Gwinnett residents with special needs help plant food-producing orchards

Creative enterprises client Josh Jansma, second from the right, watches as a Food Well Alliance volunteer explains how to plant a bush in an orchard at Creative Enterprises on March 24. The orchard is part of a Food Well Alliance metro-wide effort to increase food equity and access to healthy food. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

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Creative enterprises client Josh Jansma, second from the right, watches as a Food Well Alliance volunteer explains how to plant a bush in an orchard at Creative Enterprises on March 24. The orchard is part of a Food Well Alliance metro-wide effort to increase food equity and access to healthy food. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

As a University of Georgia Extension Service representative shoveled dirt around the base of a tree at Creative Enterprises in Lawrenceville last month, Snellville resident Tim Humphries helped by holding the tree upright.

After awhile, the shovel was handed over to Humphries and he was given a chance to help plant the tree by putting some dirt around the base.

As Humphries helped plant the tree, Creative Enterprises greenhouse supervisor Beth Arechiga decided to test him on his plant knowledge.

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Snellville resident Tim Humphries, who is one of the special needs clients at Lawrenceville-based Creative Enterprises, waters a bush that was planted as part of a new orchard at the not-for-profit on March 24. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Snellville resident Tim Humphries, who is one of the special needs clients at Lawrenceville-based Creative Enterprises, waters a bush that was planted as part of a new orchard at the not-for-profit on March 24. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

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Snellville resident Tim Humphries, who is one of the special needs clients at Lawrenceville-based Creative Enterprises, waters a bush that was planted as part of a new orchard at the not-for-profit on March 24. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Credit: Curt Yeomans

“Do you know what kind of tree this is?,” she asked him.

“What kind?,” Humphries asked in response.

“It’s going to be a jujube tree,” Arechiga told him.

Humphries was one of the special needs clients at Creative Enterprises who on March 24 helped representatives of the Food Well Alliance and volunteers to plant an orchard that is part of a metro-wide effort to benefit the community. They planted apple and jujube trees, as well as mulberry, blueberry and raspberry bushes and muscadine grape vines in the orchard, which is located in an existing community garden at Creative Enterprises.

“For us, it’s about the clients,” Arechiga said. “We wanted them to get a whole circle idea of where their food comes from and how to grow their own food. We’ve always had a commercial greenhouse that’s open to the public and so when we were given a community garden, we thought it was a wonderful way to not only let them have that full circle of food production, but also interact with the public as well.”

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The Food Well Alliance is working with the Giving Grove and Direct Relief to plant 18 orchards around metro Atlanta to increase equity and access to healthy food. It’s an effort called the Orchard Project.

There are three orchards that Food Well Alliance is planting in Gwinnett. In addition to the one at Creative Enterprises there are also orchards at Grace New Hope Church and the Norris Lake community garden.

“Ultimately, the food that is produced from these orchards will feed people in need in the community, so it will be harvested and donated out,” Food Well Alliance Executive Director Kate Conner said.

“So, really, from the start it’s about education, about getting people to understand local food and where it comes from and ultimately getting that food out into the community to those that need it most.”

Conner said Creative Enterprises was chosen to host an orchard for two reasons. The first is that Creative Enterprises was already working with Food Well Alliance on its community garden.

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Special needs clients from Creative Enterprises join the not-for-profit staff as well as Food Well Alliance officials and other volunteers for a photo after planting an orchard at the Lawrenceville-based Creative Enterprises. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Special needs clients from Creative Enterprises join the not-for-profit staff as well as Food Well Alliance officials and other volunteers for a photo after planting an orchard at the Lawrenceville-based Creative Enterprises. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Combined ShapeCaption
Special needs clients from Creative Enterprises join the not-for-profit staff as well as Food Well Alliance officials and other volunteers for a photo after planting an orchard at the Lawrenceville-based Creative Enterprises. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Credit: Curt Yeomans

The second was that Creative Enterprises asked to host an orchard.

“Creative Enterprises is a fantastic organization,” Conner said. “They enhance education in spaces like community gardens to get folks involved and learn about it.”

Creative Gardens is a not-for-profit community rehabilitation program which works with people with special needs to develop social and life skills.

It often partners with local healthy food provider Let Um Eat to distribute the food from its community garden into the community. It is expected the food from the orchard will go there as well.

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Kline Chambliss, who is the employment services coordinator at Creative Enterprises, said Let Um Eat has even hired some of the non-for-profits clients, adding onto the relationship between the food distributor and Creative Enterprises.

“It’s a really special partnership,” Chambliss said.

Creative Enterprises CEO Leigh McIntosh added, “they have been very supportive and hired several of our folks. Those folks go to work with them and they’re no longer with us. They’re employees. That’s pretty exciting.”

But, Creative Enterprises’ special needs clients were excited about getting to plant the trees and pushes in the orchard as well.

Auburn resident Nicole Recknor and Duluth resident Dante Myers said they enjoyed doing the planting and then watering the trees and bushes to help them get started on growing. They helped plant apple trees and grape vines for the orchard.

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Auburn resident Nicole Recknor, who is one of Creative Enterprises' special needs clients, waters a newly planted grapevine that is part of an orchard at Creative Enterprises on March 24. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Auburn resident Nicole Recknor, who is one of Creative Enterprises' special needs clients, waters a newly planted grapevine that is part of an orchard at Creative Enterprises on March 24. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Combined ShapeCaption
Auburn resident Nicole Recknor, who is one of Creative Enterprises' special needs clients, waters a newly planted grapevine that is part of an orchard at Creative Enterprises on March 24. (Courtesy of Curt Yeomans)

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Recknor and Myers said they enjoyed both the planting part and the watering part.

“It’s good exercise and it’s nice,” Myers said.

Recknor said she enjoyed planting the grapes.

“It’s my favorite food,” she said.

Humphries said he enjoyed it as well.

“I liked the digging,” he said. “It was fun.”


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Credit: Gwinnett Daily Post

Credit: Gwinnett Daily Post

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