September 2003: On a hot August afternoon, master gardener Maggie Matoba shares a patch of shade with Willamette Oaks Retirement Center residents who raise veggies and flowers in the therapeutic garden Matoba maintains as part of her Healing Harvest program. “Maggie’s been such a blessing,” Evelyn Higgins says. “She put in new soil and a watering system.” Matoba witnessed the healing potential of gardening when her father came to stay after a stroke. “Gardening added 15 years to his life,” she says. She started her first garden, for girls at Looking Glass treatment center, in May 2002. “I wanted to work with at-risk youth,” she says. “They learn about soil, biology, ecology. And we address behavioral issues.” Matoba currently commutes to Portland to study horticultural therapy. Healing Harvest also has gardens at Sheldon Oaks, Womenspace and River Kourt.
2013 update: For the past five years, Healing Harvest has been part of the curriculum at the Kennedy School of Sustainability, an alternative high school in Cottage Grove. “I enjoy seeing the kids transformed in the garden,” says Matoba, who volunteers her time at the school. Matoba also teaches ukulele and Hawaiian culture as a youth arts instructor for the Lane Arts Council and as a faculty member of The Shedd Institute’s Community Music School.