Planting roots in philanthropy

Temple Community Garden held a dinner to fundraise for the Roughwood Seed Collection.

Temple Community Garden hosted a “Spring Feast” in the Artist’s Palate in the Tyler School of Art on Friday. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN TTN

Growing the roots of plants, to Shay Pilot, is like fostering relationships between people.

“Roots are required,” said Pilot, a junior philosophy major. “You have to set down roots to make a strong community garden, just like you have to make a strong community. It’s what’s required: time.”

Pilot is the vice president of Temple Community Garden,  a club that meets weekly on Friday afternoons to set roots, compost and create community on Diamond Street between Broad and Carlisle.

TCG hosted the Spring Feast in the Artist’s Palate Cafe in the Tyler School of Art on Friday night. The potluck dinner, which included food grown in TCG, was held to create awareness about the organization itself.

“It’s really nice just to see new faces and get more people interested in what we’re doing,” Elliot Wilson, the president of TCG, said at the event on Friday.

All proceeds from this event were donated to the Roughwood Seed Collection, a Philadelphia-based organization in possession of about 4,000 varieties of seeds at risk of extinction due to a lack of biodiversity in modern farming.

Owen Taylor, manager of the Roughwood Seed Collection, said the organization’s main goal is to plant, study and cook with these seeds to prevent them from going extinct in the farming world. He also said TCG donating their proceeds to the Roughwood Seed Collection is “really beautiful,” and he’s excited to know people are aware of the work the organization is doing.

“I’m a big plant nerd,” he said. “A huge highlight of my work has been connecting with other people who have similar passions for preserving our important cultural heirlooms.”

The main function of TCG is to expose students to gardening techniques, said Nina Taylor, the group’s secretary and a junior environmental studies major.

“It mostly is an experiment with students,” Taylor added. “It’s just a learning experiment and experience to learn more about how to garden, how to even just put a seed in the ground and how to mulch.”

Pilot said TCG also aims to be “a seam between the community and Temple.” Features like a community compost pile and beds of soil that can be purchased for $10 are meant to encourage community involvement.

“If you look in this urban community and around, there are a lot of empty lots and nothing is being done with them,” said Curtis Guess, a lifelong resident of North Philadelphia. “If you can learn to treat the ground and get something back, it’s a good skill because you’re taking an empty space and making something positive out of it. … If I plant, I know I earned what I’m eating.”

For Pilot, the spiritual aspect of gardening is just as essential to health as the physical aspect.    

“The idea of ownership is really important,” Pilot said. “You’re putting your hands into the dirt. You are tending. You are watering. You are pruning. It’s not like you show up and have no relation with food that literally becomes you. You have a hand in your own sustenance.”

TCG and the Roughwood Seed Collection both recognize they are part of a larger gardening community and history in Philadelphia.

“We’re just a part of that,” Taylor said. “Just getting the people immediately around us involved is enough to just to increase that consciousness that this is easy and fun.”

“It’s small-scale too. It has to be on the scale of your neighborhood,” Pilot added.

Grace Shallow can be reached at

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