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New Agricultural Program Seeks To Benefit People With Disabilities

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10 CAN, Inc. will partner with GROW-HUB to support disabled adults and veterans through an agri-therapy program, which will include employment and therapeutic opportunities.

John Cruikshank, a Navy veteran, will be the director of the agriculture division for 10 CAN, Inc. and help facilitate the gardening and nutrition classes at GROW-HUB, which is located at 2900 NE 8th Ave. in Gainesville.

Classes will be held once a week for a two-hour period, which divides time for lecture and hands-on activities. A start date isn’t available yet, but Cruikshank said classes should begin in another month or so once the classrooms are completely renovated.

“We’re trying to get people to learn the basic concepts,” Cruikshank said. “We’re going to cover just about everything from the economics to food preservation, like canning.”

Cruikshank plans to include a demonstration of five plants he wants people to consider growing not only because of the plants’ health benefits but the limited availability as well.

Those five plants include Aloe vera, Curcuma longa (turmeric), Zingiber officinale (ginger), Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Chinese longevity) and Moringa oleifera (also known as drumstick tree).

“I’m going to show people what they can grow, but can’t necessarily get,” Cruikshank said.

David Banes, the director of GROW-HUB, wants to see the local students and adults of varying needs who volunteer at the organization to gain more employment opportunities.

“Our goal is to be able to raise money through donations, grants and foundations to cover all of our expenses so then any money that is generated through sales will go straight into salaries,” Banes said.

David Banes, director of GROW-HUB, and two volunteers adjust and water plants in one of two greenhouses found at GROW-HUB. Most plants will be available at the open house Saturday, April 21.

GROW-HUB was created from the School Board of Alachua County’s Farm to School to Work Hub program, which is a community-based training program offered to high school students of varying abilities. The school board leases the property, about 75 acres, to the organization.

“We spent most of the fall, up until January, trying to get things cleaned up and ready to go,” Banes said. “Between January and now, the first people who were out here was the Santa Fe horticulture class, then all of a sudden we got connected to more people.”

Matthew Burke, the executive director of 10 CAN, Inc., wants a more easily accessible venue available for veterans in the Gainesville area.

“One of the biggest needs that we realized in having a remote program out here in Newberry is that we have a limited audience,” Burke said. “A lot of veterans go to the VA for help.”

A nonclinical process, such as agriculture, is a necessity in the overall holistic approach to wellness, Burke said. The clinical process benefits only a certain amount of people.

“Not every veteran is the same, not every PTSD is the same and not every disability is the same,” Burke said.

The products volunteers from 10 CAN, Inc. and GROW-HUB have managed so far will be available at their spring open house Saturday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at GROW-HUB.

About Melanie Prescott

Melanie is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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