It seems that every year at each conference, we meet and learn about the most amazing horticultural therapy programs and this year was no exception.
At the farm at Penny Lane, Sally Haskett, our host and horticultural therapist with the UNC Botanical Gardens, introduced us to Theva Mahadevan. He is the director of the farm and works with the UNC Center for Excellence for Community Mental Health. Together with his dedicated staff, they work tirelessly towards improving the lives of individuals with chronic and severe mental illness by offering them programs in gardening, nutrition and the preparation of healthy foods. They also help with transportation and have built their first “Tiny House” as a way of solving intractable housing issues. They hope to build up to 10 tiny houses as a way of providing affordable housing to their clients, many of whom are homeless.
At Suzi Roth’s Herb Haven, we saw many of the medicinal plants and drank some Holy Basil (Octimum sanctum) or tulsi tea, widely believed to have many healing properties including stress relief. Suzi is a community practitioner, plant guide and herbal medicine consultant and is very knowledgeable about the different medicinal properties of each herb. Suzi led us through a plant meditation ( super relaxing- highly recommended) and her apothecary was open for those who wanted to purchase herbal teas and tinctures.
The next day we met at Transplanting Traditions Community Farm with Nicole Accordino, horticultural therapist. The farm is on 5 acres of land, and is tended by 31 families, refugees from Burma and Thailand.
And what a fabulous place this is.
From the trauma of leaving their country and culture, the families have built an incredible oasis and refuge as a place to meet, socialize and grow food for the farmers market, food for themselves, food for their community. They have built beautiful constructions of bamboo as resting areas, platforms for shade and shelter , in front of which they grow their vegetables, some vegetables native to Burma. Many of the farmers have full time jobs and come to the farm every day to work on their plots of land. It is obvious that the families love and cherish the opportunity to grow their own food and meet with people from their own culture.
That afternoon, we traveled to RambleRill Farm, in Hillsborough to meet our host Jane Saiers, horticultural therapist and organic farmer. Jane offers horticultural therapy and wellness programs to individuals and groups. The farm has a Wendell Berry nature trail and wooded amphitheater and yes- Wendell Berry was Jane and her husband’s inspiration for the creation of RambleRill Farm and he’s my inspiration too!
In the red RambleRill red barn, Annie Baggett, Agritourism Marketing Specialist gave us exercises to help us tmarket and promote the recognition of horticultural therapy as an important and valuable therapy.