A vision becomes a ‘Kesher garden’

A meaningful project is underway at the Stroum Jewish Community Center. Right now it looks a lot like mud, but next month planting will begin in what will be called the SJCC Kesher (which means “connection” in Hebrew) Community Garden.

Petite and bright-eyed, Lisa Porad has taken the project under her wing. Porad is a volunteer at the center who was born and raised on the Island. Matt Grogan, senior director of operations for the center, has known Porad since she was a little girl, and gives her credit for helping the center envision and create the garden.

“For a few years I’ve been pushing for it because I think it’s good for building community,” Porad said. “And, we could stand to be more aware of the food we eat. It’s a good way to stop, slow down and appreciate.”

Porad said the project will be completed in three phases. Phase I underway will have 16 10-foot-by-10-foot pea patches that people can rent for $50 a year with a one-time application fee of $25. The design is much like a compass, with eight smaller pea patches in the inner circle, which is part of a learning garden.

“With the learning garden, there will be lots of opportunity for kids to be in programs, whether it’s math or cooking,” Porad said. “We have a very broad vision.”

The garden design was created by landscape architect Bill Peregrine, who donated his time .

“I see no better setting than the learning garden. When we take the tiniest of seeds, nurture its growth, and then it nurtures us, we begin to understand how dependent we are on nature for our wellbeing and not the other way around,” Peregrine said. “It’s that other-way-around attitude that has gotten us into the environmental mess that we face today.”

All of the paths and some of the plots will be ADA accessible. The project got its kick start from a generous grant from a foundation, Porad said — private donations and a donation from the Mercer Island Rotary.

The garden will be open to anyone, not just members of the SJCC. Porad said the center has partnered with Oxbow, an organic farm in Carnation, to be a CSA (community supported agriculture) drop-off point. For either $418 or $618 for the season, subscribers pick up a box of fresh, organic produce from the farm every week. The $18 part of it goes to provide fresh produce to local food banks, and one full box will go to food banks each week.

For renters of a pea patch, they can grow whatever they want, as long as it’s organic, legal and doesn’t interfere with your neighbor’s patch.

“We will have an outdoor educator who will teach kids about how math, biology and chemistry apply to the garden,” Porad said. “One day we hope to have a solar panel in the shed, and part of the bigger plan is to have an outdoor classroom.”

The land, immediately adjacent to, and on the south side of the center, is cleared with the exception of a stand of tall trees in the center. Trees that were cut down will be made into benches for folks to sit, relax or meditate. A fire pit is planned for the first phase, a nice touch on a cool evening.

One patch has already been spoken for by a friend of Porad’s who is studying to be a naturopathic doctor.

“Her passion is herbs,” Porad said. “She’ll have a patch growing medicinal herbs.”

A lecture series open to all begins Thursday with former Mercer Island resident Julie Negrin, M.S., speaking on “Cooking for the Family Made Easy,” at 7 p.m. at the SJCC.

Sunday, May 15, at 10:30 a.m. is a presentation from Oxbow, covering the CSA concept and the importance of regional food with Adam McCurdy. A class on composting with Peregrine and more in-depth workshops are planned later, some specifically designed for seniors. The lectures will cost $5 for SJCC members and $10 for non-members.

Representatives from the SJCC will be at this coming weekend’s “Leap for Green” event at the Community Center at Mercer View.

Other pea patches on the Island can be found at Emmanuel church and the CCMV. The CCMV has 60 pea patches, all spoken for, with 15-20 people on a waiting list. Its patches are 10-feet-by-40-feet at a cost of $40 a year.

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