Preparing for Next Year

Friends,

Today it hit.  Winter is finally here and the growing season has come to an end.  Not even the spinach likes it this cold. For the next few months, our farming activities will mostly subside,  except those that prepare us for next season.

20992892_10155641658269451_5738995368619896517_nBut, for the VGI team, there is no decrease in activities.  We are planning and preparing for next year’s programs, events, and successes. This preparation includes funding our activities. Much like we are banking up on compost at the farm for next season, we need to bank up on financial resources right now for next season. We need the financial resources that it takes to teach people how to grow food, give families gardens, offer deeply discounted vegetables to our neighbors, and train others to lead their own version of grassroots change.

shovel-squad-blitz-2017_34206791023_oWe need you to support this preparation.  While economic disparity increases in our country, the social issues that our community is vulnerable to, exacerbate.  We can’t let up. We must continue to support grassroots efforts that change the over-corporatized food system from the ground up.  Help us remove the Milwaukee’s food system from the speculative Wall Street economy by buying local everything, and supporting LOCAL food production. Right here in our own city.

Next year we have plans to launch a CSA farm and to expand the micro-local restaurant sales.  Help us get over the financial hump so we can make it all work.

We are counting on YOUR perseverance, every single one of you, to ensure that the Victory Garden Urban Farm can continue to do its good work in Milwaukee.

Consider giving generously.  We need you.

~Gretchen

DONATE NOW!

P.S. Wisconsin Foodie and Edible Milwaukee are offering a FREE subscription to anyone who donates to VGI.

ediblemke

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Calling All Future Food Leaders

2018 Food Leader Certificate Program Registration Now Open

The Food Leader Certificate Program is a unique and exciting intensive retreat program that trains up the next food leader. We are thrilled to have Erica Wolf join us again this year to share her vast knowledge of Community Organizing. We are also welcoming back Sean Laessig, Chief Mission Integration Officer from Cardinal Stritch University to inspire us to be Servant Leaders.

Delaney 2This unique experience includes three-weekend retreats that provide learning in the areas of Food system realities, team leadership, project management, connection through storytelling, gardening tips, and much more. Connect with fellow food leaders – plan your very own food system project – grow as a leader.

Hosted at the beautiful Wellspring Education Center and Organic Farm, located in West Bend, the vibrant setting offers the space to revitalize, reconnect, and inspire.

The 2018 Food Leader Certificate Program registration is now open. Come join this exciting and unique experience. The program is open to high school and adults alike.

For more information, click here

What are the past food leaders saying:

Grow Your Own Food, Abram Games, 1942, IWM PST 2893

The most valuable thing I learned in VGI’s Food Leader Certificate Program is that the support is there to be the change you want to see. The whole of us is more(stronger) than the sum of our parts. ~Colleen Patterson 

I absolutely loved connecting with like-minded, passionate individuals that inspired me to do better in my own life. As a new member of the Green Bay Area, I found a small community that welcomed me with open arms. ~Alex Smith

My favorite thing about the Food Leader program is the retreats and the new family you gain. After three retreat weekends together, I felt surrounded with love and support from my new community of food leader family members from all over the state. During the retreats, I felt energized by our shared passions and the progress each of us was making on our community projects. I know I’ve made some lifelong connections and sometimes you never know where those sparks will take you or how they will change your life. ~Mary Joy Hickey

Delaney 3Read other food leaders stories:

 Featured Food Leader- Bradley Seibel

Featured Food Leader- Delaney Hutchinson

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A Full Circle

During this year’s Victory Garden Initiative BLITZ, many garden stories touched our hearts. This particular story emboldens the importance of why we do what we do and reminds us of the power of people coming together, transcending all borders, to create a sovereign food system that directly serves the people in our community.

It began with a generous donor who sponsored the BLITZ gardens for refugee families in our community. A musician by profession, the donor said he was touched by the conversation with a refugee at a recent performance and he wanted to do something for the refugees in our community. Refugees face the challenges of having to completely readapt to their new host city, which includes where they will find their food from and how they will afford their food. What better solution than their own backyard and for free?

