VA Portland Health Care System
Meet PVAMC gardener Scott Hoffman
There are many ways of healing here at the Portland VA Medical Center, including expert medical services that focus on the physical, and there is another proven method of healing that entails a visit to our own Veterans Healing Garden that is located on the main hospital ground floor between buildings 100 and 101.
The person mainly responsible for our healing garden is Scott Hoffman, a VA employee whose nondescript title is gardener. That title does not do justice for Scott when you investigate his “story” and what he has accomplished.
An U.S. Air Force Veteran, Scott has been at VAPORHCS for four years. Prior to his locating at the Portland campus, he worked two years at the Willamette Veterans National Cemetery as a gardener. That was no mean task: the cemetery encompasses about 300 acres.
“I’ve been in agriculture my whole life,” Scott says. “I was born and raised in Minnesota and grew up on a farm, and in high school I took horticulture classes and was a member of Future Farmers of America (FFA). In fact, my dad still farms there.”
After high school, Scott joined the Air Force and devoted six years to that service branch as a munitions specialist with tours in Okinawa, Turkey and Germany. He met his wife, Kari, another Air Force Veteran, in Turkey. They have two children, Nora, age four, and Anthony, who is two years old.
Scott has a BS Degree in Horticulture and Landscaping from the University of Minnesota. After graduation, he landed an internship at Walt Disney World, and, not surprisingly, he provided “Behind the Seeds” tours to visitors and managed one of four “Living with the Land” greenhouses located at the Epcot theme park.
Getting closer to VAPORHCS, Scott attended Washington State University and received an MS Degree in Agriculture. His studies focused on the philosophy of “healing gardens in healthcare.” As a result, Scott was imbued with the values inherent in the science involved with such gardens. He applied that philosophy to develop the Veterans Healing Garden and continues to offer therapeutic horticulture activities throughout the year.
“There are specific plants in our PVAMC Veterans Healing Garden that you can smell, touch, look at and even taste,” says Scott. “We have what I would call a Pacific Northwest native garden; an organic and sustainable garden that provides a stress-free, relaxing environment in a natural outdoor setting.”
Scott says that he is a big believer in color and textures that offer a therapeutic landscape. Last year, he planted 200 tulips. “I try to keep things whimsical, fun and fresh.”
There are several practical aspects to the healing garden, such as the installation of two apple trees and a bevy of strawberry plants, some of which are used in VAPORHCS cooking classes. Prior to finalizing the garden, Scott enlisted suggestions for items people would like to see in the garden. He received more than 300 suggestions which is indicative of the interest elicited among staff and patients.