This Week's Beit T'Shuvah Spotlight
This Week's Beit T'Shuvah Spotlight: Allison Hennessey/Davis Watson
Beit T'Shuvah Organic Learning Garden
Innovation is always a part of spiritual and emotional growth at Beit T’Shuvah, and our new Organic Learning Garden project is not only taking a progressive step forward, but it is also looking to the success of the past. Los Angeles has had a long tradition of urban farming going back to the 1800’s, and this project, spearheaded by residents Allison Hennessey and Davis Watson, shows how our community is taking an invigorating breath in recovery. “This project takes us back to our roots of agrarian society,” comments Rabbi Mark Borovitz, “it gives us the opportunity to be part of our healthy eating and be a working part of creation.”
Both of these interns aren’t new to farming; it’s in their blood. Allison hails from the San Diego area, where her family raised chickens and grew their own vegetables. She landed at Beit T’Shuvah February 2013 after several years of substance abuse. She left her home and uncomfortable marriage in Santa Monica to recreate her life at Beit T’Shuvah. This project is literally and figuratively taking her back to her roots. “It’s incredibly comforting and grounding,” Allison says.
Originally from Kentucky, Davis is not new to the Southland, having lived here in 2007. He suffered severe health problems exacerbated by substance abuse, and after a career in filmmaking, he put down everything he was using and started working on a farm. “I was living in rural Kentucky; I wasn’t farming, I was trying to finish an edit on a film,” he says, “I was drinking a lot, and also not having a lot of interaction with people.” He stopped drinking, and over the last year and a half, it’s been an odyssey to get his health back. His decisions were truly geographic. He moved back to Los Angeles, where things were good before they got bad (the opposite of what people usually do), to see if he could re-connect with some old friends. “I needed community,” Davis confirms. A therapist he was working with helped get him into a sober living, Transcend, where several Beit T'Shuvah graduates were working. “They understood what I was going through, and helped me get in,” he says, “I’ve been in the house for over five months, and I’m actually healing. The gardening project has been a big, beautiful part of that.”
Connecting residents to the project is critical for both Allison and Davis. There are several people who have come into the house recently who have taken to this project so beautifully. It’s especially appealing for those residents who have “shut down” because it’s simple yet all encompassing, engaging all of the senses.
As for the future of the gardening project, Allison and Davis both have a clear vision: they want to get high. “Exactly,” says Davis, “We want to utilize rooftop space for other patches. Urban rooftop gardening is certainly nothing new, but it would be for Beit T’Shuvah, and we definitely need to take advantage of any space we have on the facility.”
Allison started an offshoot of the gardening project, the Sprout Club, which allows residents to start the process in their rooms. “I know that there are dormant Sprout People here…and I’m going to find them!” she laughs. “I’d also like to get more of a flow into our kitchen, so that we can associate good mental health with healthy eating.”
It’s refreshing, uplifting, and inspiring to see the passion Allison and Davis are putting into the gardening project—it’s not only helping the souls and bodies of residents, but also the greater community.
For a great look at Beit T’Shuvah’s Organic Learning Gardening project and how it all started, please view our mini-documentary here.
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