IMG_1725We then reached out to community partners Sheila Badwan and Kai Gardner Mishlove. Sheila advocates for and works with several refugee families, and connected us with families looking to grow their own food. Kai is co-founder of grassroots projects: Open Arms MKE and Team Refugee and has over 25 years of experience in social services working with vulnerable communities. She enjoys mobilizing community support to welcome refugee families in MKE. Over the last 3 years, Kai has assisted several refugee families with their acclimation in the US. She acts as a cultural mentor through her community volunteer work with various organizations including SEA Literacy MKE and the Aurora Walkers Point Community Clinic. She celebrates holidays with families, assists in their children’s education and assists with all the day to day necessary (and fun) activities that you would do with your family and close friends.

“Every activity and workshop that I’ve attended at Victory Garden Initiative has been awe-inspiring and confirmation of the positive aspects and potential of the community that exists in Milwaukee.  Victory Garden Initiative is definitely a Milwaukee gem.” -Kai Gardner-Mishlove

Through Kai, we were introduced to a family from the East African country of Eritrea among few other refugees. The 3 adult and 5 child family arrived in the United States in November 2016.

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Bun brewing with Kai (on right)

On a beautiful May afternoon in the late-Spring of 2017, our team of marvelous volunteers set out to install the gardens for the families who benefitted from this generous donation. They spent the day building garden beds, shoveling, moving dirt, pounding yard signs, and then capped it off by sipping freshly brewed “bun” made by the family.  Traditional coffee made from an elaborate ceremonial home roasting and brewing process. Kai is a big fan of Bun/Buna now.

The family takes pleasure in the garden for its aesthetic appeal and bountiful fresh harvests. Their garden favorites thus far are the variety of lettuces, tomatoes, and okra. Like many immigrants, the act of growing food connects these refugees to their home. It brings back many fond memories they made sharing meals with their family and friends that are left behind. A true sense of community can only be experienced when many agents come together to make it a better place. That is one of the many reasons why BLITZ has been a backbone of our mission.

The Great Milwaukee Victory Garden BLITZ is the NATION’S LARGEST GARDEN-BUILDING EVENT! Each year, over 300 Victory Garden Initiative volunteers install hundreds of raised bed gardens in backyards, front yards, schools, community centers, and places of worship – just about anywhere you can imagine! Gardens can be donated for to either build a garden for your backyard or gardens can be gifted to someone else’s backyard. So far, we’ve built over 4,000 gardens in the Milwaukee area since the program’s inception! To buy a BLITZ garden for a family in need, visit https://victorygardeninitiative.org/donate

DONATE NOW!

Special thanks to Kai-Gardner Mishlove, Kevin vieau and all the BLITZ volunteer for this story!

 

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The Energy-Vortex

Friends,

I traveled to Sedona, Arizona a couple years ago, and made it my personal quest to understand the energy vortexes that are claimed to be present there. I mosied around at the local rock shop where people were purchasing an array of sparkling crystals that they were planning to ‘charge’ at the vortexes.

“Can you tell me what kind of energy is charging the crystals?”, I asked.

sedona“Its energy from the earth’s force.” someone told me. 

“Where does the energy come from?”, I asked someone else.

“It’s the energy of all things.”, a young man told me.

“Why is the energy here?” I asked a 60-something lady.

“Some places have more energy than others, and this place seems to have more energy every time I come here. It’s healing.”

Ever since, I have wondered, if Sedona does indeed have some kind of alluring energetic qualities, that have in essence created the space. I did get a special feeling there, that I ponder even to this day.

Eight years ago, we were approached by Milwaukee Urban Gardens because the City of Milwaukee was hopeful that the 1.5-acre lot at 220 E. Concordia could be used as an urban agriculture site. When I walked onto this lot, it was a crisp day in the very early spring.  The sun was shining brightly on the entire lot and I was immediately enchanted. We imagined the entire lot lush with a harvestable forest, vines hanging with plump tomatoes, birds and butterflies fluttering about.  We imagined people gathering there to grow food together, building community and living a more sustainable, nutritious life.

