Planting Seeds for an Inclusive Community Garden Program
Central goals for the Mount Royal University Campus Community Garden (MRUCCG) are to create an accessible garden that fosters inclusive community building and improves health and well being for previously marginalized populations and existing members. This project has been possible through the work of an interdisciplinary garden group and community members. We are thrilled to facilitate the future development of this project that will include the integration of a Horticulture Therapy Program (HT program) led by a Horticultural Therapist. We are seeking funds for the accessibility beds and pathway; transportation costs for participants for the HT program; and costs related to the delivery of the HT program in 2016.
An accessible garden increases opportunities for a diversity of individuals to garden and experience the benefits of community gardening, community building, and provides valuable experiential learning opportunities. It is also critical to the success of the HT program, and in furthering partnerships with local community groups.
From June to October 2015, a community-based HT program involving seniors and individuals with disabilities from Glenmore Carewest, Chartwell Royal Park, and Glamorgan Care Centre will be delivered weekly in the MRU Campus Community Garden. Accessible transport of participants to and from the garden will be critical to the successful implementation of the HT program.
The HT program and an accessible garden, impact the capacity to foster a more inclusive, engaged and sustainable community. With the exception of transportation costs, the costs of delivering the HT program have been covered for the 2015 season. Our aim is to offer the HT program again in 2016-2017 and beyond.
By receiving funding for this project, we can increase our capacity to facilitate innovative, accessible, and transformational community building, as well as educational and therapeutic opportunities.
Who Will it Benefit?
In the long-term, meeting the goal of supporting an accessible redesign of the MRU Campus Community Garden will extend the benefits of community gardening to MRU students, faculty, staff, and to individuals with disabilities from surrounding communities. In the more immediate future (June to October 2015), the commitment of this project is to empower disadvantaged and marginalized groups (e.g. seniors, individuals living with disabilities) through therapeutic engagement with MRU’s community garden.
The benefits of inclusive community gardens are abundant. According to the Toronto Garden Network (2014), examples of benefits include the following:
- Increased opportunities for social interactions with individuals from diverse backgrounds
- Promotion of physical fitness and health
- Reduction of stress
- Access to a safe and secure social space
- Access to healthy food
- Increased understanding of individual abilities, requirements and strategies for accessibility
(Based on the Toronto Community Garden Network – http://www.tcgn.ca/wiki/wiki.php?n-StartingandSupportingCGs.Access-Aug2014)
Research has also suggested that there are a range of social, physical, cognitive, and spiritual benefits arising from engagement in HT. These benefits include:
- Increased feelings of belonging and inclusion
- Promotion of independence and autonomy
- Increased sense of accomplishment and self-esteem
- Provision of a safe outlet for emotional expression
- Stimulation of sensory systems
- Increased muscular strength, body mechanics, stamina, and endurance
- Improved coordination and balance
- Increased attention span, use of judgment, and decision-making
- Increased connection to nature
- Increased sense of relaxation and serenity