By teaching basic gardening skills to the clients we serve at the ARVAC Freedom House, we allow them to develop an idea of where food comes from and the hard work that goes in to preparing the food, as well as introduce them to healthy options for the dinner table. This provides individuals with life skills to extend to the community by working in groups, sharing knowledge, and opens connections with others interested in cultivation, increasing opportunities for healthy dialogue and a healthy sober hobby.
These skills may allow individuals to disseminate information to their children and cultivate healthy eating habits, hard work, and provide opportunities to develop healthy relationships with them. Research shows that involving those struggling with addiction in meaningful activities increases joy and opportunity and can create lasting changes for these individuals even at a neurological level (Powers, J. 2014).
Clients who engage in our Tomorrow Garden learn skills to not only reduce food costs on a facility level, but a personal and global level as well. Honing skills that allow them to produce and prepare their own foods lowers the cost of buying these at stores and provides healthy alternatives that may not otherwise be affordable. This also lowers healthcare costs by reducing processed food intake and encouraging exercise and outdoor activity.
Last year was the first year for our Tomorrow Garden, and the individuals who engaged in cultivating the garden became very partial to it, protecting it form misuse by others. They enjoyed the wildlife in the garden, such as when a mother rabbit had babies and displayed the same nurture and love for the baby rabbits as they did the garden.
Participants also aided in planting the garden, working the garden, and harvesting the produce. They sprayed for insects, weeded the garden, and reported how “therapeutic, calm, and enjoyable” it was to be in the space. They described wanting to show and share this with their children to continue when they are at home. Each day was a new excitement for “fresh picked veggies” in salads and other dishes. Often many of the clients wanted to share ideas on recipes and aide in preparing the dishes.
Our garden has aided in many areas of growth and development for ARVAC Freedom House clients, from understanding the beginning weight of a seed, to harvest and preparation of the finished product. From developing sober activities, to channeling these new skills to their children, a rich and productive gift was planted into growing minds to transfer to generations in hopes to create small changes in the lives of people and reduce poverty.
Powers, J. 2014. An introduction: How to flourish in addiction recovery. Psychology Today. Retrieved on March 30, 2018.