From that time, a handful of people were compelled to transform this land from an abandoned tax foreclosed lot to the lush urban farm that it is today. And this lush farm, now called the Victory Garden Urban Farm, drew in more people, more activity, and seemingly more energy.

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Goose Island Brunch at the farm

Apparently, this piece of land has affected many others in the same way.  I now give 2 or more tours per week at the farm.  The neighbors come in to harvest fresh vegetables; students from area schools receive specialized, hands-on education programs about growing and eating good food; and our farmer sends produce to micro-local restaurants customers.

 

A couple years ago, the farm, drew a retired Belgian engineer, who brought with him dozens of edible perennials, and more fortitude than any 7 college interns advancing the farm even further.

Last year, someone planned a surprise marriage proposal at the farm.  Just last week, The Goose Island Brew Company held the most charming brunch at the farm. I watched nearly 100 people who had never been there before, look around, eyes wide, in awe of the oasis before them.  The Farm seems to be buzzing with more energy than ever.

HarambeeRecently, as I was perusing real estate websites, I noticed the obvious donut shape around The Farm, suggesting that there are no houses immediately surrounding that farm that are either for sale or foreclosed. Unusual in this area.  A sign perhaps, of this energy’s allure, bringing residents to live, work and play by the farm.  

This question still wiggles around in my mind, however – Did the people bring the earth’s energy to this site or did the earth’s energy bring the people?…. Or even more, is there a difference?

 

Come see us and get the vibe. I dunno, bring your crystals.  Maybe it’s really a thing. Can’t hurt to give it a try.

~Gretchen

 

Victory Garden Urban Farm

Victory Garden Urban Farm as it looks today!                                                             Photo Courtesy: Lance Massey

 

 

 

 

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A Path To The Future

Dear Friend,

There is a Buddhist quote that lives in my mind, and pops forth every once in awhile at just the right moments: “If you are facing the right direction, all you need to do is keep on walking.”

This is precisely how it feels at Victory Garden Initiative right now – that we have been facing the right direction – and it’s all up to us to keep on walking toward a community-based, sustainable, healthy, and socially just food system for all people in Milwaukee and beyond.

We walk by delivering high-quality education programs, city-wide events, and by transitioning unused urban land into edible landscapes that build community, produce healthy food, and foster microlocal economies.

AA stats (1)As we approach 2018, we are filled with excitement and anticipation for what lies ahead. Not only will we execute the 10th Annual Victory Garden BLITZ, during which we will surpass a total of 4,000 urban gardens built in the Milwaukee area, we will also usher in our 8th year of transforming an abandoned urban lot into a food-producing education farm of jaw-dropping beauty. During our summer Youth Education Program (YEP!), we will watch the children find their love for eating vegetables in just a few short months, forever changing the course of their lives. And as our Food Leader Certification Program sends our mission spiraling outward to people across the state of Wisconsin, I know that we are on the right path.

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Victory Garden Urban Farm

 

In the coming year, we will put a renewed focus on growing The Victory Garden Urban Farm. The agriculture sector in Wisconsin is the largest of all sectors, totaling 8 BILLION dollars worth of revenue, while our small-scale farmers are aging out of the industry, leaving an ever-widening gap of expertise. With your help, we will use The Farm as an opportunity to ensure that urban Milwaukeeans can conceive of farming as a rewarding and sustainable career.

Urban agriculture must be a consistent presence in the lives of urban dwellers if we are to walk toward the advancement of a food system that feeds all people healthy sustainably grown food and fosters OUR local economy, OUR people, and OUR ecosystem.

But we do not, and cannot do this work alone. We need each and every one of you to walk with us, putting your dollars and your time where your heart already lives. Every gift you give to the Victory Garden Initiative is a step in the right direction, and we are so grateful for your support. Please continue to walk with us by making your gift to VGI today.  

~Gretchen

DONATE NOW!

 

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What our program participants say

 

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Keep it simple — what’s in your meal?

