Growing Inclusion and Wellness Through Gardening - Penn-Mar

Growing Inclusion and Wellness Through Gardening

Posted on May 16, 2018

Chris Wheeler preparing the plot for this year’s CLS Garden Project at their new site at Oregon Ridge Nature Center’s Community Garden, Mary Seiter, meanwhile does some weeding.

Spring is in the air and the growing season is upon us. If you’re a gardener, you’ve already started planning your garden and sowing the seeds for your summer and fall harvests, while also beginning to reap the therapeutic rewards that come with digging in the soil and seeing your efforts literally bear fruit. If you’re DSPs and Community Learning Services (CLS) Instructors Rosanna DiSebastiano, Annette Thompson, Abby Sealover and She-Ra Pettiford, then you’ve not only started your garden, you’re also sowing seeds of community inclusion and wellness for individuals Penn-Mar supports.

Last spring, Rosanna, along with Annette, Abby and She-Ra, launched Penn-Mar’s Garden Project “Seeding Transformation,” a multi-pronged horticultural initiative to advance disability inclusion and promote the overall health and wellness of Penn-Mar individuals. In line with Penn-Mar’s CLS program, the Garden Project has given individuals the opportunity to access and participate in the communities in which they live and develop independence in meaningful activities of daily living.

Who Doesn’t Love Pizza?

For this year’s Garden Project, Rosanna and her CLS group (each of the instructors lead their own group) are planting ingredients to make healthy, delicious pizza toppings, and possibly a crust using cauliflower. This theme is partly due to the fact that the size of their garden plot has shrunk. Last season’s inaugural garden was planted at Whispering Rise Farm and Animal Sanctuary in Freeland, Md., but because one of the individuals in her group is now using a wheelchair, the garden, as Rosanna explained, was no longer accessible, so she and the other instructors decided it was best to relocate the garden project altogether.

Rosanna, who is familiar with local nature centers, inquired into the community garden at Oregon Ridge Nature Center in Hunt Valley. The garden was ideal and three of the CLS groups settled on three 10-by-10 plots at the Oregon Ridge, and the fourth is cultivating a plot at another community garden, The Farmyard in Parkton.

“As part of the Oregon Ridge community garden, we are required to volunteer a number of hours in the season to weed and keep the paths throughout the garden clear,” said Rosanna, who sees this as an additional avenue for community inclusion, where all the gardeners are working together.

So far they have planted two types of tomatoes, yellow, green and sweet peppers, as well as basil. Rosanna has also been monitoring the Whispering Rise Farm garden to see if anything sprouts from last year that she can transplant into their new garden. As for making healthy organic pizza:

“Since were doing fewer plants, I really want to be focused on what each plant is good for and how they can help them and their bodies. Pizza will be fun and pull everyone’s interest.”

Collaboration among the groups, said Rosanna, will happen once everyone has established their garden plot, which will be soon. No doubt a pizza party, or two, is on the not-too-distant horizon.

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