ECHOcommunity Conversations

Horticultural Therapy

Hello, Echo Community!

My name is Ashley Dawson and I am the new Urban Garden intern at Echo FL. Curious to know if anyone in the network is aware of or currently involved with horticultural therapy practices in development contexts?

Thank you for considering and may all your duties bear delights,


I suggest Mark Celek at Hope Clubhouse, 3602 Broadway, Ft Myers. Works with people with mental illness. His contact number is xxxxx. Huge gardens on top of a parking lot,

I would recommend getting in touch with @David_Crist. David is a long-time friend of ECHO [Asia] and has worked many years in SE Asia, and is passionate about this topic!

I have been helping farmers in the USA who have disabling injuries and illnesses for 21 years. USDA AgrAbility funds pay for me to meet the farmers on their farms and help figure out how to modify tools and equipment and farming methods to enable them to keep working productively. I am happy to personally offer those same services remotely to anyone in the world free of charge. Please let me know if there is anyone in your network who would like to talk with me on the phone, text, or email about their situation and how to keep working in agriculture.

What great contributions from the network! Here are a few references in a collection on ECHOcommunity. We would appreciate suggestions of others! Do you have additional experiences to share?

hey ! i am Ezechiel from Burkina Faso. I was very glad and surprise when i have seen your message. The farmers in our country are facing many difficulties and so it impcts negatively the quality and the quantity of their productions. And the mains difficulties still exist because of lack of equipment, lack of modern material, and also the use of obsolet methods of farming. I am working in the domain of Moringa plants. Your help for moringa farmers in our country wil be a blessing for us. Thank you. This is my whatsapp number for more conversation: +22666675116

Thank you for this suggestion @Bonnie_Jean_Clancy, I appreciate it!

@Patrick_Trail Wow, that’s cool to hear! Thanks very much for sharing.

@Ned_Stoller Thank you very much for your reply, and best for your work. It is great to know farmers have this kind of support available to them.

Hi Ashley,

It’s good to meet you via email and learn of your interest in horticulture therapy. Most people I meet have never heard of it before. I was involved in HT for about 12 years in my thirties and forties before I came to Thailand 25 years ago as an agriculture development missionary. Here, below, is some of my horticulture therapy story.

I became aware of and involved in Horticulture Therapy when I was working at ‘Rhinebeck Country School’, a private residential school for emotionally and mentally handicapped children. While there I heard of a horticulture therapy certification course offered by the Cary Arboretum in Millbrook, New York. After I received my certification, the school added a horticulture therapy program and a new position that they gave me. It was a perfect fit for me having a B.A. in psychology and an interest in gardening and agriculture.

Children would work with me in the vegetable and flower gardens as well as assist me with greenhouse activities such as sowing seeds for annual flower beds, propagating & caring for house plants, and making Christmas wreaths. The activities worked into each child’s IEP (Individual Education Plan). Some of the areas that horticulture therapy helped them in where . . .

  • following sequential directions
  • self-esteem
  • responsibility
  • self-disciple
  • attention span
  • focus
  • time awareness
  • eye-hand coordination
  • awareness & appreciation of nature
  • care of plants
  • self-control
  • social interaction
  • verbal skills
  • listening skills
  • hygiene
  • nurturing skills
  • self-respect - pride in doing a good job

It just so happened that the school, with its 3 campuses, closed down and was bought by Daytop Village, a residential substance abuse rehabilitation non-profit. They created a new position and hired me as a horticulture therapist.

As Daytop prepared to open, I found a summer position as a horticulture therapist at ‘Hudson State Prison’. The activities were beneficial to the inmates in the following ways . . .

  • physical exercise
  • positive attitudes
  • being responsible with tools
  • workmanship
  • cooperation
  • following instructions
  • self-control
  • appropriate social interaction
  • respecting authority
  • accountability

When I started at Daytop, I carried on with the activities that I did at the ‘Rhinebeck Country School’ and added two more components - making maple syrup and apple cider. The Daytop administration was unfamiliar with horticulture therapy and how it could enhance rehabilitation. Thus I had the opportunity to demonstrate its benefits. Here are some of the observations I made . . .

  • Due to the program being very intense and confrontive, coming to work with me in the quiet outdoors with me and my quiet, affirming nature, served as a reprieve.
  • The clients could enjoy nature as we worked together
  • They often would tell me their life stories in a peaceful, non-threatening atmosphere
  • Since most of the clients were from New York City, they were away from the rough culture where they had to maintain their image. Working in nature gave them a new found opportunity to express themselves more authentically.
  • Caring for flowering plants was a challenge to some young men’s images and helped them to see themselves as nurturers.
  • Being a part of the beautification of the facility grounds put them in a role that they could take pride in.
  • Putting their energies into honest work that was appreciated gave them a sense of integrity.
  • Some activities would challenge their tolerance as they dealt with the summer heat, insects, and cold temperatures when cutting evergreen branches to make Christmas wreaths.
  • Some clients were given the responsibility to remove plants from the greenhouse to a protected area when the heat failed.
  • The boredom of weeding, picking up trash, and watering gardens were opportunities to practice patience and learn to place others before one’s own preferences.
  • The activities were helpful in some of the same ways that were beneficial to the special needs children at the ‘Rhinebeck Country School’ as well as the inmates at the prison.
    I hope this is helpful in your pursuit of knowing more about practical applications of horticulture therapy. Please feel free to ask me questions about things I have not covered.

David Crist

@Seth_Mayo I saw that David was involved with inmates through HT and thought of you. Maybe y’all could connect to talk deeper on this common interest.

If you have a specific person with disability working with you growing moringa, I will be happy to help you and them learn ways to accommodate for their medical condition. Could you email me some pictures of the tools and methods you currently use to grow moringa? My email is . Thank you!