Two Sabbaths ago, we were pleased to have Rachel Handley of Mind Over Eating as our guest speaker. During her intro she asked the audience (among other things) to raise there hands if they had a garden. I was dismayed that only 6 hands went up. As many of you know, I have a passion for gardening and regularly share my successes and learning opportunities. Because the 7th Day Adventist church has a health message, and we are an adventist congregation, I would like to start a conversation in this group about gardening. If there be no objections I will jump right in and answer the question: Why? According to Jeanne Nolan of The Organic Gardener, these are 10 reasons to have a garden:
More nutrient-dense than conventional produce, home grown fruits and vegetables can improve the eating habits of adults and children and help prevent diabetes, obesity and some cancers. It has been found that children more than doubled their overall fruit and vegetable consumption after their parents grew a food garden in their yard.
Homegrown, fresh-picked vegetables, herbs and fruit offer and unparalleled taste experience: juicy, crisp, with a great depth of flavor and intensity.
Foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli are routinely found on produce grown on industrial farms. There is no safer source of food than your own backyard.
Working in a garden is an antidote to the sedentary, indoor lifestyles that are becoming increasingly prevalent in a technology-driven world. The joy of physical activity in a natural setting to produce something tangible is not only good for your body but fulfilling to the spirit.
Gardening helps overstimulated and hyperactive kids focus and perform better academically. A 2004 report from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that green outdoor settings, including gardening, reduced symptoms of ADHD in the more than four hundred kids in the study.
The equivalent of about four hundred gallons of oil is used annually to feed each American. This accounts for the energy that flows into petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers as well as for farming machinery, irrigation, food processing and distribution. By comparison, an organic food garden can have a zero-carbon footprint or even a positive climate impact, due to the absorption of carbon dioxide by its leafy plants.
Gardens can considerably reduce grocery bills. A recent National Gardening Association study found that the average family with a vegetable garden spends just seventy dollars a year on it and grows an estimated six hundred dollars' worth of vegetables.
Growing food brings families together in the garden and at the table. The tending and harvesting rituals slow down one's lifestyle and encourage more home-cooked meals. Gardens can also be social magnets that get neighbors talking over the fence, connecting families to their communities.
Dirt makes you feel good. A 2007 study from the University of Bristol in England showed that a specific soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, targets immune cells that release chemicals, which, in turn, stimulate the serotonin-releasing neruons in the brain – the very same neurons activated by Prozac and other antidepressants.
Growing food offers an accessible way to connect with the natural world. The basic lesson that when we take care of the earth, the earth takes care of us is learned hands on. You can do worse than to expose your children to the wonders of plant growth and natural ecosystems.
Pretty powerful, isn't it? Growing a garden is about so much more than just food. It is about enriching your family, your community, your mind, your body.