LYNDON CENTER -- Abbey Heimlich, of Tamworth, N.H., will receive her bachelor's degree in psychology and human services from Lyndon State College at the end of this summer after completing a unique internship with the St. Johnsbury Food Co-op and working at the St. Johnsbury Community Garden.
Although she majored in human services, Heimlich wanted to find a suitable fit between her passion for gardening and her passion for helping others.
"There are no 'garden' classes at Lyndon, but I was looking to find a good connection between my human services major and my love for gardening and being outdoors. Then I stumbled upon horticultural therapy," Heimlich said. She talked to assistant professor of Psychology and Human Services Meri Stiles about her passion for the outdoors, gardens and working with people, and Stiles helped her create this internship.
The therapeutic benefits of a garden have been understood for hundreds of years. In the 19th Century, Dr. Benjamin Rush found that gardens had a curing effect on patients with mental illnesses. Horticultural therapists help people to work, learn and relax in the garden, and they specialize on making the most out of the garden in order to help people in every way possible.
A new member of the American Horticultural Therapy Association, Heimlich covered a diverse range of topics at her demonstration and information table at the Co-op, ranging from the benefits of planting and sorting seeds to pressing flowers as a venue to discuss difficult emotions. In her last demonstration, Heimlich gave out free aromatherapy sessions, which she says can be effective at calming, energizing, and focusing.
Heimlich plans to stay in the horticultural field in the future. She hopes to attend a program in Colorado to become a certified horticultural therapist. "My goal for the future is to start a community garden in Lyndon, and share my experience with the rest of the town."