|Prospect opens unique garden for service recipients|
|Friday, July 20, 2012|
By PATRICK HALL
Digging in the soil and getting a little dirty will become a recurring activity and an educational opportunity for service recipients at Prospect, Inc., following the opening of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville Extension Agency’s Enabling Garden.
Representatives from the Wilson County UT Extension office, Prospect and volunteers who donated time and resources to make the garden a reality celebrated Thursday morning with service recipients getting to plant a variety of vegetables and flowers.
“They’ve been waiting on this all year long,” said UT Extension Family and Consumer Science Agent Shelly Barnes, who conceptualized the project.
The garden was specially made with beds that stand high off the ground so individuals can easily stand or roll a wheelchair up to the garden in order to tend the plants grown inside.After a brief ribbon cutting, service recipients were able to take part in planting with the help of UT Extension volunteers, Prospect employees and local Master Gardner Kyle Webb.
“We brought the first plants and soil in last week,” Webb said.
A Plant and Soil Science major at Middle Tennessee State University, Webb graduated from the local Master Gardner program in May and has been volunteering with the Wilson County UT Extension office since last year.
As the plants grow and develop, Webb and others will help the service recipients learn about tending the plants, biology and of course the importance of a healthy diet. Webb said the plants include vegetables such as squash, mild peppers, cherry tomatoes and various flowers.
“We couldn’t pick plants that are too big or have large root systems because of the size and depth of the boxes,” Webb said.
Webb and others helped service recipients dig holes in the soil while removing the plants from pots. Webb instructed everyone to lightly pinch the root systems to break apart the stiff soil that’s been contained within each pot.
Once the recipients got the roots spread out, they planted them in the boxes and made sure they were covered well.
Bill Henry, a recipient at Prospect, said the planting was a lot of fun and that he looked forward to taking care of the garden as the vegetables and flowers grow.
When trowels just didn’t seem to get the job done, Prospect employee Asia Means encouraged recipients Jimmy McGrew and Ashley Adams to dig the soil out with their fingers and push it aside.
The garden’s existence is a true testament to community involvement as many pitched in to help pay for necessary materials or contributed by helping construct the planter boxes or lay down the concrete around the garden.
The garden was paid for through the UT-Knoxville Emma Ree Crooks Oates Grant so recipients could get hands-on learning about gardening and healthy eating. Barnes said the grant was only $1,000 and that amount only got the ball rolling.
It was the donations and volunteering of business owners and local residents that made the garden a reality.
Barnes said Irving Materials, Inc., donated $3,500 worth of concrete to build the platform beneath the garden and a sidewalk leading to the garden. Other businesses including Hoover, Inc. and Haley Trucking helped deliver the concrete and donated gravel.
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead volunteered in his free time on weekends with Eddy Conrad of Conrad Construction Co., to pour and form the concrete.
“He just jumped in and knew what to do, he was very eager to volunteer,” Barnes said of Craighead, adding that she called him when the project got underway for help with the concrete.
“I realized they would have to have a lot of in-kind support. It was just a community effort that made it all happen and you see that everywhere here,” Craighead said.
Also, Barnes noted that students in Wilson Central High School’s carpentry classes spent two weeks building the wooden garden boxes. Barnes said they set up the boxes two weeks ago and began selecting plants to start growing.
But the garden itself isn’t finished yet.
“This is not what we want it to end up looking like,” Barnes said. “We are getting tires from Rose Tire to grow potatoes in and I hope to put a shaded sitting area out here too.”
Wilson County Extension Agent Justin Stefanksi, who specializes in horticulture, chose all the plants and the proper soil for the project.
Barnes is also planning to receive nutritional information and a healthy-eating curriculum in the future to educate Prospect service recipients using the garden.
In a visit to Prospect in May, Tennessee Commissioner of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Jim Henry noted the number one problem facing adults with disabilities is digestive issues. Barnes has been coordinating nutritional programs at Prospect since 2009.
“Next spring we’re going to have an awesome garden,” Barnes noted.