On a small plot of land at the back of Temple Israel, a garden is growing. Created and funded by Nick and Judy Ringel, this garden is a living memorial to Judy’s mother, Ernestine Greenberger. The original plan was to donate the harvest to MIFA for distribution to their clients. However, last year Plough Towers became the beneficiary of weekly deliveries of these beautiful herbs and vegetables.
This garden exists only with the tireless efforts of a small army of volunteers led by Plough Towers board member Marsha Underberg and a lot of assistance from Laurie Scheidt. Temple Israel’s Garden Committee is 33 members strong and range in age from bar/bat mitzvah young men and women, to Millennials and more seasoned gardeners.
Each plays a part in the planting, weeding, watering, pruning or harvesting of the six raised beds. The beds were built by the Temple Brotherhood. The garden is completely organic, using only manure and non-chemical products. All of the vegetable plants and seeds are donated by Mr. Willie of Bonnie’s Farms. This saves thousands of dollars each year in planting costs. One a group of volunteers from Temple’s sister synagogue in Israel made a significant impact on the garden with some rocks brought with them. When the Israelis left, their Memphis friends sent them home with 901 rocks painted by Temple kindergarteners and preschoolers. The visitors claimed that working in the gardens was one of the highlights of their trip to Memphis.
According Marsha, this year’s planting includes sugar snap peas, chocolate cherry tomatoes, green beans (grown from seeds), zucchini squash, leeks, bell peppers, kale, chives and romaine lettuce. Leeks are currently ripe and ready for harvesting. Anticipated crops of thyme and rosemary are also abundant. Before the harvest, many hands put in many hours of loving care. In addition, one of the Temple rabbis leads a Blessing of the Garden each year in late summer. The harvest is truly a blessing to the many recipients of these vegetables.
Marsha exudes an enthusiasm when speaking of the garden. “To witness the process from planting to harvest, and then delivering the bounty to the residents is very satisfying,” she said. Although she has been on many committees and done volunteer work for many years, the Temple garden “is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It is like having a little baby, and the garden takes on a life of its own. It just makes me happy.” Last summer, it also made many Plough Towers’ residents happy, as they received more than 80 pounds of produce.
In order to ensure that no vegetables ever go to waste, Plough Towers has downloaded and printed recipes using each of the vegetables received. Since leeks are currently ripe, leek soup recipes will be offered to anyone receiving the produce.
As part of its mission statement, Plough Towers strives to allow residents to age in place. Plough Towers executive director Leigh Hendry, says that is very meaningful to have the relationship with Marsha, Laurie, and the other gardeners, as well as Temple. “We feel a part of the whole community by being included in this important project.”
This is achieved, in part, by providing opportunities to make healthy food and exercise choices, and to encourage healthy living. “The vegetables we receive from the garden help our residents achieve a better and healthier way of eating,” said Lucy Wener, Plough Towers employee and fitness enthusiast. “Combined with our bi-weekly exercise classes and our workout room, we seek to help them live a healthy life.”
Robin Snyder, a Plough Towers resident that loves to cook, anxiously awaits each of Marsha’s deliveries. “There is not one vegetable that I do not eat,” she said. “The herbs are especially fresh, and I love eating them the same day they are picked!” Her husband, Conrad, readily agrees. Robin continued, “If I could have all that I want from the Temple garden, I would never step foot in another grocery store or farmer’s market.”