Using Horticultural Therapy

Using Horticultural Therapy

Part of Ep. 1902 Bees, Trees, & Pears Please

We visit Union Grove to see therapeutic horticulture in action with the Green Works training program.

Premiere date: Apr 27, 2011

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley Ryan:
I’ve always said gardening is good for you.  Well, here’s a program that proves just that.  We are in Racine County.  I’m with UW-Extension horticultural educator Patty Nagai to talk about a special program called Greenworks. 

Patty Nagai:
It is a special program.  It does help people.  We are very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish here.  Greenworks training is for adults with disabilities, to teach them how to work with plants, how to take some of those skills into a job setting.  They could use them for future employment, as well as just to develop a sense of self-confidence and well-being, through the use of horticulture. 

Shelley Ryan:
Again, using the garden, using garden plants to develop skills and to feel good. 

Patty Nagai:
Exactly, and horticulture therapy has been around forever.  It’s been in use longer than people had it identified as a true therapy.  We know now that there are medical applications for horticulture therapy.  There are recreational applications for therapeutic horticulture.  But in general, when people are working with plants, and they’re growing things, and they see living, green, flowers, and all of this.  It truly does make them feel better. 

Shelley Ryan:
Any gardener can tell you that. 

Patty Nagai:
Exactly. 

Shelley Ryan:
Are we talking about people with physical disabilities, or are we talking about wheelchair gardens, or are we talking about cognitive? 

Patty Nagai:
All types of disabilities. 

Shelley Ryan:
Oh, cool. 

Patty Nagai:
This particular program that we’re working on now, Greenworks, is for adults with primarily developmental disabilities, so they have some cognitive disabilities.  They may have learning disabilities.  They may have speech or fine motor skill issues.  But they are very high functioning.  They have a great interest in gardening.  They have an interest in employment.  They want to use these skills in the green industry.  They want to take what they’ve learned in Greenworks and transfer that out into the real world. 

Shelley Ryan:
So, get out there and work. 

Patty Nagai:
Exactly. 

Shelley Ryan:
You’ve got several different classes, well, you’ve got a lot of classes going on then.  Tell me about some of the ones that you’ve enjoyed doing. 

Patty Nagai:
Well, they’re all enjoyable.  We have a lot of different activities that we have the students participate in.  We have a series of 12 different classes that they learn, both entrepreneurial and micro-enterprise type activities, as well as the greenhouse, and growing plants from seeds and transplants, and all of that. 

Shelley Ryan:
So making stuff to growing stuff. 

Patty Nagai:
Right, and it all has a horticultural theme to it.  So for example, one of our favorites, because it’s the one that tastes good, is making the herbed butters.  So we teach them how to grow herbs, how to use herbs in a product that they can make themselves and sell at a farmer’s market, or through a catering company.  They can make herbed butters.  They can put them into fancy molds, or they can just sell them as rolls of herbed butter.  So that’s a wonderful activity that takes a horticultural product and turns it into a food product. 

Shelley Ryan:
They’re learning about herbs.  They’re learning that they smell good.  I assume they’re also learning some fine motor skills doing that. 
Patty Nagai:
Exactly, using the herbs, chopping the herbs, pressing down on the butter, those are all things that require really good fine motor skills.  They’re using a lot of different techniques in order to make this butter.  They also learn about food safety. 

Shelley Ryan:
Good, okay. 

Patty Nagai:
How to make products safely. 

Shelley Ryan:
Tasting something is fun, like you said.  That’s my favorite part anyway. 

Patty Nagai:
Everybody loves butter. 

Shelley Ryan:
Exactly, who doesn’t?  You said they were also working with butterfly houses. 

Patty Nagai:
One of the other activities that we do as a potential micro-enterprise activity, something that they can do themselves and sell at a farmer’s market or at a roadside stand would be something like making butterfly or bird houses, and decorating them with a horticulture motif. 

Shelley Ryan:
So, something that goes in the garden.  Again, fine motor skills are involved.  It’s something pleasurable for them to actually be working on. 

Patty Nagai:
We find that all of our students are unique.  Many of them have a wonderful creative flair.  They have a really artistic bent to them.  They really enjoy doing artistic types of activities, in conjunction with the plant side of things.  So there’s always a melding of the plants, the people and the projects. 

Shelley Ryan:
I was going to say, what about here in the greenhouse?  I mean, you’ve got flats of plants everywhere. 

Patty Nagai:
That they have grown from seed. 

Shelley Ryan:
Wow, all this stuff? 

Patty Nagai:
Yes, they have learned several different seeding techniques.  They have learned how to transplant things into cell packs from plug trays.  They have learned out to put all these materials together.  They’ve learned all about the basics of soils, interior plants, exterior plants.  They have learned many different wonderful skills that could help them in jobs in the future. 

Shelley Ryan:
Working in a greenhouse.  I spent many a summer starting seeds, so yeah, employment, different skills.  Again, there’s something about being in the middle of winter working in a greenhouse that I find very therapeutic for me. 

Patty Nagai:
We start this program in January, when it’s very cold and snowy outside.  It’s always nice and warm in here, which is a benefit for everybody. 

Shelley Ryan:
How is the program working? 

Patty Nagai:
It’s working very well.  We are working with a community job developer in order to help our students, once they finish with the Green Works training program, we would really like for them to find suitable employment, something that they want to do.  We’ve had them volunteer on Master Gardener volunteer projects to get some additional skills working in exterior planting beds. 

Shelley Ryan:
Get that experience. 

Patty Nagai:
That’s been a wonderful thing, also.  We have been successful in placing some of our participants at local gardening centers and nurseries around Racine County. 

Shelley Ryan:
Super.  I think it proves that gardening is good for all of us. 

Patty Nagai:
It definitely is. 

Shelley Ryan:
Thanks, Patty. 

Patty Nagai:
Thank you, Shelley. 

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