Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH) is not all about plants. Not really. This was the message we took away from our day spent learning about its current projects with Executive Director of 16 years, Pamela Sapko. This message was no accident; it is ingrained in the Center’s new Brand Strategy, based around the tagline, “People and Plants. Growing Together.”
Why is this? It is because DCH is interested in outcomes, real, people-centric, community-building, crime-reducing, youth-developing outcomes. Plants are just the medium for this great act of social intervention.
Don’t misunderstand me. The plants are important. They bring beauty to otherwise desolate concrete deserts, punctuating the urban freeways with spires of colour and rafts of texture, dancing in the wake of thundering juggernauts. However, it is what the plantings can do that counts, and this is what DCH is really cultivating.
We are shown an Urban Farm that brings 18 families together to grow food for their own tables. Eighteen families of children will know what it is to eat home grown vegetables in a neighborhood with 40 convenience or liquor stores but not a single supermarket; and it doesn’t stop here.
We see a whole block lifted by the efforts of one woman. A small community garden surmounted by a vast mural in every conceivable color squats where once three derelict townhouses stood. This interloping effort has gathered its own family around it: a row of window boxes extends 12-15 houses down the street; a double row of trees is passing through its ungainly teenage years, shortly to mature into an elegant avenue. This is a street with a proud community, the drug dealers have been moved on, it is safe again. It took one woman in her eighties with a passion for where she lived, who knew to look to the DCH for assistance.
Others needing help include people transitioning from prison back into their home communities. One of the biggest predictors of reoffending is the availability of suitable transition to employment. Just as it would a struggling tree in an inhospitable urban landscape, DCH provides a period of stability and training for these vulnerable adults. It nurtures and supports, enables roots to be put down, trains, guides and prunes off the rougher edges where needed. It helps them contribute again, in their own community.
Horticulture is a powerful medium to help people, linking us to nature and resonating with long forgotten memories within each of us. DCH is keen to promote its message that people are the heart of what it does and horticulture is how it does it. In our tour today, we saw that it really is about People and Plants. Growing Together.