Seeding Transformation: Penn-Mar Launches Garden Initiative to Promote Inclusion and Health and Wellness of Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities - Penn-Mar

Seeding Transformation: Penn-Mar Launches Garden Initiative to Promote Inclusion and Health and Wellness of Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Posted on May 18, 2017

This spring, Penn-Mar Human Services, in partnership with Whispering Rise Farm & Animal Sanctuary in Freeland, Md., is launching a multipronged horticultural initiative – “Seeding Transformation: Community Learning Garden Project” – in an effort to advance disability inclusion and promote the overall health and wellness of the men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) the nonprofit supports in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adults with disabilities are three times more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions than adults without disabilities. Numerous research studies over the past decade have shown that people with disabilities, experience worse health and poorer access to health care than the general population, and are vulnerable to high rates of health risks including physical inactivity and obesity. In addition to being vulnerable to disability-related conditions, they are also at higher risk of chronic conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, cancer and heart disease.

Penn-Mar, a recognized leader in providing innovative, quality supports and services to hundreds of individuals with IDD, is staunchly committed to disability inclusion, which allows for people with disabilities to take advantage of the benefits of the same health promotion and prevention activities experienced by people who do not have a disability. By piloting the new Garden Project initiative through its Community Learning Services (CLS) program, Penn-Mar is taking a multipronged approach to promoting greater community inclusion and improved health and wellness for participating adults.

The Seeding Transformation: Community Learning Garden Project will progress throughout the growing and harvest season into the fall at the nonprofit Whispering Rise Farm & Animal Sanctuary. Fourteen Penn-Mar CLS participants along with instructors have already established garden beds and begun planting. Working off the theme of Seeding Transformation the project aims to:

  • Seed Inclusion, by promoting engagement, interaction and opportunities for individuals in the community through education and partnerships.
  • Seed Health and Wellness, by promoting nutrition and physical activity through gardening. By creating a tangible educational experience, individuals will learn to grow and harvest their own food, learn the nutritional value of food, and how to prepare it.
  • Seed Employment, by promoting opportunities for job discovery, whereby individuals may discover they have a passion, interest and talent for gardening, which could lead to paid career opportunities through Penn-Mar’s Community Employment program that partners with regional businesses.
  • Seed Relationships, by promoting relationship-building exercises, CLS participants will be working side-by-side with their peers, Direct Support Professionals, families, the participating public and business community, who have stepped forward to get involved.

“We have a lot of experience at Penn-Mar with the transformation process, continually ‘transforming life into living’ for the individuals with disabilities we serve,” says Greg Miller, president and CEO. “The Seeding Transformation Garden Project is a great example of how we leverage the strengths and talents of our staff to find out what they are passionate about and then using their considerable skills and knowledge to support and energize programs like this that positively impact the well-being of our individuals.”

For more information about Penn-Mar’s Seeding Transformation: Community Learning Garden Project and how the community can get involved, contact Kathy Rogers (410-343-1069,, or visit

About Penn-Mar’s Community Learning Services Program

Penn-Mar’s Community Learning Services (CLS) provides the individuals we serve with the opportunity to access and participate in the communities in which they live, in the same capacity as those in the non-disabled population. Different from a traditional, facility-based day habilitation program, Penn-Mar’s Community Learning program partners with the community, and supplies the means by which individuals can develop maximum independence in meaningful activities of daily living – through exposure to and integration with their individual communities. This is connected and authentic learning, where real-world experiences are lived and engagement with the community is a possibility. Designed with the individuals’ interests, preferences, strengths, and needs, the program provides goal oriented services that assist individuals in developing skills, and promoting positive growth.

About Penn-Mar Human Services

Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with intellectual disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania.

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