For many peers at Perry Wellness Center, the first phase of the Whole Health Action Management Program (WHAM) has concluded with a class in produce canning and preservation. This project began with a grant from Agrium, Inc., providing peers with their own garden plots to practice seed and plant selection, planting, fertilization, watering, and harvesting. For example, individuals learn such gardening techniques as finding the best planting position to permit the best sun exposure. One gardener, Wanda Lyles, volunteered, “I must plot my garden so some of the broader leafed plants will not block the sun from other plants.”
But garden lessons continue even after the plants have left their beds. Peers have recently been harvesting cucumbers, okra, and a variety of peppers from their self-maintained raised gardens. As the garden plots have flourished, peers’ garden education has shifted to preservation procedures.
Mulkey McMichael shared a favorite recipe for okra pickle with the group, explaining, “This was a recipe that my mother enjoyed. I now make these pickles as Christmas gifts to my choir. I thought it would be good to share this recipe as peers harvest their gardens. Many had not heard about or tasted okra pickles.” The recipe will allow peers to save the abundance of okra they have harvested and enjoy it in cooler months. Twelve pints canned by peers from their own campus gardens will be sold at Happy Patch Market this fall, after seasoning for three months.
Jeff Williams, a certified peer specialist and project leader at the center, said, “This project fulfills a part of our WHAM program. We used the project to convey planting, harvesting, healthy eating and giving to others.”
Some of the most important education from the garden project relates to social interactions. “We will encourage peers to preserve other harvests from their garden plots and present them as gifts for Christmas,” Jeff noted. “This project has been fun and will continue with the coming seasons.”
Our continued thanks to Agrium, Inc. for its support of a rewarding project.
In the photo, Kenneth Christmas, Phyllis Smith, Jeff Williams, Marquevius Sapp and Wanda Lyles gather to process okra for pickling.