Liberty Hyde Bailey, a renowned American horticulturist, botanist and cofounder of the American Society for Horticultural Science once said, “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” At Crestwood Manor Modesto, their residents demonstrate exactly that philosophy with their Healing Harvest Project. The Healing Harvest Project is part of the facility’s vocational rehabilitation program, which consists of offering three types of jobs for residents – staff assistants, peer assistants, and caring for plants, animals, and the environment with the Healing Harvest Project.

The Healing Harvest Project gives residents the opportunity to put their hands in the dirt and have the ability to enjoy outdoor time, while being simultaneously productive, industrious and a contributing member to the Crestwood community. “I like being outdoors, and having the freedom,” said one resident who is working in both the vegetable and flower gardens.


The volunteer residents participate in the garden’s care and cultivate its growth, making it into a serene and beautiful place. It also gives the residents tools and skills, which they can use in the garden, as well as in their life. It has been shown that gardening is a genuine therapeutic tool for some and can help improve memory, cognitive abilities, language capabilities, socialization and problem solving skills. Furthermore, gardening can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, endurance and overall health. One resident who works in the flower garden commented, “I like to water, it’s calming and relaxing.”

The gardens are often filled with beautiful flowers and nutritious vegetables and fruits that are used throughout the facility. The head of the vocational rehabilitation department, Judi Jimenez, makes great use of the flower garden, conducting a flower arranging group when they are in bloom. Dietary Supervisor, Rene Springfield, teaches nutrition groups, and Behavior Specialist, Michael Russ, who has a Culinary Arts degree, conducts a cooking group with geriatric residents using produce from the garden. Activity and program staff also teach independent living skills, focusing on food preparation with various cultural delights being created, always with delicious results.

The benefits of the garden are not just for the residents, but for the staff as well. On occasion when things get tough and staff need a moment to relax, the garden offers a beautiful place to rejuvenate, smell the flowers and realize that this amazing garden is a product of the residents’ hard work and a reminder of the importance of what they do each day.

Contributed by:
Robert Leavy, Director of Program Education
Leslie Darouze, Program Director
Crestwood Manor Modesto