Community Gardening | Garden, April 2012

Gardening with a Purpose

Kady Lane tends Noble of Indiana and Giving Sum’s garden with love

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To Kady Lane, gardening is a way of life.

On Indianapolis’ east side, gardener Kady Lane shares the joy of gardening with individuals with developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy.

Lane grew up following her mother’s green-thumb example. “Kids had doll and car collections,” she says. “I had a soil collection. When we would travel, I would pick up soil samples, store them in small glass bottles and label them.”

She believes that, as stewards of the earth, we have to plant and plan for the future.

“What we grow in a garden is not just for us,” she says. “It’s for the community as a whole –– it’s about sharing the wealth.”

Lane’s passion for gardening serves her well in her position at Noble of Indiana. Her expertise provides visionary leadership for developing the 5,000-square-foot Noble Giving Sum Garden. Lane’s compassion and eco-friendly perspectives are a good fit for the organization’s mission: to create opportunities for people with disabilities to live meaningful lives.

“My love of gardening is why I am so lucky to be working with Noble of Indiana,” she says. “Having a human services background, I knew there was something missing in how we treat community and how we approach people. Bringing the natural, earth element to working with people puts it all together.”

Joining the garden party


Lane (far left) and Noble participants created and painted a rain catcher to reclaim water for the garden.

Lane and other Noble staff are ecstatic about working with so many partners to establish the garden for the good of the community.

Lane’s green vision is contagious.

Giving Sum, a group of philanthropic leaders, contributed funds toward a grant that was awarded to Noble of Indiana in 2010 to establish this garden, explains Wendy Mier, Noble’s program director. The garden project fit well with Giving Sum’s goals.

“As members of Giving Sum, we truly felt like Noble’s proposal for the garden exemplified our mission,” says Tricia Trick-Eckert, RID, of Rowland Design. “Our members want to get their hands dirty –– literally –– and help shape our community by working alongside our grant recipients.”

Giving Sum and volunteers from nearby Old Bethel United Methodist Church came by the scores to help with a variety of tasks, like trimming of encroaching foliage, constructing strawberry towers, building up the soil, and harvesting vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, beets, carrots, spinach, lettuce, green peppers and herbs.

Produce was then donated to the food pantry at Old Bethel.

Gardening as a teaching tool
The Noble staff feels fortunate to have Lane heading their gardening efforts.

“Kady combines her horticultural knowledge with a love of people,” says Rita Davis, director of community development. “She enjoys empowering others to see the fruits of their labor. Having this in one person has been a godsend for us.”

The opportunity to grow, harvest and learn to cook fresh produce will enable more independent participants to cook healthier meals, Lane says.

Part of the lesson includes repurposing materials. She’s looking at parks that may have a now-defunct merry-go-round stored away that she will reuse as a Lazy Susan garden bed.

In another project, Noble participants helped Lane create a brightly painted rain catcher from a donated piece of recycled billboard vinyl.

One of Lane’s roles is to ensure her garden designs accommodate all sorts of limitations due to disabilities.

“I designed a combination raised bed/bench from 85 percent reclaimed lumber and built it at a wheelchair-accessible height as specified by the American Disabilities Act,” Lane says.

Lane looks forward to teaching new skills and creating lasting memories for participants.

“This past year, participants helped me plant a memorial garden,” she says. “One guy was so excited to be outside and work in the earth. Handing him a shovel, I realized he didn’t know how to use it. I thought to myself, Wow, there are people who want to garden, but they don’t even know the basics of how to proceed.

“Teaching someone how to use a shovel –– literally how to take the soil off the shovel to get another shovelful –– made me realize this is where I belong. It is the most important kind of work I am capable of doing.”

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