Miami-Dade County

Temple Israel gardeners turn weeds into veggies for Lotus House

David Galler rakes the earth in the Temple Israel’s edible garden Sunday morning. Sunday was the first day of this garden’s sixth growing season, and all proceeds are donated to Lotus House, a shelter for homeless women and children.
David Galler rakes the earth in the Temple Israel’s edible garden Sunday morning. Sunday was the first day of this garden’s sixth growing season, and all proceeds are donated to Lotus House, a shelter for homeless women and children. aharris@miamiherald.com

It’s only 9 a.m. and everyone is already sweating.

Dressed in long sleeves and T-shirts proclaiming “Coexist” and “Plant a tree, seed the future,” the gardeners of Temple Israel get to work.

The farmers labored over four wooden beds filled with rich earth and weeds. Sunday began this year’s gardening season — the sixth for this fenced-in garden adjacent to the Miami synagogue on the edge of downtown. By mid-October the beds will be bursting with collard greens, carrots, radishes, maybe even an eggplant or two.

David Galler, an architect and lifelong gardener, has led this project since the beginning, when the rabbis suggested it.

“They told us there’s a lot of people who could use some good, fresh food,” Galler said.

Veggies, herbs and fruits (if you count tomatoes) from this plot of earth go to Lotus House, a nearby shelter for homeless women and children. Sometimes, Galler said, volunteers from Lotus House, 217 NW 15th St., come out to tend the garden too.

But the residents of Lotus House aren’t the only beneficiaries of this plot. Galler said the Harvard Club occasionally send its members here for the annual social action day. Daycare centers and schools send kids to learn about how plants grow.

“They love to get dirty,” Galler said.

And so do the garden volunteers.

Sunday was Jackie Greenberg’s first day, and she was busily plucking weeds in one of the beds while carefully avoiding a patch of mint that survived from last season.

“I love playing in the dirt,” said Greenberg, a CPA. “Fresh air never hurt anybody.”

She decided to be a part of what Galler called “a very satisfying, worthwhile project,” when she saw a notice in the temple newsletter.

If she sticks around, Galler said Greenberg will be one of two or three volunteers the garden sees every week. But Galler said volunteers who show up once and never return miss the best part of a garden.

“You don’t get the full picture,” he said. “You don’t get the full satisfaction of seeing things grow.”

Follow Alex Harris on Twitter at @harrisalexc

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