Seeds for serenity: Jacobetti greenhouse being refurbished

MARQUETTE – There’s nothing like botanical therapy to soothe one’s soul and spirit.

And maybe get a little food at the same time.

Staff at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans and community volunteers are refurbishing the decades-old greenhouse at the home. Although there are pots of tomatoes and in-ground plants growing outside, the facility hasn’t been using the greenhouse to its full capacity.

That’s about to change.

Ken Arseneau, Jacobetti volunteer coordinator, said the greenhouse had been used on and off throughout the years, but things “sort of collapsed” when the person in charge of the greenhouse moved out of state.

Efforts are underway, though, to expand its use so Jacobetti residents – called members by staff – can come down to the greenhouse and enjoy what’s inside.

Jacobetti volunteer Steve Finley said input from the members was helpful.

“What do they want in a greenhouse?” Finley said. “What do they want growing? What do they want to work with? And then work around that to fill it up.”

A combination of flowers and edible vegetables, he said, is the answer.

At least one member already is into Jacobetti-grown food, which is being grown in beds and pots surrounding the greenhouse.

“Every morning, when we’re out here working, he’s out there just plucking tomatoes and onions and everything else,” Finley said.

That man, he noted, cooks his own food in a slow cooker.

“And I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is awesome,” Finley said. “So if we can provide a variety of vegetables, then we’re going to give someone like him the opportunity to put soups together, all these casseroles. Who knows?”

Mike Riesterer, a member of the local group Transition Marquette County, is part of the project, helping with recruiting volunteers and acquiring donated items.

He said TMC could donate seeds as well as plants from its “Plant Swap” for the project.

“The seed library will probably be part of this whole picture,” Riesterer said.

The group, according to its website at www.transitionmqt.org, operates a Seed Co-op for its members in which they can obtain seeds that are almost all heirloom or open-pollinated and appropriate for the region.

TMC also was part of getting the Queen City Seed Library started at the Peter White Public Library. There patrons could “check out” seeds, much as they would books, and then bring back seeds from the plants they grew to a future Seed Swap at the library.

Grace AaltoRosenbaum, another TMC member, is lending a hand to the greenhouse effort.

“It’s a great project,” AaltoRosenbaum said. “They get out of their rooms and come down. Whether they actually garden or just sit and watch what’s going on, it will be enriching them.”

Randy Saatio, a Jacobetti employee who focuses on activities and “who hopefully brings more smiles to veterans,” is another good helper to have on hand.

“I love gardens,” Saatio said.

What gardens do for so many people, he noted, is help them obtain peace of mind and serenity.

For veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, peace of mind and serenity is just what they need.

Of course, help from non-gardening experts is welcome. Saatio said there’s a possibility of local Scouts helping out at the Jacobetti greenhouse in the spring.

“We’re getting the community involved, and it’s helping our veterans at the same time, which is awesome,” Saatio said. “The main goal is to keep our veterans happy and give them stuff that they would like to do.”

Members in the Memory Care unit will be able to visit the greenhouse, he said, which will be a good thing for that segment of the population.

“It stimulates them,” Saatio said.

A few members recently were taken to Lowe’s when the plants were blooming. Apparently it was a visually invigorating experience because, he said, “they were just so in awe about it.”

That’s how seniors – and, in fact, many people – are helped through plant therapy.

“I think everybody enjoys plants to some degree,” Arseneau said.

That includes people who don’t garden.

And for whose who did take part in that botanical activity, he said, being around plants can bring back memories of gardening days gone by.

“It helps them reminisce and takes them back to their past and the interest that they had, and a way to be able to participate in the ‘now,’ ” Arseneau said.

Arseneau acknowledged a big part of the project is giving members something for which they can lend assistance, such as growing plants.

However, a green thumb is not required.

What is needed, though, is the need to connect with plants, and considering the age and past experiences of the Jacobetti members, that shouldn’t be hard to find.

To educate the community about the project, a Transition Marquette County “Yarden” tour for the public is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Jacobetti greenhouse.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.