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Farm items to make up menu for a special meal

Meal featuring items from market vendors will benefit Special Connections garden

The 3 French Hens French Country Market is introducing a new event that will utilize all of its food vendors and raise money for Special Connections of Grundy County.

A “Farm to Table and Back” dinner will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at CanalPort Park after the 3 French Hens Market that day.

“It will be totally sustained by the market vendors, so depending on what they have is what we will do the menu off of,” said Monica Vogel, market organizer with Traci Tessone.

“We have beef, chicken, pork, eggs, fruit, herbs, olive oils, local honey, lots of pastries and pies, and woodoven baked bread, so we should have a really good dinner,” said Vogel.

The meal will be prepared by Chapin’s Rest-aurant Chef Bran-don Harness. The menu is expected to be announced next week. The dinner, which will be complemented by wine from local vendors as well, is $48 per person.

Live music will be performed during the dinner and a 50-50 raffle will be offered, its proceeds going to Special Connections as well.

To make a reservation for the dinner call (815) 941-0752.

Vogel and Tessone wanted to put some focus of the market back on the farmers.

As the market season progresses, the vendor selection always increases and they wanted to remind people of the fresh products offered at the market, which takes place the second Saturday of the month off the I&M Canal in Morris.

“And we wanted to partner with Special Connections because we really think a sensory garden at CanalPort Park will be a great thing,” said Vogel.

Special Connections of Grundy County has a mission to connect people with disabilities to their community through social interactions, education, recreational opportunities and shared information. It promotes an environment of inclusion, self-determination and knowledge.

President of Special Connections, Jennifer Price, said the organization has been talking about creating a sensory garden for years and has received permission from the city of Morris to create a plan for the canal park. Once a plan is designed, it will go before the city council.

A sensory garden is a garden specifically created to be accessible and enjoyable to visitors, both disabled and non-disabled, said Price. The gardens provide experience for multiples senses: feel, smell, sound and sight.  The different plants and landscape provide fragrances, sounds, colors, textures, and movement to encourage a great sensory experience.

The paths through such gardens are ADA compliant, so they are large enough for two wheelchairs side-by-side, said Price.

“It’s something we have been looking into for years because there is no great handicapped-accessible space for kids or people with wheelchairs to be able to get out and experience nature,” she said.

Price has a son named Jett who is 10 years old. He was 16 weeks premature and had a brain hemorrhage that caused brain damage and his cerebral palsy. Because he was premature, his vision and hearing are very low.

He has a sensory garden at his school that allows him to fully enjoy and experience his other senses that are more keen. Price said a garden in Morris could do the same for this community’s residents.

Price had shared the organization’s wish with Vogel and, one day, Vogel had a customer come into her store, Ruby Begonia’s, who she learned in conversation was a landscape architect who specializes in sensory gardens. After connecting her with Price, landscape architect Judee Hansen and some of her associates have agreed to design the garden pro bono.

Because of the large paths and details to a sensory garden, the project will be expensive to do, said Price, so Special Connections is raising funds to do the project in phases. At its recent golf outing, the organization raised $11,000 toward the project.

The vision is to also have a gazebo so families can have picnics at the park. In addition, they plan to have memorial bricks and benches at the garden.

The goal is to get started on the garden by early next spring, said Price.

“It gives them something beautiful to awaken their different senses and provide a good experience,” she said.

At the “Farm to Table and Back” dinner there will be a large rendering of the garden design.

For more information on Special Connections of Grundy County or to donate toward the sensory garden visit To make a reservation for the “Farm to Table and Back” dinner call (815) 941-0752.

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