The gardening program is growing at The Barry Robinson Center (BRC). Residents benefit in several ways from participating in the program. And a delicious harvest is making its way into healthy menu items at the cafeteria.
Science teacher Stephen Hayko directs the gardening program. Hayko joined BRC’s Education Department in June 2021. As one of his first priorities, Hayko developed a horticulture class this summer that brought the garden back to life. The program was on hiatus for some time due to impacts from the pandemic.
“With the hard work of our residents, we went from having barren, root-lousy soil to a fruitful garden in a matter of three months,” Hayko said. “All the students who took my horticulture class this summer did hard work in the hot sun to get the beds prepared and our veggies planted. We spent all morning in the garden some days, weeding and tilling to make sure we could plant.”
BRC’s teacher assistants pitched in alongside residents to help. They’re an important part of BRC’s Education team, and Hayko values their commitment to seeing the garden flourish.
“All of the TAs joined the horticulture classes outside at different times,” Hayko said. “They deserve the recognition because I couldn’t do this job without them.”
Hayko also appreciates support the garden program receives from the Education team, especially Vice President of Education Eric Krumich and Administrative Supervisor Dee Smith.
“Their enthusiasm for this project is infectious,” he said.
“Working in the garden is a therapeutic activity that helps people both mentally and physically,” Krumich explained. “Research shows that gardening can help improve mood and reduce anxiety. We’ve seen our students develop a real sense of responsibility by caring for the plants, and they’re proud of the results. And of course, it’s educational because they learn about the life cycle of plants and better understand where their food comes from.”
Recently, some of the first harvest included cucumbers, which Hayko shared with the Nutrition Department to serve in the cafeteria.
“We served the cucumbers with grain bowls, and they were so fresh and delicious,” said Paula Livernois, R.D., director of Nutrition and Food Services. “We appreciate the job that Mr. Steve, his team, maintenance, and our residents have done in bringing our garden back! You ALL ROCK!”
Hayko promises more vegetables to come over the next few weeks. The residents are planting fall salad greens and are tending herbs growing in pots in their classroom. They also expect to harvest beans, peas and squash soon.