I find gardening to be very therapeutic, and you probably do, too, but have you ever heard of the area of study called horticulture therapy? Believe it or not, horticulture therapy has been around for a long time. In the 1800's, Dr. Benjamin Rush was the first one to write about the benefits of working in the garden for people with mental illness. Then in the mid-1900's, the use of horticulture therapy became more widespread in the rehabilitation of hospitalized war veterans. Today, horticulture therapy is used in a wide variety of ways to help people with many different diagnoses. In fact, March 17th-23rd is National Horticultural Therapy Week! I’d like to highlight one specific program in Fort Scott, Kansas, that helps people with developmental disabilities through gardening.
Barbara McCord, Certified Horticulture Therapist, has been running the Horticulture Therapy Program for Tri-Valley Developmental Services since 2004. Starting with a minimal budget of $700 the first year, the program began with a used door for a work table. People from the surrounding community opened their personal gardens for the collection of plants and donated various tools and materials to help. The program has since grown to include a 2,100 square foot greenhouse, in-ground gardens, as well as several raised beds.
Those who participate in the program daily are adults with intellectual disabilities. TVDS has about 30 clients who utilize the garden and greenhouse year-round. Most of their time is spent on the therapeutic attributes of gardening, striving to maximize the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual potential of each client. Each individual experiences the garden in a different way, but they all come away with a very positive experience.
Clients fill the pots with soil, select seeds, transplant plugs, figure spacing in the garden, and label plants. They work in teams, gaining important social skills. After training is complete, clients are compensated for their work. One of the goals is to assist them in gaining work and social habits to move them closer to gainful employment outside of TVDS.
What a wonderful program! Barbara loves watching the clients accomplish their goals, rewarding her with high fives and huge smiles. To learn more about the horticulture therapy program at TVDS, visit www.tvds.org. If you want to learn more about horticulture therapy in general, take a look at the American Horticultural Therapy Association website at www.ahta.org. It has a wealth of information. We are happy to support worthwhile projects like this one and hope that this article might encourage others to start similar programs. Happy gardening from your friends at Paw Paw Everlast Label Company!