While on my daily commute, I recently heard a commercial for a non-profit called Smile Farms, which creates job opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. It was a very short blip of a commercial, and my distractible mind almost let it slip right out of my subconscious.
A bit of lag in my brain later, while pulling up at my destination, I thought:
“What a brilliant idea!”
The rest of the morning, my (distractible) psyche was abuzz with a flurry of ideas.
“I wonder if there is an organization like this here?”
“Someone needs to do something!”
“I wonder if I could make a 501c3 for this?”
“What would be the startup costs?”
“I don’t eat enough vegetables.”
I of course came down out of my lofty “save the world” high and went about my daily tasks. However, the though still nagged at me.
“I know there has to be something therapeutic about gardening.”
I resisted the urge to go down the google-rabbit-hole for the day. But, that evening, I sat down with my notebook and pen and began to write what I thought would be therapeutic about gardening. Of course, my list was much more discombobulated and lengthy, but here are the high points from my opinion:
Gardening Reduces Stress:
Working with the earth, the solitude, the ritual, simply being outside, or the nostalgia of times past…who knows. I read an article recently that researchers are noting that there is certain bacterium in soil that increases serotonin levels. Maybe that is why children are so happy to be covered in mud? Gardening also has been shown to reduce cortisol levels…and that’s fantastic, both for the waistline and those who suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
Gardening Gives You Patience…With a Reward:
Gardening takes time. Sometimes a LOT of time, depending on what you are intending to grow. Weeds need to be pulled, compost needs turning (churning?), soil needs fertilizing, the seedlings need care and attention indoors, and later the plants need outdoor sun, water, and maybe even a good talking to.
After a while, things flower, and then produce begins to grow.
I remember the excitement on the face of my youngest, when he brought me a handful of small green tomatoes. He was so happy; I couldn’t be upset (or tell him that we couldn’t eat them for dinner).
The satisfaction of the accomplishment of harvesting a small crop (or coming out with anything other than a shriveled brown mess) is very satisfying.
Gardening Builds Your Community:
My mother works in an office, where many older people come to get care. She has seen many of them for decades. Every year, quite a few of her office’s clients come in with bags of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, etc. During these times, the over abundance is so much that everyone employed in the office has more than enough to take home, and even pass on to family members or friends. I have been the beneficiary more than several times to some delicious cucumbers and squash.
I myself have propagated herbs (the sage and rosemary are the only things I couldn’t kill off) to share with neighbors, and conversation always leads to other, deeper things. Meaningful things.
Gardening offers an opportunity to share with people whom you may not have otherwise.
You may need to get a longer table.
I’m not saying everyone should go buy a farm, or plant a full fledged garden. Try growing something this spring/summer. Find a small nook in your side yard or balcony for something vertical.
Who knows…you may find that you hate digging in the dirt and really don’t care for turnips…or you may just find yourself with a bumper crop of onions that you can give to your neighbor or co-worker…you may learn something new about yourself.