“Ooooh, I love cantaloupe!”
Trinity Oaks health and rehab residents Doris Allen and Barbara Safley enthusiastically leaned over the outdoor planter in the senior living community’s courtyard after a quick discussion on whether to plant cucumbers or cantaloupe. The vote was unanimous. Cantaloupe was the winner.
“My husband always grew cantaloupe,” Allen said. “We would give the neighbors all we couldn’t eat.”
The residents had been waiting anxiously for another visit from Happy Roots Director Ashley Honbarrier, eager to check on their plants. When she arrived, they happily helped her water the plants and add fertilizer.
“I love gardening because of the wonderful produce you get out of it,” Allen said. “We will be able to come out here and pick tomatoes and eat them ourselves and share them with other people and the kitchen.”
Happy Roots is a nonprofit that works in the Rowan County, North Carolina area to provide nature-based therapeutic and educational opportunities, to improve the health and wellness of the environment and community.
LSC President and CEO Ted Goins reached out to Honbarrier after seeing the great work she was doing in the community. He knew gardening would be a great way for residents on the Trinity Oaks campus to get outside and stay active. Happy Roots assists with gardens in Rowan Salisbury Schools, West End Community Park, Rowan Helping Ministries, and Oak Park Retirement Home.
Since she just got her therapeutic horticulture certification, Honbarrier jumped at the opportunity to work with the residents.
“Gardening is very therapeutic for them. It’s good for fine motor skills, memory, and it’s scientifically proven that the microbes in the soil lift your mood,” Honbarrier said. “And it’s just excitement for them. There’s always something different in the garden, something for them to look forward to, and something to nurture.”
Getting their hands dirty also reminds residents like Allen of their younger years, when gardening was more of a way of life.
“A lot of them miss that. I had a lady in assisted living that came out on the first day and was feeling the dirt and said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s been so long since I’ve done this. I just love it so much!’” Honbarrier said.
Down the hill at Trinity Oaks independent living, the resident gardens are sprouting up with tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflowers, and marigolds. Residents who chose to participate each have their own plot to nurture with the help of Honbarrier’s supplies—all plants come from a greenhouse at Henderson Independent School— and expertise.
Resident Dr. Bob Tannehill said thanks to that expertise and Honbarrier encouraging him to plant marigolds in his tomato bed, his first batch came out perfectly.
“Happy Roots is such a great program in our community, and I am happy she (Honbarrier) is coming to Trinity Oaks,” he said. “Happy Roots provided tomato stakes and plants as needed and Ashley’s expertise and guidance made planting a lot of fun!”
Bea Hall, a resident who used to be on the Trinity Oaks Gardening Committee, said she always had a passion for gardening and working in the soil with her hands.
“Over time, this committee became a little too much for me to handle, however I still needed a platform for my passion of gardening,” Hall said. “Gardening is very therapeutic and healing to me and Happy Roots has enabled me to manage a much smaller plot and still get my hands in the dirt. I appreciate the comradery Happy Roots has provided on our campus.”
For more information about Happy Roots, visit www.happyrootsnc.org.