I love to garden and share that love with others. This is a joy that I share with my son. When he was younger and lived at home he would follow me around the yard and loved to rub his hands on the various herbs and then smell his hands. He learned what they all were and where they were in the garden.
We currently have a plot in a community pea-patch and one of his favorite activities is sitting in the garden having a snack talking about the various plants we are growing and checking on his flowers. Tonight we picked some of his huge sunflowers and will save the seeds for bird food in the winter.
Gardening, harvesting, and composting are great activities for people. Learning skills in these areas can provide not only vocational skills but life skills, recreational skills and exercise to those with intellectual disabilities.
For a few years we had wonderful gardens growing at Fircrest. Residents were planning meals, harvesting, preparing and sharing. We were also learning worm composting and one resident even started selling the worms to a local garden store. This was part of the “Active Treatment” at Fircrest and was set to expand.
With a recent survey that targeted the lack of “active treatment” and the promises of administration stating that the job training program was going to expand brought hope. The new emphasis on active treatment was promising and the news that tomato plants had arrived last April was a step in the right direction.
The hope has been shattered by the reality of the deserted and abandoned garden beds, the empty greenhouses with dead plants and the worm bins that have become garbage cans. I have even offered several times to continue volunteering to help teach staff how to teach residents or work with residents myself but am ignored and told they are working on expanding. From the outside it appears that things are getting worse, not better.
This is where oversight comes in. We are told over and over that there is great oversight at the intermediate care facilities. But oversight by who and oversight of what?
I believe that oversight should not be left just to the state agencies but is up to each of us to keep an eye open and ask questions. For instance, why are these garden beds abandoned and why are the few plants in the greenhouses dead?
I have asked and have offered to volunteer on campus or find a new home for the greenhouses and worm bins so that they can be used by others. I dream of developing a learning garden in the area for people with intellectual disabilities and these would be prefect. The answer I got was that they are not for sale and they will not lease the area to others to use.
Please look at the link Active treatment and gardening at Fircrest. If you have any suggestions for improvements, please let me know. This was such a great boost for the residents and it makes me so sad to see it going to waste.
Please share this information and maybe there is some vocational training group or agency that can make something happen so that the time, talents and goods are used to their potential.