Last February the SF Waldorf School's garden program received a grant from RSF Social Finance in the Presidio to study concepts in horticultural therapy and begin implementing best practices into our current farm and garden program at St. Anne's and Laguna Honda. Our goal is to better include the residential populations at St. Anne's and Laguna Honda in our farm and garden work which until now has been solely student-focused.
Our grant came as part of a satisfying shared grant making process led by RSF. SF Waldorf School was selected along with six other Bay Area agricultural activist groups to come together and cooperatively allocate $50,000 dollars in grant monies. You can read more about this inspiring process by clicking the article in the sidebar.
In order to begin my studies in horticultural therapy, I first spent time observing the activity therapists at Laguna Honda. For many years Laguna Honda has offered a therapeutic garden program for its residents. The therapists bring gardening activities such as seed selection, propagation and transplanting into the residential neighborhoods. There the residents gather in the common areas and participate in the various activities. Importantly, great effort is made to get the residents outside and into the farm and garden. The new therapeutic garden is first class with its multiple raised beds, friendly farm animals and easily accessed orchards and meadow.
I am also looking into Anthroposophically based residential communities such as Camphill and Fellowship Communities. These communities located around the world emphasize the healing power of work and social cooperation and service. Each of these communities is anchored by a substantial farm, and much of the communities' work revolves around producing food for the animal and human inhabitants. I had the privelege of visiting Camphill California in Soquel , as well as Camphill Copake, NY and the Fellowship Community in Spring Valley, NY this year.
I attended the national conference of the American Horticultural Therapy Association in Asheville, NC this fall as well. The AHTA offers coursework and academic journals and research into the best practices in horticultural therapy. Most of this work focuses the healing possibilities of gardens in institutional settings, such as hospitals, prisons, community centers, and schools.
In addition to these educational pursuits, I have used our grant money to purchase items to better serve the St. Anne's residents. For example, pots and soil so that we can begin planting edibles on patios where all residents can access them; a collection of herbs so that we can begin an herb processing program engaging both students and resident hands, and greater quantities of seeds so that we can more substantially share our produce with the residents and staff.
This January I plan to begin individual visits with the most infirm residents using herbs as a gateway to sensory stimulation and conversation about favorite foods, recipes and memories surrounding related scents and tastes.
The students participate as well in our new focus. In addition to the usual singing and greeting in the hallways, the first graders are transplanting edibles onto patios, the second graders are installing the expanded herb garden, and the third graders prepare and pass out food to the residents during their lunch service on Wednesdays. The residents love to taste the offerings from the garden (included so far have been tomatoes, apples, salad greens and herbal tea) and thoroughly enjoy conversing with the children.