Gardening has always been an interest to people of all backgrounds but during covid more and more people turn to gardening as therapy and as a way to escape the constant negativity that came was covid-19.
Horticultural therapy uses plants gardening activities and other natural landscapes to boost physical and mental health.
I first met today's yes is we're both recipients of the 2019 40 under 40 award which is given out to recognize business achievements professional expertise and Community involvement and at that time Alexis Ashworth
was the CEO of Habitat for Humanity.
Thule Alexis has founded our new business and a CEO of root in nature which specializes in Horticultural therapy.
Ruta nature teaches participants how to guard how gardening can be beneficial to their health and their social connections among many other positive effects welcome Alexis thanks so much for joining us today.
No thanks for having me.
I'm so thrilled that you've been able to merge something that you love not love into not only a business but also way to teach others how to benefit from nature so congrats on launching this new business as well.
Thank you very much yes I'm one of those people who left their current job during the pandemic and pursued a personal passion so there you go I think it's fantastic because I know that you love gardening as well as you do outdoors and whatnot so.
I think it's a beautiful Bridge from Habitat to here but maybe you can share with our audience a little bit more about your story
I was surprised myself to hear that you had left Habitat for Humanity so share your story with us.
Sure so I was CEO of Habitat for seven and a half years which is quite a long stretch and during the pandemic obviously things got very
stressful being a CEO of a not-for-profit at that time I also have two young children and three year old and a 5 year old so I found myself turning to plants and gardening more and more as a way to stay present and stay relaxed and to improve my own mental health and I started working with an executive coach during that time and talked about kind of
next steps and what I wanted to do with the next stage of my career feeling like you don't come to an end with habitat and
all of the times I felt most relaxed and most happy always came back to
gardening and plants and and so I was exposed to Horticultural therapy many years ago in the UK and I looked into Horticultural therapy and Ottawa and found that there was really not
a lot happening here it was happening at the Pearly Rideau veterans Health Center now pearly health
but there was a lot of opportunity to expand it to the wider community so decided to leave my role and pursue that and try to bring.
Nature-based health and healing to Ottawa I think that's fantastic can you tell us a little bit more about your business route in nature.
For sure we're a social Enterprise that brings a Horticultural therapy nature-based programs and employee Wellness to the community.
We work with Horticultural therapy obviously that's the basis of our business.
We work with long term care homes with retirement residences also with not-for-profits and the charity Community as well.
There's a lot of a lot of neat there especially a lot of need in mental health supports right now yeah and we also do some nature based programs we're starting to work with Cheo on autism spectrum disorder therapies we started a
eight week program for preteens with ASD just last weekend
so that's that's exciting and we also do some employee Wellness because I know that
you know employees are really struggling right now and workplaces are struggling with return to the office and the hybrid work model and all of the new things to think about and employees are really expecting something different when they come back to the office so we're helping employers bring nature into the office and help improve their
employees mental and physical health and productivity at the same time I think that you know it's wonderful that all though
covid had so many negative things there are a lot of positives that came out of coal bed and one of those things although had to go - first was the that people are now starting to concentrate on their Mental Health.
More than ever before I believe.
And so you know they've had this time at home they've had this time to set up new routines maybe get into like exercise routines are eating or whatever different things
and then they found their own personal balance and so now that everybody's returning to work and everybody's kind of getting back into the flow you're right I think the expectations are different now and how are employers going to meet
the new expectations to make sure that people's mental health as well taken care of as well
for what other areas have do you find Horticultural therapy has been helping people I think that
well going back to the founding of Freedom never Horticultural therapy it formalized after WWII so it really helps veterans when they come back and are suffering from PTSD
getting their hands dirty and you know and gardening and focusing on something that's that's you know not not the trauma that they've experienced is really powerful
we're working with a couple of veterans organizations in Ottawa veterans house and women warriors healing Garden
so that I find the veteran Community really benefits from Horticultural therapy.
Seniors people with dementia we're working with Symphony Senior Living in their memory care.
Building and people with dementia really benefit from that kind of seed to harvest program looking after plants and
and taking part in Horticultural therapy.
People with as a talked about with autism that's my my Exposure My First exposure to Horticultural therapy was
people with with developmental disabilities in the UK working in the garden so yeah it helps a wide wide spectrum of the population with with Stress and Anxiety which many of us have experienced or are currently experiencing.
Absolutely I have to ask you a personal question do you have to have a green thumb to do this because I'm pretty sure my thumb is black.
Are those are plants behind you they're fake are plants yeah they know actually part of our presentation and for the workplace is
there's some benefit and even fake plants you know the real plants are yeah are better but yeah that if it's is fake but no absolutely not and you don't need a garden plot either like you can
gardening can be in a paper cup in your kitchen like it really does not have to be in an outdoor Garden or backyard that you might have it's accessible to everybody
and I think the fear of failure holds people back.
Every year before I start my seedlings I actually have that like do I know how to do this feeling so yeah
the fear but then you just jump in and some of your seedlings don't germinate and some do and some die and some don't and that's okay it's all part of the process and it's also kind of.
Life lesson that
you know not everything you start has to work out and that's okay and the ones that do work out some of them are going to flourish in are going to you know feed you nice Tomatoes All summer so yeah it's don't be afraid of you have a black thumb but work with a Horticultural therapist ideally who you know can help you along.
Yeah and I think that you touched on something really pertinent for you know things that I learn in my business life and I try to teach others as well as that you're right not everything is a success.
And we learn through our failures whether it's a small seed not germinating or whatever it is right and so.
You know not everything has to go perfectly not everything well and so if you can learn on that small scale
to kind of pivot or to not have your expectations in a certain way I think it would set you up especially if kids get involved to write in and teach them how to do that
well we're talking about my fake plants and indoors what can we do inside
for Horticultural therapy you mentioned you know in the seedlings or even in a cup I'm thinking of the days that are rainy and dark today happens to be one of them that really get
me right they get people their kind of depressing so what can we do to add some life and some energy inside.
