FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Fort St. John Association for Community Living plans to return to its therapeutic farm in Baldonnel this year to build off its Growing Connections program launched last year.

The association is also building its capacity downtown, with a new green space for gardening during the winter months located inside the same building as their new art studio, opening only six months ago.

Joseph Lang, executive director, says the ACL has been working hard to create space for members to take part in a wider variety of activities and shared hobbies.

“There’s lot of new stuff going but we’re really trying to create meaningful activities for people where they get to learn and develop new skills,” he said.

Members were spending quality time at the green space this week, planting vegetable seeds for their gardens and getting ready to work on bonsai trees – another therapeutic offering of the program, and a hobby shared by Lang.

“It’s very therapeutic to get to work with the soil and just shape plants, especially with the long winters we have,” said Lang. “It’s something I’ve done before, I used to have a little forest in my office.”

Aquaponics equipment is also expected to arrive sometime in the next four weeks, with a fish farm planned to be built at their indoor green space. That will provide nutrients for herbs and other vegetables, and help to extend the growing season and possibilities year-round.

Sheri Ashdown, inclusion and employment program manager, says ACL members have been excited to get their hands in the dirt indoors, but expects them to be out having fun at the farm by May if the weather is nice.

“There’s lots of research that it increases sense of well-being and reduces stress. There’s all sort of benefits for individuals with indoor gardening, it even improves mood,” said Ashdown. “It’s a good activity for them to get involved in.”