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Community garden lets Veterans participate in recreational therapy care-farming
There are six new raised garden beds in the Veterans Community Garden at the Honor VA Clinic in Kansas City.
The garden will allow Veterans to participate in care-farming, which is the therapeutic use of farming practices. Recreational therapists use care farming to promote healing, education, mental health and social well-being.
The new project was created by Veterans, the Kansas City VA Psychosocial Rehabilitation Recovery Center/Mental Health Intense Case Management staff, Kansas City Community Gardens and Voluntary Services.
The hospital grounds crew teamed up with the University of Missouri Extension and local scouts’ programs for the project.
Funds that Voluntary Services raised and grants made the new project possible. Paula Newton, recreational therapist, wrote the grants through Sprouts grant, Kansas City Community Gardens and Kansas City Water.
Grounds crew and social workers complete filling garden beds with soil.
History and planning
Staff and volunteers moved the initial community garden to the Honor VA Clinic in 2015. Over the years, Veterans and the providers who are part of this project made improvements, like taller beds and easier access.
The success of the previous garden motivated the team to expand the project. It created plans for this larger, more accessible garden. On March 16, 2022, the team built and filled six raised beds. This was the beginning of the vegetable portion of the plot.
This project will include retaining walls for sensory, pollinator and butterfly garden areas. These specially created areas support Veteran social interactions, positive experiences, mindfulness, improved cognition and reduce stress. It will also include a 1,100-gallon water tower on site.
This new location includes purposeful design features. It offers wheelchair accessible paths, adaptable seating to garden, and ADA-compliant distance between beds for easy maneuvering. In the near future, a zero-entry access ramp will improve access the garden.
Benefits for Veterans
Veteran patients have been part of this project from the beginning, as part of their therapy process. According to Newton, “Having the Veterans involved from the ground up to work on this project is an integral part of supporting their healing journey. They must make a plan and follow through with it to completion.
“It’s been therapeutic for the Veterans to create something special that continues to provide healing opportunities for other Veterans,” she added.
Designers added several aspects of holistic care into this project. Members of the Veteran creative arts therapy program will make garden signs for education and affirmation. The sensory garden provides a relaxing mindfulness experience. The monarch butterfly garden provides milkweed supporting resilient monarch butterflies as they travel back home… like many of our Veterans have done.
Hospital staff will use the vegetables for healthy cooking classes. Homebound Veterans can participate through virtual tours and making starter seeds.
Part of a team with positive roles
This new garden offers a mindfulness experience for all visitors to the Honor clinic. For many of the Veterans participating in the program, this is their only opportunity to garden, as they have limited space and resources at home. This also provides them the opportunity to be part of a team with positive roles, connection to community resources, and building of skills that support positive leisure, healing and recovery.
“This new Veterans’ Community Garden represents the resiliency of our Veterans and the care of our providers who partnered together to create this beautiful healing space,” said KCVA’s Medical Center Director Jean Gurga.
Veteran patients at Kansas City VA can participate in this additional resource as a treatment option on their health care journey.
The Veterans Community Garden project will continue to expand thanks to generous community partners, dedicated staff, and the hard work of those Veterans participating in this therapeutic treatment opportunity.
By Calista Brown is the marketing specialist for the Kansas City VA Medical Center and a Navy Veteran