The use of horticulture on care farms and in therapeutic settings in the Netherlands

Jan Hassink

Researcher Agriculture and Care

Wageningen University and Research Centre

The Netherlands

 

You are exactly right as you are. That is what nature is telling you. Your wish to improve your current life can be fulfilled. Nature helps you relax in the present moment, regain energy and practice new things.

Groen Team - Jan Hassink
Groen Team — Photo courtesy: Jan Hassink

 

Green care is a developing phenomenon in Europe and the Netherlands. Interesting examples are care farms and therapeutic gardens.

Care farms

There are more than 1000 care farms in the Netherlands. Care farms combine agricultural production with useful day activities for a broad range of user groups that need assistance. The production of vegetables, flowers, herbs and plants is an important and valued activity on many care farms. Clients on the farm express that they benefit from the (productive) farm context, meaningful tasks in the garden, space and quietness, rhythm of the seasons, meaningful processes and the possibilities to work alone or with others. Each client contributes in his or her own way and feels proud when a good quality product is produced. It contributes to the empowerment and self-esteem of users. Some users see parallels between the cycles in the garden and their own life. A nice example is the composting process where death material is transformed to nutrients for new life.

Vegetables - Jan Hassink
Vegetables — Photo courtesy: Jan Hassink

 

Therapeutic gardens

In therapeutic gardens the setting is different. Here plants are used for therapy. The number of therapeutic gardens is still limited. However, several interesting examples have started. We will describe the green time-out garden near Nijmegen. On an idyllic spot near Nijmegen in the eastern part of Holland Annette Beerens has created a therapeutic garden. The garden has been designed according to the Creationspiral, the natural path from wish to reality. Every step of this path is symbolised by a part of the garden. The first step is the wishing well. Here one can dwell on what it is he or she really wants in life at this moment. All wishes are welcomed as the start of a new path toward improving the capacities to deal with all types of challenges you encounter in your life. The twelve steps of the Creationspiral are not obligatory. You don’t have to go through all twelve to be able to be able to heal. Clients can work and relax in any place in the garden. We will end with an illustration how the therapy can work.

There once was a man with autism, he was very much focused on structure. His wish was to become more flexible toward new situations. As a therapeutic intervention, I asked him to cut back a Ligustrum hedge. The assignment was to not prune it in a straight line. He found that terribly difficult. This was a way for him to try to find if he could start to practice flexibility. (The hedge will grow, of course, so this task can be done at least twice a year.) In the end he succeeded in making a curved line in the hedge and one part he didn’t prune at all. He was surprised that he was able to let go of the idea that a straight line was not the only standard one could use when pruning.

 

 

For more information:

Jan Hassink

Researcher Agriculture and Care

Wageningen University and Research Centre

P.O. Box 16

6700 AA Wageningen

The Netherlands

jan.hassink@wur.nl

 

Annette Beerens

Changing Colors

abeerens@changingcolors.nl

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