Taking care of the planet and each other: The Tiffany Project launches community garden and education center in Waimea

  • Two members of Hula Halau O Kukui Aloha O Kohala perform at the aina blessing ceremony. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

  • Elisa Jacobs and her son, Sam Bevans, explain how their new Waimea project will help those in need. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

  • The aina blessing ceremony Oct. 21 is a combined effort led by a rabbi and members of a halau. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)

WAIMEA — On Oct. 21, a dozen or so residents from both sides of the island dug their feet deep into the fertile soil on a quarter-acre plot of land on the wet side of Waimea at a blessing ceremony for what this time next year will be a flourishing community garden.

Known as The Tiffany Project Farm Co-Op, its purpose will be to feed a bounty of organic produce to the hungry.

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A part-time resident, Martina Rut, donated the land in August.

“She’s owned it for five years and has been wanting to do something with the land. When she heard of our project, we were connected by a mutual friend,” Elisa Jacobs said, who co-founded The Tiffany Project with her 23-year-old son, Sam Bevans, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in June 2013.

The blessing ceremony earlier this month was a good example of how people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds can come together. Rabbi Levi Gerlitzky from Kona began with a prayer, followed by a Hawaiian blessing chant and dance performed by Kumu Leia Lawrence and two of her Hula Halau O Kukui Aloha O Kohala students to bless the land.

“I think it’s somewhat rare to have a rabbi and a halau together in Hawaii,” Bevans said. “This is the start of something pretty amazing. Back in the day of Kamehameha, there was known to have been a Jewish teacher who made his way out to Hawaii and taught the Hawaiian people about old Jewish mysticism and they taught him about Hawaiian mysticism so they could share knowledge.”

Following an organic lunch that day, Bevans taught a workshop on Korean Natural Farming, specifically how to grow two Korean natural farming inputs. One, called Jadam Microbial Solution (JMS), is a liquid microbial solution used to bring microbes back into the soil.

The Farm Co-op is one of five projects conceived by the mother-and-son team as part of The Tiffany Project. Other varying projects have been launched in Boston, Seattle, Florida and soon, Israel.

“We are excited to have this land. All the produce grown and harvested will be donated to those in need,” Jacobs said. “All our educational workshops for children and adults will be free of charge.”

“We always are looking for volunteers. It takes a community,” Bevans added. “It’s people who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and want to join a movement.”

Bevans aims to have the first crops, mostly potatoes and taro, growing in the next three months and ready to harvest in six months or so.

“The food will go to those most in need who don’t have dinner or access to food. The homeless will be first and then we’ll work down from there, such as single parents who are struggling to get food on the plate for their families in Waimea,” he said. “We start local and then branch out.”

In addition to the initial plot of land, Bevans said they will plant produce on nearly three acres total at the same location. He added that natural microorganisms and fertilizer produce a highly rich soil that has been known to produce food much faster.

“As long as you have access to running water, the microbes are free, the plant matters are free and, once you start growing your own potatoes, they’re practically free too. Saltwater here on the island has a lot of minerals that can be introduced,” he said. “It enables us to plant year after year because we’re not draining the soil of its nutrients. Korean natural farming makes the most sense because it’s affordable and makes plants grow fast.”

Volunteers of all ages will be needed at the co-op. They can have their choice of everything from sorting fruit to helping plant, cut, weed, distribute beverages and paint rocks.

“We have so many different jobs, so we let people do what they want to do. That’s how we’ve done it since we started the nonprofit,” Bevans said.

Where it all began

The Tiffany Project was launched in 2013 in memory of Jacob’s daughter, Tiffany Elisa Bevans, who was born on the Big Island.

“It is a tribute to her life of social action, and a heart to serve those in need — be it a rescued animal or a hungry child on the other side of the world,” Jacobs said. “(She) passed away very unexpectedly in 2013, and Sam and I felt an important urgency inside us. We knew we needed to do something substantial in Hawaii.”

Jacobs moved back to the island in 2016. A Harvard graduate, she has been a guest speaker at her alma mater; Boston Children’s Hospital; the home of Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks with Tipper Gore; on NBC-TV and CBS radio. Her passion is to help children who have sustained any type of trauma using non-invasive therapies.

Bevans has been a social activist since he was 5. He spent the past four years in Waipio Valley, planting gardens, produce and plants as part of an organic food forest prototype tested by The Tiffany Project.

While Jacobs and Bevans were still living on the mainland, one of their nonprofit’s first initiatives was The Beacon Project — a direct outreach program that helps people living on the streets in Boston and Seattle. Their goal is to connect the general public with those affected by homelessness.

“With the help of our generous donors we are able to provide winter hats, jackets, gloves and much more to those in need,” it says on The Tiffany Project website.

Another program they started, The S.A.M.M. Educational Program, stands for science, art, music and mindfulness. Developed by Jacobs, the program was originally a prototype to help children in the U.S. recover from traumatic experiences. It’s now been expanded globally.

“It’s a culmination of research I did at Harvard and M.I.T. on traumatic brain injury and using noninvasive therapies help children recover from trauma,” she said. “We’ve used activities such as art, dance, music and yoga.”

The Tiffany Project donors have been Amazon, Whole Foods, Sunshine ACE Hardware in Florida, Trader Joe’s, The Town of Needham, Massachusetts and numerous individuals.

In January, Bevans will head to Israel to start The Tiffany Project’s first international branch.

“We’ll be working with Arab, Jewish and Palestinian children. The goal there is technically known as inter-culture relations work, showing each other we’re all human,” Bevans said.

“Everywhere we go with The Tiffany Project, our plan is to honor the indigenous culture and make sure it’s respected and make sure we learn from them,” he continued. “It’s wonderful seeing how things have come together here on the Big Island. When you really think about it, truth, love, peace — they know no boundaries, no limitations.”

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Donations can be made to the nonprofit organization online at www.thetiffanyproject.org. To volunteer at the new community farm in Waimea, email info@thetiffanyproject.org

Updates: Go to www.facebook.com/TheTiffanyProjectLove