Contributed by: Lori Mossberg

GROW (Growing, Recovery, and Opportunities for Wellness) began as a vision for Mental Health Connecticut in 2017. Since it’s creation, we’ve developed into a year-round horticultural therapy program for any and all participants who would like to be part of growing, sharing, and taking part in healthy horticultural activities.

Since March 2020, safety, health, and well being has taken prevalent importance with COVID restrictions with all involved at MHC. In keeping everyone safe and healthy, instituting CDC guidelines and having little to no contact or engagement, our activities have continued to be created, but as nature-based activity kits. During the late fall and winter months, we created and sent over 40 kits per week to the MHC residential facilities. Past activities have included: making suet for birds, building bird feeders, painting vases, seeding in flowers and herbs, using recyclables for planting, growing succulents in terrariums, holiday swags, making coiled pots for air plants, creating seed art, and more.

Nature-based activity kits are just one segment of GROW. Currently, the GROW program services five locations within our MHC communities: Bridgeport, Danbury, Stamford, Torrington and Waterbury; and are looking forward to adding services at our West Hartford facility this year as well. GROW has one greenhouse and a vegetable garden in Torrington at the Hayden Hill home, a greenhouse installed in late summer 2020 at Walton Place in Stamford, a hydroponic room and smaller outdoor garden in Danbury, and another greenhouse to be installed late spring of this year at the newly constructed Monarch apartments in Bridgeport.

Last year we were able to grow and produce over $1,300.00 worth of vegetables. We picked and provided weekly portions for Hayden Hill and donated the majority of the vegetables and herbs to the Independence Center in Waterbury for their food delivery program. This year they are in hopes of fulfilling an even larger range of produce and hope to increase production of vegetables and herbs with the new additions of greenhouses, and we’ve even began planting raspberries, grapes vines, and asparagus for future production.

We are again providing GROW activities in gardening and nature-based activities for any and all participants who may be interested!  We have a pretty decent schedule at various sites within our five city region. The interest seems to be GROWing through our program being quite visual as we’re generally outside teaching, creating, and sharing. Many have requested encore activities!

Our GROW program has been giving increased weekly amounts of produce to the Independent Center that are used for salads and cooked meals. We also appeared at the Franklin St Market twice, in May and in June to sell vegetable and herb plants. In addition, we may as in the past, sell to a local deli market in Torrington called the Rusty General.

We’re proud and honored to be a part of Mental Health Connecticut. Gardening and group engagements are components of GROW that are harmonious, stimulating and fun! We at GROW love being part of a mental health community that encourages gardening and horticultural therapy. We appreciate teaching, growing, and sharing the gifts of nature!

Interested in gardening at home?
Check out Lori’s MHC@Home workshop from 2020 where she shows how you can plant seeds for your own home using recycled materials.