Healing In Horticulture
The Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey (CSPNJ) recently held its 14th annual Wellness Conference, bringing together direct care professionals from across the region to share best practices and innovative approaches to recovery and wellness. The 2015 conference theme, “8 Dimensions of Wellness,” explored a multifaceted consideration of healing through spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual, social, occupational, financial, and environmental well-being.
Services for the UnderServed’s Urban Farms Manager, Michael Hollis, conducted a conference workshop on Healing in Horticulture that discussed the S:US Urban Farms experience, and how horticultural programming can address all 8 dimensions. Though farm and garden spaces may intuitively suggest an environmental impact, horticulture also can serve as a tool in fostering all other aspects of wellness.
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Spiritual and emotional support for the individuals we serve can be built through consumer-centered garden design. In the construction or expansion of gardens at S:US, consumers often include reflective spaces such as meditation gardens or memorial elements. These simple features can complement more functional components (like vegetable gardens) with shaded seating areas, water features, and specially selected plants dedicated to loved ones.
Physical and intellectual wellness can also be advanced through garden programming. S:US Urban Farms holds regular workshops on horticultural basics, cooking/nutrition, and special techniques (such as beekeeping and floral design) that are offered as opportunities for personal development based on consumer interests.
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Social horticulture can promote community integration for consumers through volunteerism. In 2014, the S:US Volunteer Program organized 19 volunteer days where community members worked alongside consumers in painting garden murals, building a gazebo, and installing new raised garden beds. S:US consumers also gave back to their communities: consumer volunteers helped in seasonal cleanup for New York City’s High Line Park and they adopted and cared for 9 neighborhood street trees through the NYC Parks & Recreation Tree Stewardship Program.
In some cases, consumers also participated with S:US Urban Farms as a part-time job, assisting with landscaping activities, handling farm and garden operations, and leading educational workshops. Employment opportunities, vocational training, and job coaching at S:US Urban Farms create occupational and financial wellness by cultivating transferable professional skills which can open doors towards competitive employment.
The interconnection of all 8 dimensions within the S:US Urban Farms experience makes it a valuable supplement to the support services offered to the individuals we serve. Horticultural programming is a natural fit for wellness and recovery settings, and can be a fun and significant technique for impactful, consumer-centered direct care.
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