July 19, 2017 | By: Katie Pratt
Henderson, Ky.

Adults with physical and intellectual disabilities in Henderson are learning how to become more independent through a gardening program offered by the Hugh Edward Sandefur Training Center and the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

UK horticulture extension agent Any Rideout conceived the program titled, “Growing Independence.” The center offers many services and prevocational training to disabled individuals and their families. Rideout has a personal connection to the center as his sister was a former client. When he returned to his hometown in his position with UK, Rideout knew he wanted to do something to help the center and their participants as they have given so much to his sister and his family.

“For one reason or another, many of these participants are often left on the sidelines for a lot of activities,” he said. “I wanted to get them outside, get their hands in the soil and get them touching plants and using all of the other senses that go along with gardening.”

Rideout approached Julie Wischer, the center’s executive director, about starting the garden. She quickly said yes. Of the nearly 80 participants at the center, around 25 chose to participate in the garden.

The program began in 2016 with a few raised beds. This year, the program has expanded to a field owned by and adjacent to the center. This past spring, volunteers planted some row crops including corn and strawberries. When the first tractor came, participants were so overjoyed they had to get their pictures taken with it.

“It’s brought an air of excitement and engagement to our participants,” Wischer said. “They get to learn not only about farming, gardening and healthy eating, but there’s a little sense of entrepreneurship in this project. Once we get some crops harvested, we can sell them. It gets our name and who we are out in the community as well.”

The program has had tremendous community support as local volunteers have done everything from plowing the garden to planting to donating resources and funds. Master Gardeners have also helped by teaching the center’s participants basic gardening skills and planting and maintenance.

When Rideout’s sister was a participant at the center, she considered it her workplace, and it was important for her to go to work every day. He also remembers the excitement she got from cashing her weekly paycheck. He hopes the garden instills some of the same feelings for participants and gives them a sense of pride, accomplishment and self-confidence.

“It’s important for us to help intellectually and physically disabled adults become as independent as they can be,” he said. “This garden program is just a small part of teaching that, but it does teach them that I can grow this. I can sell this. I can make some money.”

The UK Cooperative Extension Service is part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Jointly with its land-grant partner, Kentucky State University, Cooperative Extension takes the university to the people in their local communities, addressing issues of importance of all Kentuckians.


Andy Rideout, 270-826-8387