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Friday, June 07, 2019
When Michael Taylor came aboard as Oregon State Hospital’s new greenhouse trainer last fall, he had two goals: Honor the past and nurture the future.
Six months later, he’s achieved his first milestone by establishing a partnership with 13th Street Nursery in Salem.
“I don’t see my greenhouse workers as patients. I see them as people,” Taylor said. “I want other people to see them the same way. We need to dispel the labeling that happens with mental illness.”
Through the community partnership, Taylor’s workers grow flowers and veggie starts in the greenhouse on the hospital grounds for the nursery to sell. The nursery gains a supplier, the patients learn small-business practices, and, most importantly, community members learn more about the talents and capabilities of OSH patients.
“It’s so vitally important that more people get involved,” said Scott King, who owns the nursery with his wife, Dianna Brainard-King. “It gives them (patients) meaning, it gives them purpose, and we get the reputation of selling beautiful plants. Everybody benefits.”
Earlier this spring, OSH began selling about eight flats of plants to the nursery each month. The plan is to continue supplying the nursery with inventory throughout the year, switching up the variety and volume of plants each season.
Taylor is also focused on increasing the knowledge of his 12-member workforce. In addition to growing and tending to plants – which OSH patients have done for the past 10-plus years– Taylor is teaching his workers how small-scale agriculture is changing. That’s why his curriculum includes lessons on organic pest management, composting, and how to use fans, lighting and ventilation systems.
“The patients don’t have to take tests. That’s not the point. It’s exposure,” Taylor said. “I want everyone to be stewards of the land.”
Dillon V. of Bird 2 is excited by the program’s changes. For him, the job is therapeutic because it helps connect him with nature. This, in turn, helps reduce his stress levels.
“We’re learning how to take care of plants and we’re learning how to take care of ourselves,” he said. “When we focus on the plants and watch them grow, it gives us a boost of confidence.”
Going forward, Taylor said he’s excited for the unplanned, teachable moments with his crew – whether that’s picking up a pot to look at a plant’s root system or practicing how to water flowers properly.
“Taking care of something can be juxtaposed with taking care of yourself,” Taylor said. “It’s all connected.”
All proceeds from Oregon State Hospital’s plant sales to 13th Street Nursery are put back into the hospital’s general fund.
The nursery is located at 1296 13th St. SE in Salem. It’s open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
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