When Covid made it impossible to be at the side of a close relative with medical issues, Nancy Ballek Mackinnon redirected her distraught thoughts and energies to focus on gratitude. Despite all the turmoil in the world, Nancy continued to see hope and promise in the nature and plants that surround her. She found their effect to be a therapeutic counterbalance to all the uncertainty in her world at the time.
Nancy realized that children were also struggling with the disruptions that Covid has caused – school closures, not seeing friends, teachers, relatives, group activities canceled. So she decided to develop an activity that would allow even our youngest citizens to find comfort in the natural world. She came up with Gardens of Hope and Gratitude.
Local youth groups were called upon to help propagate cuttings. They began by collecting cleaning, drilling and painting yogurt containers to use as plant pots. Each pot was filled with easy-to-grow varieties of spider plants and Tradescantias.
Younger local students as well as children who visit Balleks’s have been the benefactors of the older kids’ efforts. Each child receives a plant, a daffodil bulb, a packet of seeds and a shell or stone to adorn a plant or keep in their pocket as a reminder of strength. A suggested letter is also included for the child to send to someone they are grateful for. The child may also express their gratitude by gifting the plant or flowers along with the letter
The ‘gardens’ have been well-received and dozens have been distributed. Nancy hopes that youngsters find comfort from nature and from expressing their feelings to those for whom they are grateful.
Ballek’s is a family business built on old-fashioned values. The garden center is located on land that was deeded to the family in the 1660s. Land preservation is paramount to the family and especially to matriarch Anita Ballek. In 2017, the Ballek family signed a conservation easement, which donates the development rights of the farmland to the Connecticut Farmland Trust in perpetuity. The agreement limits future development of 55.2 acres of the farm to agricultural use.
Anita discusses her motivation to protect her family’s farmland in a recent interview that was prepared for Women for the Land Learning Circle. Please click here to watch the recording on Youtube.