The seed of introduction:

“The interesting thing I learned was that if you’re really concerned about your health, the best decisions for your health turn out to be the best decisions for the farm and the best decisions for the environment – and that there is no contradiction there.”

~Michael Pollan

 

Celebrated author Michael Pollan once said that if food came from a plant, eat it and if it was made in a plant, do not. Although humorous, this phrase sums up the current state of our food industry. Pollan’s advice actually has widespread implications and examines the very question: What is food? A strong argument could be made that even though processed foods may begin as whole food, it is altered in such as way that the end results does not even resemble food.

Advances in science have allowed the food industry to evolve – making food easier and cheaper to grow and with more desirable characteristics in terms of shelf life and freshness. These advances sometimes cost you as well. Consider the average cracker on the market today. It has an average of eight or more ingredients, several of which are additives for taste, color or shelf life. Additionally, the cracker is most likely made with

ingredientsrefined non-whole grains and will cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin followed by a rapid fall. This rise and fall may cause you to be hungry again soon and overall less satisfied. Is also may contribute to inflammation if foods such as the cracker are typical in your diet.

Finally, that cracker may be loaded with saturated fats, trans fats (hydrogenated oil) and a whopping amount of sodium. All of these put you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. Think about it, that’s just your cracker – what else are you eating throughout the day that has numerous ingredients, many of which you don’t have a clue even what they are?

~Excerpt from What is Food and Where is it Coming From; Menu for the Future, Page 66.

http://www.sustainabletable.org/873/eating-sustainably

Let the conversation germinate and grow:

Do you currently use labels to make food purchasing decisions? Is the labeling understandable? How might it be improved?

Think about your health. What might changing your diet do to improve it?

Do you ask questions at the store about your food’s origin? How can you find out more about where your food comes from?

Practical Exercise:

Find out more about food labels and what they mean at http://greenerchoices.org/labels/

For one week, list everything you eat. Notice how much fresh food you eat and how much prepared food you eat. Think about Michael Pollan’s statement – if food comes from a plant eat it, and if it comes from a plant, do not. What changes might you make and how would that affect your health?
Processed-vs-Unprocessed-Foods

Are you still gardening? If so, what are your planting? If not, are you thinking about gardening next year? What would you want to plant?

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Start Them Young!

By Roxanne Hanna

With the conclusion of the intern program mid-August, we have been hosting more field trips lately. Even though we are more limited in the amount of depth we can get into (because we only have one day together) I have enjoyed every field trip we’ve had so much. Many of the children have surprised me with their total enthusiasm and lack of fear with the bees. There have been times when we have given field trip groups an entire run-down of the bee hives, showing them the big-eyed appearance of the drones, the pollen sacks on the legs of the returning worker bees, and even passed around a fresh honeycomb to taste. Even when someone would get stung, which only happened twice, they were very calm and able to receive my lesson on using plantain as a poultice for the stings. To my own amazement, both children who used this method reported no pain and reduced swelling in less than a minute after applying!

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A glimpse of recent Field Trips at The Farm!

They also enjoy tasting fresh herbs that you can’t even find in a store, like the sweet anise hyssop, or the pungent nasturtium, or the crunchy succulent purslane. I can’t help but recall a farm field trip that I experienced in school while working with them. It always stands out as a clear and vivid memory, more so than most others I have of that time. Sometimes I wonder if that field trip may have impacted me in ways that I am unaware, and maybe it was those first tactile experiences that I accessed when I was drawn farming as my passion in adulthood. One thing I am reminded of each and every time we host children at the farm is that connection with soil, plants, and animals is so absolutely important for young people.

They bloom with the new tastes and smells and feels, they break down barriers that keep them out of the soil, and they get to experience the magic of a random butterfly landing on them, or a worm they can hold, or a caterpillar they found. There can’t be the too much hands-on experience of nature to cultivate a lifelong loving relationship with the wild. So let’s get them started young!

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Feed The World

The seed of introduction:

“Since our break with nature came with agriculture, it seems fitting that the healing of culture begins with agriculture, fitting that agriculture takes the lead.”

