Giving Gardens is successful through first season

By WHITNEY FENZEL

neighborhoods@columbiamissourian.com

A greenhouse in Columbia continues to give.

Giving Gardens, 404 S. Bearfield Road, is a retail nursery created by Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises that employs 120 people with disabilities who may have trouble finding other jobs.

“CMSE Giving Gardens was started this last spring to help make up for some of our lost contract work and also help us diversify our operations,” said Bruce Young, director of Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises.

Young said that many of the individuals are very capable, but are not able to work in a competitive work environment due to the high levels of stress, medical issues, physical limitations, teasing by co-workers and production output that often come with many occupations.

“When we started we weren’t sure if our folks would enjoy this work,” Young said. “Now we realize that it is therapeutic.”

Orlando Winbush, a Giving Gardens employee, waters tomato plants and continues to watch them grow daily.

“The ultimate goal for everyone is to move into competitive employment,” Young said. “A number of our employees have made that transition over the years. However, there are some who simply may not be able or choose not to make  that transition.”

While at Giving Gardens, employees learn skills while interacting with the community.  “The thing about the greenhouse is that we bring the community to us,” Young said.

Giving Gardens, which opened in April 2010, has has a large response from the community.  It started out the season with 1,800 mums and now has less than 100 left.  Young is proud of the accomplishment and looks anxiously towards the future.

A patch of land that once held 1,800 mums now looks scarce with the remaining mums. Earlier this season Giving Gardens held a "buy three get one free" sale .

“Eighty percent of greenhouse business is spring crop,” Young said.  Right now, workers at the greenhouse are getting ready for their spring produce, which includes tomatoes and cucumbers.

Young said he hopes that Giving Gardens will be able to provide fresh produce to the community during a season in which farmers’ markets in Columbia have little produce to offer.

“We take great pride in providing the best plants and vegetables possible as well as providing great service for our customers. I really believe that is why they keep coming back,” Young said.

After a successful summer, there were plans for a second greenhouse to be built next summer.  Young said that they have also been speaking with local restaurants about selling their produce.

“Although we are a 501(c) (3) non-for-profit organization, we are unlike most other non-for-profits in that we don’t rely so heavily on tax dollars or donations.” said Young.  “Seventy to 80 percent of our revenues are generated by the work that we do each day and the greenhouse will hopefully help us in our mission of employing disabled adults in Boone County for years to come.” he said.

During the winter season Giving Gardens will be open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and will be closed during the weekend. In the spring, they will resume their usual hours of operation weekdays and weekends from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

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Filed under Bearfield—Grindstone, Columbia-Boone County

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