Our Day At The Haven Garden

I used to love clothes shopping as the ultimate escape: fun, exciting, despite a quickly-fading rush as I selected shirts, shoes, dresses and jeans as if I were reinventing myself with each purchase. But recently, I realized that more than quick-high (and eventual drop) I get from a shopping spree, I would far rather immerse myself in a ready-to-harvest garden, shopping for vegetables, as it were, and achieving a sustainable, healthy high. After a day at the mall, I don’t lay down at night, reminiscing and smiling as I reflect on the beauty of the day. I do after I’ve spent hours in the garden. Appreciating the miracles of nature, the beauty of Mother Earth’s gifts, is something I want to share with the world, detailing stories of how I got the dirt under my fingernails and where the ingredients for our dinner came from. Feeling connected to the Earth instead of to material items now brings me true, lasting joy.

And so it was with great enthusiasm that I picked up my girlfriend Joy — “Animal Joy” — on my way to the HAVEN garden one recent afternoon to help Ben and Alexis (the real gardeners) harvest vegetables. When I walk into a favorite boutique, or even T.J. Maxx, I feel a rush of excitement, joy, anxiety, panic and confusion, looking at rows, racks and stacks of sweaters, jackets, pants, blouses, skirts and dresses. Imagine my surprise that I felt exactly the same way — but could banish the anxiety, panic and confusion! – when I walked through the weathered gates of the HAVEN garden and looked around at the bountiful and exquisite natural beauty of rows upon rows of vegetable beds. There was the fashion industry’s inspiration for color and texture. Everyone from Oscar de la Renta to Leonardo da Vinci took their cues and found their inspiration in the very real world of earth and sun, sky and air. Everything material takes its cue from nature — and yet we often forget how fleeting are the thrills of the material world and how lasting those found in the natural world.

As I moved first through beds of tomatoes, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and abundance. Every size, shape and color with creative names I can’t remember or pronounce. I yelled to Joy, who was rummaging through rows of pumpkin and summer squash, “Joyzi, this is a hell of a lot more fun than shopping. Even better than shoe shopping!” Laughing, we continued to uncover ripe and ready tomatoes and green beans. Ben and Alexis taught me and Joy how to harvest, to maintain the beauty and integrity of each plant. Handle each rooted plant gently, lovingly. I felt a tinge of sadness as I plucked a tomato away from its mother vine, snapped a kale stalk, forever altering the shape of this gorgeous flowering plant. Careful harvesting ensures the plant will continue to grow and produce for the duration of the growing season. In May and June, we spent time in the garden – hard labor, but awesome work. Learning to prepare beds for planting, tilling soil, installing irrigation, top-dressing beds and planting seeds. I finally understand what drives Ben and Alexis to spend everyday living, working and educating others about organic farming. They are fortunate to have found their life’s work and passion at an early age and in such a meaningful field.

We filled canvas shopping bags with tomatoes, broccoli, beans, baby eggplant, chard, kale, zucchini, collards, onions and flowers. Next week, we’ll return to harvest cucumbers, summer squash, watermelon and pumpkins! I can’t wait! We giggled like little girls all the way home, discussing how we would divide, wash, cut, cook and store our bounty. Truthfully, I just wanted to stare at them for the rest of the day. We felt grateful for the good fortune of our day and that we are a part of a project that supports so many families in need, bringing them joy and fresh air in the process.

Across the parking lot from the garden sits the HAVEN residence for abused women and children, for whom the garden was planted. Before we left, I buzzed in to check on our garden stock of veggies in the HAVEN kitchen. Inside the refrigerator, shelves were stacked with plastic bags labeled accordingly. Greens on top, eggplant, zucchini and carrots below, and bottom drawers were filled with a variety of tomatoes. On the floor beside the fridge were stacked bags of just-picked onions.

Ben, Alexis and Aaron (our garden manager) keep close tabs on the fresh food supply for all HAVEN residents and clients. Being able to provide the moms and children, all survivors of domestic violence, with a hearty supply of homegrown produce is about as good as it gets for me these days!

Next week the HAVEN will present “Kids Café,” where the children will cook lunch from the garden’s bounty. They will harvest, plan and prepare a feast. For most of these kids, this will be a joyful first-time experience and hopefully one that resonates forever. Following our vegetable feast the HAVEN Garden Committee will meet to discuss the garden’s progress and lay the groundwork for fall and next spring. We are just getting started!

Working on the Haven Garden Project has been a tremendously meaningful experience for me, more so than I ever imagined.  If you would like to donate or be a part of the Haven Garden Project please send us an email to info@Askinyourface.com or click here! http://haven.myshopify.com/products/haven-garden-project-donation

Check the beautiful photos from our day at the Haven Garden! http://picasaweb.google.com/alexisbogdanovahanna/HAVEN8710?authkey=Gv1sRgCIP76eXhgZ6hXg&feat=email#

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan  www.Askinyourface.com LLC

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Comments

  1. I had such a great experience….and the best part is it’s ongoing! Thanks, Al, Ben and Alexis

  2. Incredibly useful. I love the way you write. Do you have an RSS feed?

  3. Allison..so inspiring! you rock!!!

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