Yeah well we're just coming to the end of a very long winter and every winter I setup a hydroponic
system in my kitchen that's not accessible to everybody I mean it's probably a 300 dollar machine but I feel like for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorders
having some kind of
grow light and things growing throughout the winter is hugely beneficial it's also set on a timer so long before the actual sun is rising your grow light in the kitchen is turning on at 6 a.m. and it gives you that.
Sense of you know waking up to something that's positive so I think having you know growing something throughout the winter is fantastic.
Doing you know propagating your indoor plants there's all kinds of indoor plants that
spur you know babies are ways that you can propagate so undertake a little indoor plant project in the winter that's a that's a great way to kind of get your hands dirty and connect with nature and plants throughout the winter
in the you know once March and April hit you can start planting seedlings indoors again it involves a grow light
they're pretty inexpensive these days so you know I've got one hanging above my ironing board it's a great use for an ironing board sure when you're working from home and you don't really need to iron many clothes you put some seedlings out on your ironing board hang a grow light over and you've got a lovely little system so yeah there's lots of ways that you can interact with plants inside even just caring for them you know misting them I should have missed it this guy looks great after a good missing but there's just
there's a lot of ways you can interact with indoor plants try to yeah I can give you some propagation seeing some real plans I think that if you're right and fake plants work as well I might have to load up.
Although I you know want to see everything flourish I love everything flourishing you know watering things and keeping things alive that our plans never been my.
My go-to but.
Luckily for me I'm at work my father-in-law's actually going to be moving in with us and he has a green thumb so I told him that's his job now well and kids I know you have a four-year-old right
yeah kids love watering in fact my biggest plant problem right now
is my three-year-old over watering my plants like she is a success okay so there you go you've gotta you've gotta watering helper you just have to keep ruin it for him on a schedule hurry yeah we were yeah we've got we went we stopped at the dollar store the other day and she found a
watering can shaped like a pink elephant and socio that she wanted that and that's what she's been doing except for she doesn't realize the plants that we have
you know water every single day right because she gets a good watering so I have two things I'm trying to teach her but then also she's doing my water and keeping things alive so you know it's a fine balance well there you go you've got some help
yeah she loves it can a Horticultural therapy be done virtually
it can I mean ideally you're getting your hands dirty but there are a lot of people that can't go out or can't you know access a gardener Green Space so we do run virtual Horticultural therapy programming
we have a five part series called Mind Body and soil.
We are actually just doing it now it's senior organic gardeners a great group of seniors who are do have green thumbs but we also do it with the ottawa's community support and other seniors groups
Rivera actually is taking part in that mind-body and soil group so for people you know in long-term care or places where they just can't get outside
virtual is better than nothing and we can still do some interactive activities with people with just some basic supplies.
Heads up wonderful and that's one of the other kind of benefits that came in a Cove it is especially in the retirement industry where things are a little bit archaic and slow-moving it seems to be and you know getting these virtual touring and filming and activities was you know not there
you know two years ago and then all of a sudden had to be there so not only build a retirement homes ketchup and they all have their own tablets and all that stuff.
But the general public now has so much more access and has you know gotten up to speed can do it and so I think that that's phenomenal
now they're able to partake that way as well because like you said something is better than nothing right and that's kind of what
our go to on the show as well you know that's like you know let's do a little something so that we're moving forward right.
And not every time you can get your hands dirty but then there also is an advantage you know for instance if you're out of retirement residence or a long-term care is that the rec therapist there well they're doing the virtual could bring in
the dirt and things like that could they not
oh absolutely yeah in fact we're starting at a Rivera in Toronto today just moving into that market and the therapist is showing up at the soil and the seats and the rec therapist there has the seed trays and the girl lights ready to go so it's a combination of
us providing materials and then providing materials that's fantastic.
Now tell me a little bit more about the programs that you offer to businesses I'm very interested in them can you give us a little bit more information on them and what happens with employees
you know well being you know what have you seen and what are they looking for really.
Well I mentioned that you know with people coming back to the office they're expecting something different so and I know that there is a lot of research around
plants in the office space and its effect on mental health and physical health and productivity.
I'm not a scientist or a doctor so I partnered with a doctor named dr. Owen Wiseman and he has a real interest in
nature and human health and the effect of nature on human health we created a one-hour presentation called nature as a workplace Ally
and so we're offering that to work places to basically
educate people I'm providing a practical tips on how they can bring nature into the workplace to improve you know improve health and improve productivity.
We also have an in-person event in nature.
So people have been you know working virtually and remotely for so long and are kind of disconnected that way.
We have a 2 to 3 hours or half day experience in nature at the just food Community Farm where we partner.
And we bring people together and yeah just have some
different and unique experiences both outside and inside connecting people to Nature and to each other in the new and unique way so yeah those are the two main things we offer.
It's fantastic before we go can you let people know how to get ahold of you and where to find all your information.
Sure I if you want to reach out to me by email I met Alexis a Troodon nature .z a our website is Root in nature .c a
as well and we are active on Instagram and Facebook and Linkedin so you search root in nature you should find us there.
Terrific well I'm looking forward to connecting with you on Instagram I haven't done that yet because I'm expecting that you guys will have some pretty awesome pictures and hopefully some tips for people so I think so
oh dear well thank you so much Alexis for joining me today I really appreciate it and congratulations again on your new business and I'm really looking forward to watching you grow I did it ha ha
thank you Amy appreciate the opportunity so nice to speak with you.
For more information on Alexis you can head over to her website the links are on artfully Aging with a me.com as well and so is her bio.
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