Saturday, March 28, 2015

Therapeutic Farming

Let the growing begin!

I've started my work at the EquiCenter in Honeoye Falls, NY, as Farm Manager of their newly developing program for Therapeutic Farming!  The EquiCenter currently offers horseback riding and other equestrian activities to people with disabilities, at-risk youth, Veterans, and their families.  They have 200 acres of beautiful fields and 25 beautiful horses!  It's the perfect situation for starting a food-growing project:  beautiful rolling landscapes of pasture and hay, tractors, tools, barns, a group of eager volunteers, and as much manure as we need!

The EquiCenter has been already working with Dr. Beverly Brown, a Horticultural Therapist and professor at Nazareth College, to develop a program at the EquiCenter using small raised-bed gardens.  Now they've hired me to help them go from "garden" to "farm," increasing their ability for healthy organic production of food to distribute to families in need and the communities they are already working with.

Nazareth College has generously donated use of their greenhouse until we've got our own.  It's a fancy high-tech glass greenhouse with automatic temperature and humidity control, and I've even set up automatic watering on our germinating seeds.  We're also growing vegetable and flower starts for the healing garden at Nazareth that the students help run, and I am speaking to classes about organic farming.  I run a weekly volunteer session, for folks to come out and learn how to start vegetables from seed.  Many people are coming out to lend a hand-- we are almost out of room in there!

How nice is it to smell the compost-rich earthy potting soil and get your hands in it?  After a cold snowy winter, this is a welcome activity for me, and I am already benefiting from the therapeutic elements of germinating seeds in unfrozen soil.  Another benefit is the focused meditative state that comes with concentrating on putting just one tiny seed in each cell of the plastic seedling trays.  I like to imagine the full head of lettuce that each seed will become.  What a miracle I get to participate in.  What a powerful act to help turn soil, water, sunlight, and a speck of a seed, into a big healthy salad for a family.

We have started some broccoli, kale, onions, flowers, and lettuce so far!  Someday the snow will finally melt and we can plant these in the ground.  My planting schedule says they will be ready at the end of April.  I hope the ground will be thawed and dry by then!  I will be leading regular volunteer days several times a week out at the EquiCenter Farm starting in May.  Email me if you want to help out:  ebullock at EquiCenterNY dot org.  All ages and abilities are welcome to participate.  Come be a part of the miracle.  The hungry world needs you.

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