Yad Ezra’s Giving Gardens
Genesis Garden at Lady of La Salette Church in September

This year, more produce than ever has been brought in from local community gardens.

Our mission at Yad Ezra’s Giving Gardens is to provide educational opportunities and resources to address hunger in our Jewish community at its roots, with a focus on healthy and sustainable practices. The pandemic has not dried up our resolve. We have capitalized on the nicer weather and have been hosting classes, providing a socially distant way to interact with people safely and provide the community with knowledge. This year, more produce than ever has been brought in from local community gardens. We have been able to extend our reach through partnerships with the Hazon Garden Relief Initiative, as well as with partner gardens like the Bowers School Farm and the Farber Tamarack Farm.

As Giving Gardens flourishes, an increased volume and value of produce goes to Yad Ezra’s clients every year. Every Yad Ezra delivery gets a taste of the Giving Gardens in their package.

The pandemic has tested the reach of communities around the world. In Metro Detroit, we are so fortunate that our community has come together to help our own as well as our neighbors and friends. At Yad Ezra’s Giving Gardens, we are proud to share some of our partnerships which have been developed over the past few years and have quite literally begun to bear fruit.

Judaism emphasizes the importance of community in so many ways. One of the most compelling arguments is the Talmudic passage that defines an appropriate city in which to live. In order for a city to be habitable, it must accommodate the needs of all its members, assuring there is appropriate care for everyone (Sanhedrin 17b).

Yad Ezra’s Giving Gardens
Josh bags produce grown at Giving Gardens for clients.

Our Lady of La Salette Church is our neighbor — the church has been a landmark in Berkley since the 1920s. The land behind the church was not being used; it was a flat, expansive lawn. Giving Gardens has a new productive partnership with the church. They have allowed us to farm their land, which we call the Genesis Garden. The farmed plot has doubled our growing space, adding more than 5,000 square feet of garden space. The Genesis Garden is currently growing beans, peas, zucchini, cucumbers, radish, turnips, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, basil and peppers. All these vegetables will be harvested and distributed to our clients. Not only does this allow us to offer more food, it also raises the amount of fresh nutritional choices to food insecure families who often otherwise eat less nutritional foods.

Since the middle of June, Giving Gardens has been participating in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) partnership. Generously funded by an anonymous donor, the Central Detroit Christian Farm and Fishery and Fisheye Farms have sold Yad Ezra 15 and two full shares, respectively, of their farm harvest. This amount of fresh produce is enough to generously supplement the grocery distribution of approximately 35 people. Additionally, for every two shares Yad Ezra receives, one share is donated to a family in the neighborhood in which the CDC farm is located. Our Giving Gardens team has organized a trial of this 20-week partnership with the 35 Yad Ezra clients who are also members of our Giving Gardens Club. Each client has been receiving a weekly distribution of farm fresh produce to supplement their regular Yad Ezra grocery delivery. The farm produce is delivered to Yad Ezra and Giving Gardens volunteers and staff divide the shares and deliver the produce to our clients/club members.

This is truly an innovative way for Yad Ezra to engage in a community effort that helps the farmers, who cannot otherwise distribute all of their harvest during these times, and gives healthy, fresh food to food-insecure families in our community. We hope that this test program will serve as a model for others. The ripple effect of helping our clients, helping a local business, and helping feed people in other communities is rewarding.

Giving Gardens was started at Yad Ezra with an amalgam of goals that were all rooted in the concept of partnership. We had partnered for years with master gardeners who grew produce on our property, and we have embraced the culture of partnership and teamwork that is an inherent part of the urban farming and community farming culture, as well as celebrating and supporting partnerships of other Jewish and community organizations that work toward sustainability and community education.

We are proud of what Giving Gardens gives our clients and welcome any who are interested to join us — opportunities abound!

Anyone interested in classes at Giving Gardens is welcome to join! Check us out on Facebook @YadEzra or Instagram @Yad.Ezra.

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