Fall is upon us in Northwest Montana. It arrived quickly, without much transition. For me, as a Horticulture teacher and enthusiast, it is one of my favorite times of the year. All of the hard work we have done through the season has come to fruition and the bountiful harvest also represents for us the reward for investing time, effort, and energy into growing food to nourish us.
The effort the students put into the garden reminds me of the important work our families invest in during their daughters’ stay here at Chrysalis. They face challenges with courage and accept the help that is offered. They begin to navigate their way through their difficulties and when the “fruits of their labor” start to manifest, it is a reward like no other. The healing that takes place can feed and nourish their families long after the Chrysalis experience.
My favorite thing to do in my horticulture class and my farm-to-table class is to integrate metaphors into the gardening experience. Not only will the students come away from the class with practical knowledge of how to grow, tend to, and harvest a garden, but they will hopefully they “grow” in their personal lives as well.
Some of the best conversations I have had with students happen in the garden. It tends to be a very relaxing atmosphere and has been proven to reduce stress and have a calming effect on the gardener. Many times I have seen the “light” go on for students while working in the garden. Connections can easily be made through gardening. Everything is constantly changing. It is a place where seeds are sown, grow, and are harvested. The garden provides a tangible setting for growth and transformation.
The experience of gardening can be so valuable for a student to stretch outside of her comfort zone. Students are encouraged to not just pick from the lower branches, but to reach upward and sometimes take the path that requires picking from the high branches.
I feel honored to be witness to this process and to be a part of a team that is open to integrating horticulture experiences into the program.
To stop and notice the growth and harvest, we had our first annual Harvest Dinner this year! We served all the produce that we grew and created some special dishes to showcase what can be done with the things we grow. There was music to entertain us and everyone attending had a wonderful time. It was a perfect moment to stop and recognize all the “harvests” in our lives and to celebrate those as a community!