Reap What You Sow: Garden is a Happy Place at Richmond PSR
Richmond Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) Peer Support Specialist Amanda Kempen believes that planting a garden can reap much more than a harvest. A garden has the potential to plant seeds of compassion, love, friendship, comradery and peace.
“The skills learned from gardening not only include learning how to eat healthy but independence that helps them live a quality life,” she says of one of the benefits she has seen nurtured in the Richmond PSR attendees who participate in the annual garden project.
Richmond PSR is a program in Richmond County that supports adults with severe and persistent mental illness empowering people who have been diagnosed with the skills they need to serve as active community members. Monarch has additional PSR locations in Forsyth, Harnett, Lee, New Hanover and Wake counties.
The PSR’s garden project was recently the recipient of a $600 grant thanks to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension through the Steps to Health program. Monarch PSR Program Manager Vivian Williams, BA, QP, explains that Cheri Bennett, who teaches the My Plate nutrition classes that began at Richmond PSR in 2022, nominated the Monarch program for the grant. She was witness to the motivation and passion that staff and participants had for gardening.
The funds were used to purchase garden tools such as grub hoes, rakes, pitchforks, gardening gloves and weeding tools from a local retailer. “These quality tools will sustain us for many years to come,” shares an enthusiastic Amanda.
Amanda had proposed the Wellness Garden Program at Richmond PSR last year which resulted in a 10-foot by 25-foot garden that produced a large harvest of tomatoes, zucchini, squash and cucumbers among many other vegetables. She is grateful that her love for gardening that she shares with PSR attendees has prompted her to see many life skills bloom.
Amanda grew up gardening thanks to her grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression during the 1930s and instilled in her the importance of growing your own food. They taught their granddaughter sustainability, patience and teamwork that today she passes along to PSR attendees.
In her personal life, she uses gardening to cope with anxiety. “I will pass that along to others and pass along healthy coping skills. Different things work for different people,” she believes.
As a certified peer support specialist, Amanda uses her lived experience to support others at Richmond PSR and has been trained to support people who struggle with mental health, psychological trauma or substance use. Over 30 people participate in the Richmond PSR program and Vivian calls Amanda their “cheerleader and motivator.”
Planting a garden and harvesting vegetables is just one positive of the project, Amanda notes: “We are learning about seeds and reading seed packets. We are learning about heirloom plants and understanding the timeline of harvesting.”
Last year, a person supported through the PSR watched okra that he planted as tiny seedlings grow to over eight feet tall. Amanda said the transformation in this person was life changing. “He would come in every day and comment on how his plants were growing and watched them with pride. He watched other people enjoy something that he grew and nurtured,” she recalls.
Last year’s harvest was a wonderful source of a variety of healthy foods for the PSRs weekly Wednesday lunches that the staff and participants prepare and enjoy. Amanda and Vivian and the rest of the Richmond PSR staff are looking forward to this year’s harvest being used in the same way with the vegetables serving as key ingredients in meals.
Amanda affirms that anyone thinking about a garden should know that it doesn’t have to be a large, tilled area of soil. “You can grow a garden in an empty milk jug. Be creative and add to the environment around you,” she suggests.
Other Richmond PSR staff who participate in the garden project include: Chrystal Weatherly and Reginald Porter, behavioral specialists, and Monarch volunteers, Craig Cavanaugh, Bob Weatherly and Francine Brower.
For more information about Monarch’s PSR programs, visit here.
Posted on: Wednesday March 29, 2023