Over six years ago, with the help of local Community Activist Jim Embry, Employment Solutions constructed its first on site greenhouse with the idea that diet and health are directly related. Eating foods that are fresh, free of additives, hormones, pesticides and chemicals are best. Eating the right foods not only make you feel better, but can prevent many common ailments and diseases, therefore reducing or eliminating side effects and our dependence on medications and reduce our cost of daily living. Healthy eating is an important part of self-care for everyone, but particularly for those who have a chronic disease or the potential to have a chronic disease/disorder of any system of the body or mind.
In 2013 as interest in community gardening and sustainable agriculture increased, so did the gardens at Employment solutions. In early spring of 2013, Employment Solutions hired Horticulture and Agriculture specialist Daniel Oxnard. With a lifetime of experience in horticulture, agriculture farming and animal husbandry, Daniel began renovations of what was at the time, one greenhouse, into a program that now boasts over 20 onsite beds and an average of 50 potted plants at a time, with a rotation of approximately 4 crops per season. We now grow seasonally enough produce that not only every participant of our program, but all visitors, can take home fresh produce EVERYDAY!
In spring 2014, after touring Lexington’s annual 2013 CLUCK tour (“COOP”erative of Lexington Urban Chicken Keepers”), Art Gardens learned the many benefits that chickens would bring to our process and again decided it was time to “grow”. In April, as the first batches of seasonal babies hatched Art Gardens adopted six varieties of chickens, 19 in all and began construction of what we believe to be the largest and most unique chicken coop program within city limits. In addition to providing fresh eggs for participants to take home and for use in our “Relish” culinary arts programs, we learned that chickens could provide many benefits within the garden program such as:
- Food and yard waste recycling
- Provide nitrogen-rich fertilizer
- Chickens love to eat protein-packed insects and serve as organic pest-cleanup
- They also love to eat many weeds, and serve as post-harvest garden bed cleaners
- Their natural scratching and digging creates top-notch garden beds
- And best of all, Urban chickens are reported to act as antidepressants. Ever hear of oxytocin, the love hormone? It's a stress-lowering chemical in your body that's unleashed when you hug someone you love, or even pet. Anyone who has raised backyard chickens can probably contend the same effect holds true for hens.
That's something to cluck about!
In summary, all people can learn new skills, increase their social interaction and develop self-confidence by spending time in the garden. Garden equipment and garden structures can be adjusted to make a garden accessible all people. Gardening is a healthy stimulating activity that can provide a source of exercise and friendship, stimulation and relaxation, build confidence, increase physical mobility, reduce stress, and increase knowledge about diet, sustainability, environment and nature.
Art Gardens welcomes community participation of local artist and Garden enthusiast to work with us collaboratively growing, sharing and creating.
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