Imagine having a space where you can grow food and educate community members of all ages and physical abilities.
Shalom Green, the Shalom Park Environmental Initiative, has created such a space with the help of a grant from the ClearPath Foundation, community members, and five Shalom Park partners – Foundation of Shalom Park, the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, the Levine Jewish Community Center (LJCC), Temple Israel and Temple Beth El.
One of the main purposes of the garden is education, both practical and religious.
Candice Serbin, chairwoman of the Shalom Green Community Garden committee
The Shalom Park Community Garden “is meant to be a hub for Jewish and environmental learning and is one component of the larger Shalom Park Environmental Initiative,” said Bette Andrews, 57, chairwoman of Shalom Green and Matthews resident. “The ultimate goal of the initiative is to educate the Jewish community and eventually the larger Charlotte community on the importance of carbon footprint reduction, whether it be changing out light bulbs to LED, installing solar panels on homes and buildings, buying local produce and meats, carpooling, recycling, tips for the home to reduce energy use, etc.”
The Shalom Park Community Garden was built and planted by community members on Sept. 27 and Oct. 11. Designed by 38-year-old Plaza Midwood resident Bobbie Mabe, who owns Growth Through Gardening, the garden is in a semicircular space on Shalom Park and is approximately 100 feet by 30 feet.
Following the lead of the Shalom Green Community Garden committee, the certified horticultural therapist designed the space to include about 12 raised beds of various heights and sizes. Some beds are 12 inches tall and others are higher, so that people of all ages can access the beds. The garden is also wheelchair-accessible. The entrance to the garden was widened to ensure there were no barriers.
Mabe designed the garden to have aesthetically pleasing flowers and trees, as well as fruits and vegetables, also keeping in mind plants and herbs that have a religious association, such as pomegranates, fig trees, grapes and parsley. According to Lisa Garfinkle, project manager of the Shalom Park Environmental Initiative, and jewishvirtuallibrary.org, pomegranates, fig trees and grapes are three of the seven species of staple foods found in the land of Israel during biblical times.
Another garden addition is the Arctic Fire Dogwood, which will lose its leaves in the winter and leave bright red sticks behind, reminiscent of the burning bush, Mabe said. Kale, collards, turnips, beets, garlic, onions, rosemary, lavender and sage are other planned crops. Mabe also provided a yearly schedule of plantings for the garden.
“One of the main purposes of the garden is education, both practical and religious,” said Candice Serbin, 35, chairwoman of the Shalom Green Community Garden committee. “We are partnering with the Temple Beth El and Temple Israel religious schools, the Charlotte Jewish Preschool, the Charlotte Jewish Day School, and the LJCC to really try to educate the community about how to grow and nurture plants. We believe it’s important for the students to see how gardening can have a tangible, immediate impact in their lives.”
“Also we want to bring together people of all ages to learn about caring for the earth and our bodies,” wrote Yonatan Thull, 34, who lives in the Sardis North area and is a garden committee member and volunteer subcommittee chairman. “We as Jews are commanded by G-D to observe Bal Tashchit, ‘not ruining the earth,’ and Sh’mirat Haguf, the protection of one’s own body. Through gardening, participants can learn how to grow their own foods in sustainable ways that prolong the earth’s life and how eating this food can strengthen them and help them reach their fullest potential.”
Rabbi Jonathan Freirich of Temple Beth mentioned that the opening chapter of the book of Genesis talks about God providing the earth for us to rule.
“Jews interpret the sense of ruling as not using and abusing but as taking care of the earth,” said Freirich. “Stewardship is the center of the Jewish attitude, and we want the garden to promote good stewardship of the planet.”
In the spirit of stewardship and tikkun olam, Hebrew for “repairing the earth,” the garden committee has chosen to donate portions of the garden’s yield to the Jewish Family Services’ food pantry and to Friendship Trays, Meals on Wheels in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
“We want to unite all types of people in the garden and grow as much food as we can to help feed those in need,” wrote Thull in an email. “I want to plant, grow, and teach the students from seed to table and see their hard work pay off by feeding someone with the food they grew.”
Marissa Brooks is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about the Shalom Park Community Garden, visit www.facebook.com/Shalom-Green-Shalom-Park-Environmental-Initiative-452495844929496/info/?section=web_address&tab=page_info or email Lisa Garfinkle at email@example.com.