2nd April 2023
Southern California’s Temple Beth Israel is taking sustainability to new heights by converting its once decorative lawn into a thriving farm estate, all fertilized by their own compost.
Collaborating with the local nonprofit Uncommon Good, the Reform Synagogue has transformed a 6,250-square-foot area into a flourishing farm that produces organic vegetables for the community.
The innovative initiative was made possible by the development of a composting facility funded by the CalRecycle Community Composting for Green Spaces grant.
Although the facility has been storing organic waste for six months, the decomposition process has been at a standstill due to the winter season. However, as spring approaches, the composting magic will begin, resulting in nutrient-rich soil for the farm.
Temple Beth Israel is not stopping there.
They’re also partnering with Food Cycle Collective to help local restaurants recycle their food waste into fresh compost.
This program not only supports the Temple’s mission of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World), but also earned praise from the U.S. Composting Council.
In just one year, the temple and Uncommon Good have given back over 6,000 tons of produce to the local communities, making a real impact in the Pomona and San Gabriel Valleys region of Southern California.
Temple Beth Israel and Uncommon Good’s partnership is a testament to their commitment to supporting the local community during these challenging times.
Through their efforts, they have provided invaluable resources and hope to families in low-income areas during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Giving back to the community
Temple Beth Israel hosts over 400 families in the Pomona and San Gabriel Valleys region of Southern California, and it has had a deeply-rooted connection with the local community.
Even though the temple provides Jewish studies and worship facilities, its partnership with Uncommon Goods plays a significant part in its goal of contributing to local community.
“Uncommon Good’s urban agriculture programming allows us to fill this gap, as we are able to control the means of production and distribution of our organic produce. This ensures that the families we serve receive wonderful organic fruits and vegetables that they normally would not have access to,” the organization’s website said.
With a vast network of urban farms across Pomona, Ontario and Claremont, Uncommon Good primarily used produce sales in nearby farms to fund its various educational and medical projects.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization shifted the focus of its farming project to address “breaking intergenerational poverty.”
As part of this initiative, the organization distributed resources from Temple Beth Israel and other gardens to families residing in nearby low-income areas.
“When COVID struck, Uncommon Good kept its doors open and added new programs, such as a regional food pantry and an emergency fund. It also sponsored an innovative, first-of-its-kind-in-the-US mental health pilot program to bring affordable, effective mental health services to the low-income Spanish-speaking population of the region,” the Uncommon Good’s website said.
The organization primarily focuses on providing food to underprivileged communities through its farms. However, the organization may sell fruits and vegetables in case of excess produce.
If any produce risks going to waste during spring, the farm director, Johanna Teissere, said the organization plans to sell it to the elderly population in Claremont.
The project is a fantastic example how religious groups and local community organisations can helping both the environment and people through innovative composting and agricultural programs.
It also highlights examples of how current grants – such as the USDA multi-million pound scheme to boost community composting schemes – can be put to good use.