~Wes Jackson

Sooner or later the question comes up, whether it is between two friends sharing a pot of stew made from local grass fed beef and their garden harvest livestock farmers gathered on a pasture walk, neighbors working together to tend a flock of backyard chickens, or organic vegetable producers discussing yields at a conference.

“But can we feed the world this way?”

Feed The World

75 or 100 years ago, such a question would never have entered your dialogue. To ask a  local farmer or homesteader how his or her production methods were going to feed the world would have been absurd. The local producer’s job was to support the family, the community, and his/her bioregion – not the world.

Following World War II, with the onset of the “Green Revolution”, feeding the world became a national mantra.

The question remains: Can the local, sustainable food movement in the United States feed the world? The answer: No. Nor can the industrial agriculture paradigm. No one can feed the world. One country cannot do it, nor can any specific model of production. The earth must be allowed to reclaim its natural productivity. That’s why we need local and regional food systems, designed to work harmoniously with local ecosystems. While certain ecological lessons may apply, it would be absurd to think what works for us in upstate New York for producing food is going to necessarily work in Africa. There is no such thing as a universally applicable production practice nor a universally acceptable diet.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about global starvation. But if enabling everybody to have access to good nutritious food is really our goal, we need to look deeper than crop yields and feed conversion ratios. In addition to the complicated politics involved, we need to examine our individual actions?

How are your daily habits impacting humanity’s access to a nutritious food supply? Our daily sustenance should not require that other people in the world go without nourishment. Our daily sustenance should not demand excessive fossil fuels for growing, processing and transporting the food to our tables. Beyond that, our consumption habits ideally should not be requiring people in foreign lands to destroy their own access to clean water and fertile soil for the sake of dyeing our clothing, building our electronics, or making our children’s toys.

Untitled design (3)‘Feed the world’ starts with individual accountability. It needs to be considered in every home, in every business. But the question must be reframed. Rather than asking farmers if the methods they use can feed the world, we need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Do my choices help enable the world to feed itself?” If the answer is no, then it is time to make different choices.”

~Excerpt from Instead of Trying to Feed the World, Let’s Help It feed Itself by Shannon Hayes; Menu for the Future, Page 43.

Let the conversation germinate and grow:

  • What choices do you make that impact the ability for the world to feed itself?
  • What can you do today that will enable the world to feed itself?

Practical Exercise:

  • Find out what kind of farm your food comes from: agribusiness, family farm, industrial organic, etc.
  • Find out where your food is sourced – how far did it travel.
  • Create a team and join the Northwest Earth Institute’s 2017 EcoChallenge

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An evening with Patricia Holland

Patricia Holland, an avid gardener and Riverwest resident, is renting a community garden bed at the Victory Garden Urban Farm this season. We sat down with her at the Victory Garden Urban Farm to learn more about why she participates in the community garden here. Her passion for growing food started when she was a little girl growing up in Mississippi. She helped her mother in the garden then and fondly remembers her trips to the garden to get some Okra. “When I was a little girl, my mom sent me out to get okra for breakfast. The plant was taller than I was, this tall (raising her hand above her waist), unlike the tiny. I was like I gotta get that last piece of okra. I told my mother that I broke the stalk of okra at the top of it but it was still blooming. I broke the stalk but I got the okra. I got what she wanted. So from then on I started gardening.”, Patricia recited the story with a smile on her face and the golden glow of the setting sun.

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Patricia Holland with her vegetables at Victory Garden Urban Farm

 

For Patricia, the ‘why’ of growing food is simple — “I just love gardening to feed people. There are so many hungry people out here that don’t need to be hungry” — and feed hungry people she does. Patricia is a constant face and leader at the Riverwest Food Pantry plot at the Farm, where all the produce grown there is donated to the Pantry. Just this season they have distributed hundreds of pounds of produce from the plot. In addition to working in the garden, she also helps with food demonstrations at the pantry.

