By Harriet P. Gross
It’s not the Garden of Eden yet — not by a long shot. But the Tiferet Community Garden is well on its way.
Already earmarked for planting: about a half-acre of the ample land behind the synagogue on Hillcrest Road near Royal Lane, with some cultivation currently underway. “Right now we have two 12-by-20-foot beds planted,” said Ed Jerome, congregation president, “and two more are ready. In our ‘Grand Plan,’ we’ll ultimately have 20!”
This project is officially named TIKVA, Tiferet Israel Kosher Vegetation Association, and it’s offering a very green opportunity to anyone and everyone wanting to grow, harvest and share. According to the fledgling effort’s mission statement: “In the spirit of tikkun olam, the Tiferet Community Garden uses plants to catalyze relationships between individuals, the congregation, the community and the natural world, in a beautiful and productive garden.”
You don’t have to be a Tiferet congregant — not even Jewish! — to take part; TIKVA is reaching out to the church next door and the public school behind its land to invite wide participation. The garden is planned as “a visible expression of the congregation’s values and beliefs … linking with the secular and religious communities throughout Dallas of which Tiferet is a part.”
This project is the “baby” of congregants Jan Ayers, Sonia Meltzer and Steven Goldfine, who now make up the official Garden Committee. Last fall they saw an article about a church garden, passed it around to assess interest, and received a go-ahead from Tiferet’s Board. Plans call for vegetable and fruit production that will “make a shiduch,” according to Jerome: The people who work the beds will get to keep most of what they produce, with a minimum 10 percent of every harvest required for donation to a food bank or other charity approved by TIKVA, which will handle the distribution.
Beds may also include flowers and herbs, according to planters’ personal preferences; a compost stockpile for all will welcome everyone’s lawn clippings, leaves, and peelings from raw fruits and vegetables.
Professionals from MESA Design Group have worked with the committee on the garden’s layout, which will include fencing and tree plantings as well as the growing beds. Costs to participants — individuals, families, and groups — will be $200 per bed for the first year to offset the actual price of construction, and $50 per year afterward to pay for water. Those who don’t want to garden themselves but would like volunteers to work beds for them and split the harvest, or who want to sponsor beds for others, may do so for the same amount.
Donations are also being accepted for trees, with costs ranging from $100 for each fig, peach and pomegranate, to $500 per pecan or magnolia. A “Green Fund” in support of all garden purchases as needed is receiving donations in any amount.
TIKVA has set up garden guidelines that include use of organic growing methods, appropriateness of crops planted, installation of structures such as trellises, and supervision of children. No pets will be permitted. TIKVA will also provide help for gardeners including a list of successful plants for the area and a planting schedule, which may take the form of an illustrated calendar with children’s art work. And for those interested, Tiferet’s Rabbi Shawn Zell will teach the Hebrew words for all plants in the garden!
A look at the garden and full information about future plans and participation will be available to all attendees at the 16th Annual Kosher Chili Cookoff, scheduled for Sunday, March 22, at Tiferet Israel.
According to the garden’s planners, “We are a small but rapidly growing group of people who saw a need for community involvement, family interaction and spiritual fulfillment. Your planting bed is your personal vision: flowers for your home and for sharing, growing that 100-lb. pumpkin you’ve always wanted, or nutrient-rich vegetables for your family and for the local food bank. It’s up to you….
“The Tiferet Community Garden will be a welcoming and beautiful refuge where individuals and groups find fellowship and solace … a venue for linking, celebrating and learning from the seasonal rhythms of the secular and spiritual worlds.”
Not quite Gan Eden, but with almost infinite potential!
For answers to questions, call Tiferet Israel’s office, 214-691-3611.