“It’s really a labor of love,” said Phyllis Volan, HUC-JIR’s Director of Development, Central Region. “Ben’s the boss, and I’m just the farmer. I’m in there, along with our other
volunteers, watering and weeding and making sure everything is growing as it should be.” Volan went on to say it is hard work, but the benefits the community receives are well worth her time and
effort. “It’s a win-win for everyone. Our students and volunteers get to see the community impact, and JFS gets to provide its clients with fresh vegetables. It is a great partnership, and every
year we get better at it.”
“Everything is fresh,” said Kaufman. “If it’s picked on Tuesday, it’s at the pantry on Wednesday. And there are no herbicides, pesticides, or anything else on these plants. Anything can be picked
and eaten right there on the spot.”
The benefit goes beyond the Jewish community, as well. Crops are picked every two weeks for the pantry, and on the off weeks, to make sure nothing goes to waste, excess crops are given to the
CAIN Food Pantry in Northside.
“When you consider the operating cost of the garden is as little as $500 to $1,000 a year, it’s an incredible amount of produce we’re able to provide to the community,” Magrisso said.
Kaufman said there was a brief moment when the future of the garden was in question. “Everybody involved, including yours truly, said we would not have replanted the garden because of the damage
the deer were doing. They would come in, have a midnight nosh, then lie down and go to sleep! Not only were they eating the produce, but they were also destroying the plants.” Kaufman said
HUC-JIR was quick to make the arrangements for a fence.
“I do it because it helps feed people who other-wise cannot feed themselves in the same way.”
—Ben Kaufman, Master Gardener
“The fence installed in 2018 keeps the deer away. Without the fence, there would be no more garden,” said Sally Korkin, Public Relations and Community Engagement Manager at HUC-JIR. “Our current
dean, Rabbi Jonathan Hecht, really supports the garden. He knows how important it is to the community being served.”
When asked what keeps bringing them back to this project year after year, the answers were similar. “It’s a mitzvah,” said Korkin. “JFS is doing it as a mitzvah for their clients, but we at
HUC-JIR are doing it as a mitzvah for the community.”