TVS Garden Project
What started as a small garden project at Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) has evolved into a garden community that includes every member of the INTERACT program and creates a full circle of interactive education and life skills.
INTERACT is an acronym for Interact, Network, Teach, Engage, Relate, Achieve, Connect, Together. The INTERACT program provides activities and opportunities for adults with intellectual and developmental challenges. All participants receive one-on-one services from TVS Direct Support Professionals (DSP), engage within the community as volunteers, and many work supervised on the TVS production floor. TVS also offers special classes such as culinary, physical exercise, social skills, photography and literacy for INTERACT participants.
“We are always looking to actively engage participants with activities that benefit their minds and bodies,” INTERACT Supervisor Jeanette Wayne said.
The garden project began a year and a half ago after Wayne noticed that the exterior of the building had no flowers and no color.
The garden crew was originally composed of only three members hired by TVS to landscape the exterior of the building.
Along with planting and watering the flowers, they also learn the names of the flowers, what environments they thrive in, the difference between annuals and perennials, and some of the troublesome insects that attempt to eat the plants and how to keep them away.
The project has since lead to the creation to the Garden Club in 2019, expanding from flowers to vegetables in elevated boxes using “square foot gardening” principles. The boxes are made from pine wood and have a steel bottom to help the boxes have a longer life and to be light weight.
They were built by the Square Foot Gardening Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to encourage gardening, plant-based living, self-sufficiency, and low-impact food production. TVS has four 3×3 elevated gardens are handicap accessible and allow for anyone and everyone to participate in the garden activities.
Prior to planting the vegetables, the INTERACT participants were responsible for staining and varnishing the garden boxes. The vegetable garden is maintained completely organic and is grown without pesticides. Once the vegetables are ready to be harvested, they are used in the INTERACT culinary class and for sharing among the INTERACT participants.
With the growing popularity, the entire INTERACT group is now participating in the newly added garden.
“The club has grown into a community project,” said Wayne. “It feels like a family. We are all working towards a common goal and it feels so comfortable.”
The garden was planted earlier this spring with a variety of vegetables and herbs. Spinach, lettuce, basil, chili peppers, green beans, sugar snap peas, squash, zucchini, broccoli and cabbage were all planted from seeds.
The sugar snap peas were so popular among participants that they have already planted more. Only the tomatoes in the garden were planted from a seedling stage.
Since the early stages of the project, the INTERACT community visits the garden around 3 times a week. “It is such a great project,” said Wayne. “We hope to continue growing the garden and participation.”
Please visit about https://squarefootgardening.org/ for more information about the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.
TVS is a social enterprise contract manufacturer specializing in the blending and packaging of dry food and beverage products. Founded in 1967, their mission is to provide quality employment, job training and residential & community services to individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment. For more information go to www.tvsinc.org
Written by Jenifer Welch