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  • Jere Folgert

Benefits of Growing Food, From Pain to Recovery

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

My dad and my grandmother both had big gardens and grew much of the food they consumed. As a young kid, I have vivid memories of watching both of them meticulously nurture and care for plants throughout the growing season. I now understand a little bit more about their passion for growing food and why they savored their time in the garden. Gardening helped them heal deep wounds.

My grandma - my dad's mom, had six kids. According to my dad, their lives were seemingly normal - despite not having electricity or running water in their tiny home in northern Wisconsin. On a beautiful summer morning, as the garden plants were growing larger and larger, tragically, Anna, my dad's young sister, was shot by their brother. Anna was only 10 years old. She had her whole life ahead of her. Before she lost her life, she apparently enjoyed working in the garden, planting seeds, harvesting the crop, and putting the crop yield into canning jars.

Anna's unnecessary death devastated their family.

Together, my dad and his mom expanded each of their own gardens (in different towns) and did their best to grow food - all while healing deep wounds. I learned from my dad that gardening, seemed to accelerate his own healing. And, I'm pretty sure gardening helped my grandmother heal as well. "It felt like even as I was weeding in the garden, it was helping me come back to life and ease the pain of Anna's tragic death. I stood in the morning sunlight and observed with amazement at all that had grown, I felt my own strength that had returned."

Research has shown that spending time gardening is good for our bodies, our minds and gives us the strength to heal. If you have grown your own food, you've experienced positive benefits. You step into the garden of life and it lifts your spirits.

People who have spent time in a garden, observing the wonders of nature and growth, appear to have a deeper understanding of the cycle of life and the dynamic nature of all things alive. Switching our attention from our own life to that of the plants in a garden has been shown by science to be a very powerful strategy. Higher levels of gratitude, higher levels of happiness, and less depression, as compared to people who did not participate in gardening. Gardening gives us gracious permission to feel grateful and not alone. Gardening allows us to accept the bad and appreciate the good by entrenching our minds in deliberate, ongoing effortsto tune into the magic that is all around us. When we spend time in a garden we see the obvious; Plants, sun, rain, and dirt, and the not-so-obvious; Photosynthesis, plant genetics, soil microbes, plant roots, acting as tiny pumps, transferring nutrients, life and water to the rest of the plant structure.

As a gardener, ask yourself, "is what I'm doing in the garden helping me or harming me". The simple answer is that gardening is a great help to our mental stability, understanding of the dynamic world, and obviously, the food we grow, organically, is good for our body and soul. Put away the smartphone, put away the need to check social media feedback. Instead, grow garlic, and other amazing plants in your garden. Be kind to yourself. What a huge impact gardening has had on many lives. Participating in gardening, it does not require rocket science, instead if involves very ordinary processes. Have a willingness to give it a try.

Most of us have had difficult times in our lives due to a loss of a loved one, sickness, natural disasters, divorce... The list goes on. The journey we thought we were on, takes a nasty right turn and takes us on a bumpy road that we never asked for. A route we never wanted - a path never anticipated. If you ever feel lost, I urge you to start a garden and lean into the garden's green pallet. Grow flowers and food - heal your wounds. Though, like life, gardening is not always easy.

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