IMG_9669Community gardens grow more than just food, according to Patricia. It’s a place to build community and get to know your neighbors. Earlier in the season, she and several other community gardeners hosted a volunteer day at the Farm with a meal after. “We all got along and cooked out here. We wanted to bring the neighborhood in. You know, and I think it was awesome.” The community gardeners also take care of each other. “We come over here and we mow around everybody’s plots whether they here or not… And that’s what we’re for. Help each other. We all can get along, just get along.” The garden is also a space for families. They can “come in and bring their kids and then, you know just explore this beautiful land out here. It would be so good for the community” because “we need more people to get involved with this. We need more people to garden or teach their kids how to garden. It’s fundamental.”

Patricia’s passion is clear as she speaks of growing food and building community. “We need to eat to live… What we grow, we eat.” Patricia brings many helping hands and smiling faces to the Victory Garden Urban Farm and we are thankful to her for all that she does.

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Letter from the Director: Winter Is Coming

No, I’m not making a Game of Thrones reference, though I did think it might get your attention.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I was reminded how many people move towards happiness during the summer season. “It’s about this time of year that I finally feel like myself again. And, then, I look ahead and I know winter is coming again and I start bracing myself for it.” my friend said in regard to her potential decision to leave the state of Wisconsin for warmer weather.

Right now in the Midwest, everything is as lush, ripe, juicy, sexy, and beautiful as it’s going to be this year.  We, in return, soak it up with outdoor drinks, hikes, and swim-time activities. Yet, we all know, that in just a couple months winter will creep up slowly; first a chilly few evenings, then the dramatic color change of fall, and then the nighttime frosts that turn into frozen landscapes and dull, dark, thudding days and nights. We will all slug through it, like we did last year, some of us faring better than others.

In a favorite song, singer/song writer Dar Williams describes her own depression, “It feels like a winter machine that you go through and then, you catch your breath and winter starts again, and everyone else is spring bound.” The idea of a ‘winter machine’ is a rich metaphor for what it feels like to have your moods so controlled by outside forces of winter, spring, summer, fall – our disconnect from the natural world, and complete reliance on the built environment giving us the closed up, dull thud of winter.

But we in the midwest are earthy and hardy. We are one generation from farming.  Our rich soils produce food that feed the world. Having outdoor drinks, and getting your swim on, may not be enough to firmly ground us, and help us prepare for the winter machine. We cannot escape our evolution as earth lovers and soil tenders by attending outdoor festivals and loving margaritas. We, in fact, still need our mother earth and our mother earth still needs us at a deeper level.

In reviewing the research, we found that, in 2010, nearly 80,000 Milwaukee residents reported that they had been diagnosed with depression and nationally, over 42 million people were diagnosed in 2013 – this is 17% of the total U.S. population¹.  These numbers demonstrate a national crisis that is reflected locally, and all but ignored from the perspective of prevention.

We also know that the distribution of mental illness across the population is not equitable.  Individuals living in poverty, people who are considered a racial or ethnic minority, and veterans all have higher self-reported rates of poor mental health and higher clinical diagnosis of mental illness.²

It is no surprise to us at Victory Garden Initiative, that the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, “What Works for Health” shows that using a multi stakeholder approach of pairing community building activities such as “gardening, group exercises and community art projects along with housing development, leadership training and supports for low income and public housing residents” is more effective at treating trauma and mental illness than any one of these programs can be on their own.³  

Gardening has been shown to be effective at relieving acute stress, lowering the risk of heart disease, increasing brain health and immunity, improving productivity and restoring concentration.⁴ Community gardening and individual gardening has also been shown to improve anxiety and depression, decrease social stigma surrounding mental illness and increase access to care for populations that are typically underserved.

