Adam Bane has an infectious smile which can brighten the most sorrowful of hearts. Most of the time, his eyes are bright with a profound joy which says “life makes me happy”. . But sometimes he dwells within himself, unreachable and unknowable. Adam lives in a prison of glass. He is confined because of circumstances beyond his control. We are both his jailers and his liberators.
Though he is an adult, Adam possesses a child-like innocence and wonder which many of us have long-since lost. To Adam, greed, selfishness and mistrust are words without meaning. He loves being with people – talking to them and making them smile. He loves to ride the bus and watch the wonders of the world and its people zoom past. And if he feels a longing to experience its magnificence for himself – if he feels sad when some of his fellow travelers make fun of the way he looks or talks, he’ll never let it show.
Adam was born with Down Syndrome, a developmental condition with visible mental and physical abnormalities. At 20 years old, he lives with his family, kept mostly outside society “for his own protection”. He has never had a date, or any meaningful employment.
Adam lives in a prison of glass, and more than anything, he longs to be free to find a place in the world which fascinates him so.
Adam is one of the many members of our society facing a mental, social or physical challenge. Despite many years of research, advocacy and projects to remove their social stigmas, persons with disabilities continue to be ridiculed, feared and misunderstood. While many want to contribute to society, they are often not given the chance. This is due in part to most people seeing only the façade of the disability and not the potential that lies beyond it.
“Everyone, no matter what their ability level, has something to contribute to society. When a disabled individual is treated with respect, acceptance, care, dignity and support, that person will be able to heal, learn and grow.” This is the philosophy of the Farm at Cedar Woods. Funded by a hand-full of philanthropic individuals and organizations, this fledgling community farm is dedicated to “helping people grow”. Their main goal is to provide vocational training to youth and adults who live with mental and social challenges, ranging from developmental and learning barriers, to mental illness and brain injuries.
“We want to help our participants develop skills which will lead to meaningful employment and volunteer opportunities in the farming or food industry,” said Guy Langlois, Director of the Farm at Cedar Woods.
More than just employment opportunities, the farm also desires to plant seeds of self-esteem and self-reliance in their participants, and nurture them to full bloom. At the farm, participants have a chance to be themselves, to make friends, and to take part in healing and fulfilling activities.
Langlois is working with his staff to develop a trinity of well-rounded programs. Presented in a fun, encouraging and flexible environment, the programs are free of barriers and social stigmas. Together this trinity forms a cohesive curriculum which is designed to teach participants a wide range of practical skills. In each program, participants focus on their strengths through hands-on learning, observation and an assessment when the participant feels ready to be assessed.
The Farm Workers Program is designed to teach participants how to plant, nurture and harvest a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables. In addition, participants will learn how to care for sheep, goats and free-range chickens.
The Herbal Healing Garden provides a relaxing and stimulating environment for the whole community. Here, Participants learn to identify, grow, maintain and harvest aromatic, medicinal and culinary herbs in a barrier free, therapeutic environment. They will create a variety of products, including herbal teas, sachets, lavender wands and bagged spices.
Participants of the forth-coming Food Preparation Program will learn Food Safe, nutrition and to prepare and cook their own healthy meals using ingredients produced at the farm. They will prepare take-home meals in a Food Safe kitchen certified by the Vancouver Island Health Authority.
In the future, Langlois hopes to have participants prepare meals for themselves and the farm staff. He is hoping to expand this to include a farm gate café, where participants will learn to take orders, serve customers and perhaps handle cash.
The Farm at Cedar Woods is just learning to walk, but Mike Allen, Garden Manager at the farm says the Farm Workers Program is already exceeding his expectations. “There’s something about working with the land that heals people. I’ve seen our participants open up as they grow to become friends. I see huge progress in their work ethic.” Even in its early stages, the Farm at Cedar Woods is on its way to proving that, in the right circumstances, everyone can unlock their potential.
The Farm at Cedar Woods is working diligently to make sure people like Adam find their place in society. To help fuel their mission, they are seeking enthusiastic and compassionate volunteers to work in the gardens, or to assist the participants with realizing their potential. Anyone interested in furthering the development of the local community or its members, please contact Pauline, the farm’s Volunteer Coordinator at (250) 323-3553. When people get involved in fulfilling and stimulating activities, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.