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Valley CAPS plants community garden

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Valley CAPS plants community garden

Rico Frank helps Demario Barker line up the location of a tomato plant Thursday afternoon at the Valley CAPS location on Austin Road. Different classes at the location – which helps adults with dev...

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED April 26, 2013 1:44 a.m.

Give a man a tomato and he can spruce up a salad.

Teach him how to garden and he can make salsa and spaghetti sauce and ship the rest of it off to a local farmer’s market where people can enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Wednesday afternoon dozens of consumers from Valley CAPS spent their afternoon planting tomato and pepper plants to augment the corn and carrots and other edible fruits and vegetables that they’ll grow throughout the summer as part of a community garden that helps teach sustainability.

The Austin Road site – which helps adults with developmental disabilities learn how to be self-sufficient – features nine distinct gardening boxes utilized by individual classes that pick something special to grow as part of the program.

“I think that one of the things that people don’t realize is that this helps them learn where food comes from,” said CAPS Area Coordinator Stacy Ingraffia. “A lot of our adults think that a tomato is just something that comes from the grocery store – they don’t realize that it’s something that you can grow and eat from the plant.

“It also adds the chance to teach basic nutrition and how to properly take care of yourself when it comes to choosing what you eat.”

For more than a decade Valley CAPS – Community Action Programs that serve a wide-range of adults with specific needs – has helped those with disabilities learn the day-to-day life skills to one day survive on their own.

Adding something as simple as gardening, where the lessons are taught outdoors and are hands-on like the in-community programs that are offered, can provide a tremendous amount of help to consumers like Paul Correa who look forward to the opportunities.

“I like planting the tomatoes and the flowers,” Correa said. “I like watching them grow. And I like being outside when it’s nice and warm. We’re having good weather.”

Each week the classes will make a special trip out to the gardens to see exactly how much their plants have grown, and add as much water as necessary to keep them headed in the right direction.

Hardy plants like the strawberries that were grown last year still remained in a small patch occupying one corner of a garden box, and one is being left completely open so that pumpkins can be grown later this year.

“They like knowing that the fruits and vegetables are homegrown,” Ingraffia said. “It shows the process, and there’s no better way to do that than to actually have a finished product.

“Plus we actually get to eat what it is that we grow. That’s the best part.”

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