I talked to Marty at the ARC, Association for Retarded Citizens, about starting a garden for the adults. And, this is what’s evolved in less than a year.
Well, I think that the minute we mentioned that we would have a neighborhood community garden people started showing some interest. We talked to the neighborhood group. Kathy contacted many of the master gardeners who came out and showed some interest – not only in doing a garden, but who we were going to do it with. And that’s people with disabilities – teaching them about how to grow plants, and the importance of gardening. The first time they pulled a zucchini and brought it into the office, you could see the pride in their face. And they should be proud, because this is something that we never dreamed would be possible.
At first, I thought it would be social activity for them. Most of the advocates work during the day. Many of them are involved in sports in the evenings with Special Olympics. But, there are some that don’t do sports, so I wanted them to have an activity. They can come down to the garden and work, but also socialize with the other gardeners that are here in the evenings. We work from 7 pm to 8:30 pm twice a week.
They can come down any other time they want to, but there will always be someone down here, including master gardeners from the extension office, to work with the clients. They help them learn about gardening, the benefits of gardening, and to understand how relaxing and calming it is, and how much fun it can be!
A couple of weeks ago, we picked some okra, and we went into the Arc offices where there is a kitchen. We cooked up a big batch of okra and we invited Marty Rothwell.
And they ate it. They all looked at each other saying, “we did this.” I think that’s so important in this day and age where everything is handed to people. Next year when we’re able to have the other plots, we think that the interaction between our disabled population and our neighborhood is going to get closer. We have such a great relationship with the neighborhood already. But, this is going to strengthen why we want to be a part of this neighborhood.
I think it’s important that you give people with disabilities, or any people, an opportunity to have a normal aspect of life. Some of these folks probably can’t count money, and some probably can’t read real well. They have a lot of disabilities. But, when they’re out there gardening, and getting their hands dirty, when they pick those tomatoes, and when they bring in the zucchini, and when they cook the okra, they’re having the same joys of any gardener in the world. And that’s what we want to emphasize.
We work a lot together. It’s a learning garden this year. And it may be that for sometime, but anything that we have worked on, they have all been willing to tackle.
We’re really excited that they just chose a name for the garden called “The Rows of Sharing Community Garden.” I think that just says exactly what we need. This garden is for the community, too. I’ve been so impressed in the news how many community gardens are giving produce to food banks and places that really need it. And that’s what we need to get into – where we’re growing enough produce to share with people who really need it, because that’s the Rows of Sharing.
This feature story prepared with Kathy Huschka, Arc volunteer, and Marty Rothwell, Director of Arc. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.