Meet DIGA gardener, Joseph Morrissette!
As a young man, Joseph Morrissette completed a degree in Business Management, which led to a successful career in real estate in some of Canada’s largest cities. “All I did in those days was work work work,” he says. “My only relaxation was music, when I played the trumpet.”
Unfortunately, in 2009 Joseph was involved in a serious car accident, resulting in brain trauma which made him unable to work. And then, five years ago, more tragedy struck when Joseph had a stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed and with the beginning of some dementia.
Has any of this made Joseph want to retreat from life? In a word, NO. With the help of the Disability Foundation, his caregiver and his wife, Joseph continues to live his fullest possible life.
In 2021, Joseph discovered another passion — gardening with the Disabled Independent Gardeners Association (DIGA). Because he lives downtown, the closest location for him is DIGA’s Pandora Garden, which he can easily reach by Handi-Dart, accompanied by his caregiver.
Although he was initially hesitant in learning a new skill, last summer Joseph grew two raised bed garden boxes of veggies. “It was so fun!” he reports. “I really enjoyed seeing the final products. It made me feel so good to see them grow, and to learn from the things that didn’t do as well. Going to the garden once or twice a week gave me some structure and purpose, and kept me learning new things.”
Like most gardeners, part of the pleasure of gardening is giving fresh produce to others. “It tastes so good, and it’s wonderful to know that there are no chemicals in it. Totally organic! I love eating it, and I also love sharing what I’ve grown. It’s very satisfying.”
Joseph would like to see more people with disabilities start gardening. He feels that there should be more awareness about what a wonderful program DIGA is, and lots of incentives for people to get started growing their own food. For those reasons, Joseph has recently joined the DIGA Board of Directors. His business background has already been useful in reviewing financial statements and budgets.
Joseph has also identified a clear need for more volunteers. He is appreciative of the young people who give their time, but points out that they are often students, and only available on weekends. This presents a problem for him, because the Handi-Dart does not operate weekends, and his caregiver only works during the week.
“It would be nice to have someone who is a bit older, and who actually knows how to garden because they have done it before. Even able-bodied seniors are often bored to death, sitting up there in their condos. There’s so much to do that can help people. They could be helping us, and sharing their knowledge. And their time is so much more flexible; we could garden together during the week.”
Joseph is fond of cooking and baking. Before his stroke, he used to make cookies that were much admired and sought after by professionals such as the pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel. Today he still likes to cook. For the past five years, he has kept kosher. They don’t go out to dine. All of the foods that he and his wife consume have been made in-house. Fresh organic vegetables are a wonderful addition to their menus and offer Joseph additional food security during trying times. The independence and personal fulfillment from growing one’s own food is unparalleled!
When asked if he has any suggestions for other folks with disabilities, Joseph states that it is vital to have faith and belief in one’s ability to heal. And…he suggests that you get out and start growing! You’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself.
Thank you, Joseph, for being such a valued member in our community. And may your thumb continue to be green!
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help other gardeners with disabilities grow, share and learn. With each donation we receive, we become all that much closer to our goal.
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