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CAPS gardeners get needed exercise through planting and harvest chores
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Consumers from Valley Caps-Plus planted a number of vegetable gardens on the CAPS campus with the help of a Park Greenhouse nursery staffer who went to the site and directed the planting , fertilizing and watering regimen. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

The annual planting at the CAPS’ campus on North Austin Road at East Yosemite Avenue adds an element of unexpected “exercise” for the consumers at the learning facility designed as an extra level of educating the physically and learning disabled in the community.

Last week the Park Greenhouses nursery in Ripon provided seedling vegetable plants for the elevated planting sites at the school featuring various types of tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, carrots, watermelons and chard for salads.

Executive Director of CAPS, Paul Rengh, said Thursday that cucumbers are the big hit — they like the taste in the nutrition class when the vegetables are served to them on plates with other vegetables.

Rengh noted that many of his consumers lack regular physical activity causing them to be overweight and often diabetic.  The garden effort forces them to use their arms and legs and they are not aware of the exercise they are getting in the process along with the harvesting of their fruits and vegetables.

“At harvest time we bring them into the classroom,  demonstrating how to prepare the fruits and vegetables, eating what they grow.  It’s a win-win proposition for them.  In the past we have had “Master Gardeners” work with them.  The Master Gardeners are with the American Horticulture Society who tell them what to plant at the different times of the year,” Rengh said.

The Master Gardeners also demonstrated how the gardening teams could prepare a safe weed killer for their plots of ground with vinegar, salt and soap for an environment friendly product. 

The CAPS director recalled one of consumers refusing to eat the carrots that he grew in the garden.  He said he didn’t want something that came from the dirt even though he grew them — thinking his came just from the grocery store.

An overwhelming number of the adult students ranging in age from 22 to 55 come from group homes, the director noted.  A few still live with their parents. 

The planting activity last week involved nine from the CAPS-Plus facility on Union Road but all of the 100 who are registered at the facility will have their own little area of the garden to till and watch grow.  Each of the four classes has their own square, Rengh said.  Other CAPS’ members are now going through the preparation of the soil for their own springtime plot that can be seen growing from Yosemite Avenue.

Harvest time begins in six to eight weeks from the time of planting, he added.