A Penn State professor wrote a compelling letter calling for more rigorous research after experiencing success from a 2013 gardening project.  He wrote, “From our experience planning a community garden on the campus of the Pennsylvania State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, we learned that gardens are perceived as a valuable resource for persons affected by mental illnesses, particularly those whose diagnoses carry significant social stigma.”⁵  

A Utah State Ph.D student found that professionals who work with veterans believe that the complexity of PTSD requires treatment that involves an interdisciplinary approach and that Veterans Affairs Hospitals with horticulture therapy incorporated into their patient programs show a reduction in the duration of inpatient stays.⁶  A successful veterans garden in Brentwood, Calif., saw similar results and reported shorter inpatient stays, faster progress of participants to “participate more fully in the world” and increased rates of employment among those who were active in the gardening program.⁷  

Seed StartingMaking that plan the garden in the late winter, getting outside in the early spring, staying outside through the summer, then the fall, bringing that food in for winter consumption is the antidote to the winter machine.  Helping something grow, under your care, from soil, to seed, to plate, to soil again, is a way to be in flow with the cycles of life, rather than succumbing to the machine. We lead, tend, love, foster, care for, the earth and our health, rather than summer partying for three months than hiding until we can enjoy Summerfest again. We also eat. We eat the nourishment that we have created with our own two hands. And, we touch.  We touch the very biology from whence we were created. We eat the earth, directly.  And, we often do it in the company of others.

There is no other activity that can give us a more in-depth, complex, connection to our own carnal and spiritual duality, at once.

I appreciate the subtle rebellion of this quote from renowned author and cultural seer, Margaret Atwood. She notes, “Gardening is not a rational act. What matters is the immersion of the hands in the earth, that ancient ceremony of which the Pope kissing the tarmac is merely a pallid vestigial remnant.” Even our patriarchal, other-worldly religions, have not totally lost track of the ancient wisdom of touching the earth.

Recently, the Kubly Foundation has also become aware of the mounting evidence showing that gardening does, in fact, heal the soul. Victory Garden Initiative has been awarded a substantial gift to create materials that will increase public awareness of the healing powers of gardening, specifically as it relates to mental health. We couldn’t be more thrilled to offer this information to the general public. If your place of employment, leisure, friendly nonprofit organization or other institution would like to dispense materials to help more people understand the mental health benefits of gardening, please let us know.  We are in the process of developing these materials currently.

Beyond dispensing materials, consider how gardening might be implemented into your life and those around you. Maybe because you or someone in your family is depressed, or suffering from mental illness, but maybe even more so that you prevent suffering.

Though we still have a good month left before summer concludes, you better believe it that winter is coming. Will it be a machine or a time to slow down and resonate deeply with the natural rhythm of our humanity?

~Gretchen Mead

(Special thanks to Kelly Moore Brands for her excellent research on this topic)

Gretchen’s tips to keep your summer-fresh soul glow during the rest of the seasons:

1)  Extend your gardening season as long as you are able. Many of us understand the light and refreshing feeling of getting your tomato plants in May and placing them directly into the soil. But gardening stops and starts long before it is time to get those tomato plants from Stein’s.

2)  Take off your shoes. Don’t let your hands be the only conduit to the soil. Your feet can also absorb the mysterious bacteria that has been increasingly shown to be medicinal.

3) Compost everything that can be composted as if it truly matters that his valuable material once again becomes earth and food.

4) Harvest something fresh every day. This routine is very valuable in the same way as daily exercise, and brushing our teeth is. Integrate it into your life.

5) Order a few seed catalogs and read through them in January. Begin the dreaming and planning as early as possible.

6) Start your own seeds: Beginning with onions indoors in February and throughout the spring, as directed on the seed package. Yes, it’s convenient to plant something that someone else fostered, but build your capacities for knowing those seeds and how to care for them, from start to finish.

7) Plant edible perennials. Rhubarb, raspberries, and fruit trees will add so much joy to your gardening joy.  They return every year with such ease and in early spring.

8) Forage the earliest wild, edible greens at your local park or forest.  Not only is this fun and thought-provoking, this will start your spring diet off in just the right direction, filled with rich minerals that are likely depleted from our typical winter diets.

Reference list:

¹ Policymap, 2016

² MHA, 2016; Torres & Vallejo, 2015)(APA, 2016

³ County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, 2016

⁴ Van Den Berg & Custers, 2011; Eliades, 2013; Maller et al., 2005

⁵ George, D., 2013

⁶ Brock, 2011

⁷ Gardening Matters, 2012

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