DES MOINES, Iowa –Farm fresh produce is easy to come by this time of year in Iowa. You’ll find plenty of it in a special garden producing more than just fruits and vegetables.
This is the fourth year Easter Seals Iowa clients grew a garden on a plot of land at Camp Sunnyside. The clients spend a couple hours two days a week pulling weeds and picking produce. Client Deana Reed says they grow a variety of things. She says, “Tomatoes and corn, we got squash.”
Client Larry Elifritz goes on to say, “Kohlrabi, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans and onions.”
It is part of a program called AIM. Easter Seals Iowa President/CEO Sherri Nielsen says, “It stands for achieving independent methods, an opportunity for those clients that are interested to come out and they learn gardening skills that they can use at home to create health and wellness in their home or employment skills.”
The program helps clients work on job skills, like communicating with colleagues and problem solving. Fifteen clients started the garden in May. Five have already found a job. Nielsen says, “We believe the ability to put their garden experience on their resume assisted with their employment.”
Reed hopes to find a job soon. “I’m looking for like a dishwasher or like a janitorial,” she says.
Elifritz says working in the garden also provides health benefits. He says, “It’s also a lot of good exercise, especially with my medical issues I have.”
The produce will be available this Saturday at the Downtown Farmers Market. The Easter Seals Iowa booth will be located at Court Avenue and Water Street. Money from the sales is put back into the gardening program.
Easter Seals Iowa helps people with disabilities live work and play independently in the community.