VIP Academy Organic Garden
Easter Seals SWFL offers programming for physically and developmentally disabled of all ages; including VIP (Vocational Introduction and Preparation) Academy, an alternative high school for students, 14-22, who are eligible for Exceptional Student Education services. The VIP students have a range of developmental and physical disabilities. Our focus is to maximize their levels of independence, and to teach employment skills. In 2009 VIP inaugurated a small garden in a broken-down shade house. In 2010, Easter Seals purchased its first greenhouse with a gift from a donor. Our faculty coordinator designed and built four 4 x 28 ' raised garden beds with wheelchair accessible space between them. Our students have grown 22 varieties of fruits and vegetables including: corn, tomato, celery onions, collards, cantaloupe and berries. VIP has improved existing landscaping replacing shrubs with Florida-friendly landscape plants. The next phase of the garden project will integrate into all levels of programming from pre-school on. Education about nutrition, ecology, and biology, food production economics and and agriculture as a vocational will be part of our curriculum on an age appropriate basis for toddlers to the adults in the Life Skills Program.
With each success, came a vision of a garden that would have a real impact on students’ lives. The VIP Academy is now ready to transform the garden into an organic garden; fully integrate the garden into the curriculum. Our faculty attended conferences and taken certifications for organic gardening. The garden started as an experiment to get the students outside and engaged in productive physical activity. Easter Seals has 6 acres on our property to expand that vision. Our goal is to have the garden generate an income stream which can be used to benefit Easter Seals SWFL.
KGI is a nonprofit community of over 30,000 people who are growing some of our own food and helping others to do the same.
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Kitchen Gardeners International
3 Powderhorn Drive,
Scarborough, ME, 04074, USA