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Food

Gardening Strengthened My Jewish Awareness

My little Garden of Eden stretches a mere half an acre with an assortment of raised beds, fruit trees and bushes. When I started the garden six years ago, I thought gardening was a progression of my environmental path rather than my Judaic destiny. I figured that providing organic fruits and vegetables to my family reduced my carbon footprint. Little did I know that I was also healing the Earth.

How did I start down the garden path? After we built our environmentally friendly house, I still felt something was missing. I always wanted to grow tomatoes. My mom planted a patch one year. The smell and taste of fresh tomatoes was forever burned in my memory

But starting a garden was no easy feat. I had my share of disasters. I failed miserably at my first attempt ten years earlier. The trees overshadowed the garden so the plants didn’t receive enough sunlight. That year, I harvested one tomato. In this new house, I vowed the garden would be different. I look at gardening as lessons learned.

The following summer, I planted 4 heirloom organic tomato plants, broccoli, and a few other vegetables. The plants flourished and became giant trees; however, the plants only produced a few tomatoes. I planted them too late in the season and the plants didn’t have a chance. However with every cloud, there is a silver lining: I learned how to save the seeds from the few ripe tomatoes and I have continued to use those seeds for the last five years. Next season I upped my game and created an eight raised-bed garden complete with kale, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, corn, pepper, and green beans. To make my life harder, I tried my hand at growing all my plants from seed.

That year there were a number of failures such as planting the thyme at the wrong time so that I had to replant it. Even more naive, I planted five stalks of corn thinking the stalk produced several ears, like tomatoes. (Corn only produces one good ear.) Yet, despite my mistakes, all and all, I marveled at how plants would just grow with a little love, rain, and some fertilizer.

God’s handprint on my garden is so beautiful that the garden becomes my refuge from stress. In the garden I connect with God, who gives me my daily pep talk and sends me back to the real world. Each passing year, as I continue to add plants to the garden, the triumphs more than outweigh the failures. The taste of a cherry tomato plucked right off the vine is heavenly. The blueberries never reach the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many lunches I ate in the garden nibbling on kale, strawberries and green beans.
Best yet, I watch the bumble bees floating around the garden working hard at pollinating my crops. All different birds and butterflies visit me as if they are visiting an old friend. My garden becomes their playground. I am deeply honored.

And deeply humbled.

Over the years, my garden expanded to include 10 apple and peach trees, 20 plus blueberry bushes, 24 raised beds, raspberries, blackberries, buckwheat, numerous herbs, and the potted lone fig. I even have two beds full of alfalfa. Gardening fills my heart and soul. Each day, I am grateful for my front row seat where I watch all of G-d’s creatures work their magic.

As I expand the garden, I connect the dots of my Judaic and environmental responsibility. Food is a blessing. For every flower or herb I planted, some creature benefited from its seeds or prospered due to the plant’s shelter. Every time I make a meal from my harvested vegetables, my food miles decrease and I reduce my carbon emissions in the world. Gardening organically reduces my family’s exposure to harmful pesticides and provides them with wholesome real food. I never felt more connected to Judaism. Healing the Earth never tasted so good.

Anna Hackman is a sustainability consultant and the editor of Green Talk, a green living and business blog where she shares her passions about green building, green living, gardening, technology, and business. Tune into Green Talk TV for great interviews with passionate people changing the world.

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