science and worked under Dr. Dan Ward at the Rutgers Agricultural Research and Extension Center, as well as with Dr. Andy Weynandt, an extension specialist in plant pathology. Steven spent some time working for Bellview Winery before co-founding Vinetech.

Ben Kutner

Ben is the owner of Kutner Landscape Solutions and longtime family friend of the Levins. Ben has supported ACRe with all its projects since the beginning, helping with property maintenance and installing farm and garden infrastructure. Ben will be preparing the land for our vineyard and helping with seasonal maintenance. This works out well, considering Ben also stores and repairs his heavy landscaping artillery in our barn.

This program is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State, through the Salem County Board of County Commissioners & The Salem County Cultural & Heritage Commission.