The Johnson Group Home, a facility that helps individuals learn life skills to live independently, partnered with RiseVT to add an elevated raised bed filled with beautiful compost from Black Dirt Farm. They also began using a worm composting unit; just in time for Vermont’s mandatory composting law, Act 148. The residents were able to provide themselves with fresh produce for meals at least three days a week through the summer months. From steamed zucchini and kale, to sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, healthy options were made available and many lessons were learned in the process.

The residents engaged in education around what can be composted, and how the worms turn food scraps into a natural fertilizer that can be used to boost plant health in the garden. They tested their bravery exploring how the worm bin worked and enjoyed putting together the new raised bed that will accommodate those with physical limitations. When the raised bed was assembled, the residents practiced their planning and organizing skills to determine what they could plant for a late season crop in the space provided. Many different experiments were conducted such as seeing how plant spacing can give bigger or smaller vegetables, and how different trellising methods can increase harvest yields.

The excitement and gratification were tangible as the residents picked the first zucchini of the year, tried some spicy nasturtium flowers, and ate cherry tomatoes right off the vine. The home grew so many zucchinis and tomatoes they even gifted some to their friends and neighbors. Through the season, planting, watering, pruning, and harvesting provided a means to gentle exercise and exposure to the wholesome effects of nature that left everyone feeling refreshed. Thanks to the Rise VT healthier food options and activities will continue to flourish at the Johnson Group Home.