“I have dreams and if I work hard my dreams can come true.”
- Elaine Fickenscher, self-advocate, National Down Syndrome Congress
Elaine Fickenscher has dreams. One of those dreams is gardening.
Elaine first started working at Red Wiggler as a Grower in 2011, although she had volunteered on the farm before that. This year, she increased her workload from two days a week to three.
The added shifts have not stopped Elaine from gardening in her free time. When she’s not on the farm, she enjoys gardening chores with her mother, who taught Elaine all she knew about growing and cooking with fresh produce.
“Elaine came to us already knowing how to weed and plant,” states Red Wiggler Farm Manager Andrea Barnhart. “She really liked to hand-weed. A goal for her this year was to learn how to weed using a hoe.”
True to her goal, Elaine learned how to use both a hula hoe and a wheel hoe. Also this year, she initiated learning how to use a dibbler — a large tool that evenly marks rows for planting as it is pushed along the bed.
“Planting is good for me,” she says. “I like to plant peppers. I like to plant a lot.”
Elaine takes part in harvesting many varieties of vegetables, but kohlrabi, beets, turnips, garlic scapes, and purple string beans stand out as recent favorites. The beans, which Elaine describes as sweet, are easier to distinguish than green beans, though they turn green once cooked.
One of Elaine’s roles is bagging produce for the CSA’s Farm to Group Home program, as well as for the Growers’ weekly shares. With her own weekly share, Elaine enjoys cooking up concoctions that she records in a cookbook. Some of her favorite recipes are hummus, pesto, and stuffed grape leaves, and some of her favorite staples are mustard greens and kohlrabi.
Beyond gardening, Red Wiggler’s Growers increase their agricultural knowledge through educational field trips to other farms. One such trip that sticks out to Elaine is a visit to Rock Hill Orchard & Woodbourne Creamery in Mount Airy, Maryland, where she enjoyed watching the milking machines working.
Something else that Elaine enjoys is making friends. She is quick to introduce other Growers to those visiting the farm, and her bubbly personality quickly puts others at ease.