Photographs by Michael Bloom
This story was first published by Haute Hijab.
About 20 years ago Diane Aboushi read the book, “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal,” by Eric Schlosser, and it stuck with her. She says the book unraveled the world of fast food and made her reconsider how she was eating her own food. Was it safe? Was store-bought, halal-labeled foods actually prepared according to Islamic guidelines? Was the qurbani being ethically done? Was it also prepared in safe conditions?
This led her to stop consuming meat or at times eat significantly less of it. She became a firm believer in organic—what she says is the closest to wholesome food. Diane, who is an attorney by profession, later met her husband who was also adamant about eating halal and organic foods.
“We couldn’t find it. So we created it for our family,” says Diane.
In 2015 the duo purchased 14 acres of grassland and transformed it into Halal Pasture Farms in Rock Tavern, located in upstate New York.
“We took it and built a chicken coop, greenhouse, and are in the process of building a barn for goats,” she says.
On their Facebook page on February 12, 2021, they shared:
“Salaams! We are a Muslim-American family farm that works hard to make wholesome food. We were tired of choosing between organic or halal or local or grass-fed or hand-slaughtered. So we took matters into our own hands and made the food we want to feed our family. And now we are so honored to share this wholesome food with you!”
For them, this meant following the Quran’s commands to eat halal and tayeb, meaning permissible pure and whole food—such as meats that are hand-slaughtered with Allah’s (S) name rather than machine-slaughtered—and eating meat from animals who were raised in humane conditions.
In the Quran, Allah (S) says to eat good food and be thankful to Him:
يٰٓاَ يُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا کُلُوۡا مِنۡ طَيِّبٰتِ مَا رَزَقۡنٰكُمۡ وَاشۡكُرُوۡا لِلّٰهِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ اِيَّاهُ تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ ١٧٢
“O you who have believed, eat from the good [i.e., lawful] things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.” (2:172)
There are many rules about eating halal, such as eating pure foods and not eating foods that are rotten or harmful, for example. Diane says the idea of eating clean just continued to expand.
“We just know a little too much about the meat industry. It’s very hard for me to eat outside the house from what I learned,” she says.
Diane says they learned that methods of slaughtering animals at many meat plants and farms were not quite up to par with what they consider Quran recommendations for halal and pure foods. For example, she says a cow that has a baby should be raised on its mother’s milk until it becomes an adult, each animal having its own lifespan—about 18-24 months to become an adult.
She says Halal Pastures is attentive to each animal, from knowing when the animal was born, who is its mother, and the breed of the animal who is to be slaughtered, to where it was packaged.
“This bit of the information is the level of detail we care about. You can’t really get that in other places. These are questions we wanted answered for ourselves,” Diane says.
She says she feeds her three kids from the same food as is sold through her farm. They also help take care of the farm, from watering the plants to washing the eggs.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Diane says she remembers a childhood celebrating Eid ul-Adha, getting money and toy gifts and going out to eat. Now she wants to pass on the tradition of sacrificing for Allah (S) through the family business.
She also encourages people to be mindful of their qurbani by following requirements, which can be found here. The business also takes donations for qurbani that are distributed to those in need. Proceeds last year and this year will go to Masjid Al-Iqlas of Newburgh, New York on the day of Eid for families in need.
It’s important to nurture, support, and create a community, says Diane.
“You’re buying from a family farm, not a mega corporation. You’re buying from people in your shoes. We work hard. We are very honored to serve these families. You’re buying from a family farm that’s very conscious about the food they put out there and takes great pride in the food that we make, Alhamdulillah.”
The family also offers co-op programs in the summer and fall for kids ages 5-15 to “foster a connection with the land and the deen” by teaching them how to farm and grow food.
Diane says the idea is to teach kids where their food comes from. The 10-session program begins with talking about what they are grateful for, salat, and discussing an ayat from the Quran. They are now taking applications for the fall cohort.
Where to find them:
Halal Pastures Farm is located in Rock Tavern, NY. They are at the 92nd Street Greenmarket farmers market Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) 400-0165 for more information.