A Gardener at Birth
Editors note: Pam Eckert is a master gardener volunteering three days a week at Sunflower Hill garden at Hagemann Ranch in Livermore. She is also a parent of a son with special needs, Scott. This is her story.
A Gardener at Birth…
by Pamela Eckert
It may surprise you to know that I have been playing in the garden since I was 3 years old. It started by sitting in the onion patch with bread. My Mom and I ate onion sandwiches. I would play with the worms in the soil and later I described the onion sandwiches we ate as having worms in them! I guess I thought they were supposed to be that way!
While I am no longer 3 years old, much of what I love about Sunflower Hill Gardens at Hagemann Ranch has to do the primal ritual I was taught at that early age – the opportunity to watch the food grow.
I love walking the garden. From seeing what is going on and then deciding what needs to be done – to marveling at the opportunity to be part of a group committed to helping individuals with special needs and to providing food for our local food pantries. There’s a lot to be proud of at Sunflower Hill Gardens.
Typically, I spend three or more days at the garden each week. It’s rewarding see the produce that comes straight off the vine.
I am also committed to some of the very same values, that I learned from my mother, who was an organic gardener in the 1940’s. This includes ensuring children and adults know that food does not originate at the supermarket. It’s important to understand how to save money, grow your own food, prepare it and eat a nutritious meal without endangering any of our precious natural resources.
My interest in this area led me to becoming a Master Gardener in 2003. What does a Master Gardener do? We are a group of trained volunteers that provide practical advice, problem solving and educational programs to assist local gardeners and improve our environment. We are part of the Alameda County Department of Agriculture and give out advice in accordance with the University of California.
The Master Gardener Program works to serve the diverse communities within Alameda County. Master Gardeners are people of all ages from all walks of life who want to give back to their communities. We volunteer our time to help people learn about gardening.
But in addition to my love for gardening, I believe in the vocational opportunities that the garden will provide to Sunflower Hill because of my son Scott, who is 30 years old and has special needs.
Scott is familiar with Hagemann Ranch as a horseback rider with a previous program.
He enjoys coming to the garden to see the volunteers working in the rows, getting hugs, planting and watering. Providing vocational or volunteer options is critical for all adults with special needs. I have often thought a good fit for Scott might be to work around senior residents at Heritage Estates in Livermore. He has quite the personality and brightens up a room with his presence.
Scott has a warm heart and loves to help people. He knows when someone is unhappy or discouraged and he is there to comfort them with a slight hand on the shoulder, a tap on the hand or even a hug! He consistently brings water bottles, soda and fruit drinks to his caregivers.
I am looking forward to the new vocational programs that will be created as part of the gardens so that everyone can find their place, purpose and calling. Just like I did when I was 3 years old.