Why Garden? Let Me Count the Ways!

By on April 8th, 2011 Categories: The Breast Cancer Journey

Two “square-foot gardens” got started this afternoon for my Cancer Victory Gardens. They are 4′ by 8′ by 10″ high and will be on our back deck where we get the most sun for the most hours of the day. Being on the deck, the soil needs to be protected from the chemically treated lumber used for the deck, so they actually have an untreated plywood “bottom.”

What exactly is a Cancer Victory Garden? It is my personal fruit and vegetable gardens that I will fill with organically grown food to both nourish my body (and help keep me cancer-free) and nourish my soul as I enjoy the connection with the circle of life by having my hands in the soil and my face in the sun and rain. My husband and I have a perennial plot in Ann Arbor, MI with Project Grow’s community gardens, and this year are taking over the few sunny spots of much more of our yard and deck than we have used in the past.

I love the play on words that ‘cancer victory garden’ creates, a dual effort at helping myself with the self-sufficiency of providing my own healthy food and how both the food and the gardening are keeping me both healthy and happy!

Here are some other reasons I love gardening!

• Health benefits (sunshine – vitamin D, increased serotonin)
• Nutrition (safe, healthy food, increased consumption of fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables)
• Physical activity (increased aerobic capacity, muscle strength, flexibility, and bone density)
• Environmental stewardship
• Learning opportunities for adults and children
• Participate in research (www.growinghope.net)
• Multiple-sensory experience
• Reduced food costs, increased food access and security
• Enjoy the taste of summer all year long from your own preserved food
• Enjoy dreaming about spring while planning your garden during winter’s dark days
• Family & community-building
• Spiritual experience
• Psychological benefits – relaxation and “stress-buster” and solace
• Create and appreciate beauty
• Make money!
• The joy from sharing! (Food Gatherers, Plant-a-Row)
• Planning & creativity (use both right and left side of brain)
• Lasting memories
• Experience joy of nurturing, patience, slowing down
• A sense of accomplishment (improved self-esteem)
• Watching and listening to the birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators
• “Gardening is a labor of love. A treadmill is just labor.” (a quote I found on the internet)
• “Cultivate your life – you are what you grow – inch by inch, row by row” (the “tag line” from my Diana Dyer blog)

My effort with my gardens and this blog is small and personal. However, I am inspired by the words and efforts of friends, colleagues, and other authors who have much bigger dreams and goals than I do:

• Joan Dye Gussow’s classic book This Urban Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader (receiving a supportive email note from Joan, as a kindred spirit, after she read an article I wrote in a professional newsletter is one of my most treasured memories)

• The book The Earth Knows My Name by Patricia Klindienst, is a book I expected to “breeze through” but instead read twice, word by word, cried buckets with its example after example of the beauty about the human spirit overcoming obstacles that make my own seem small, and actually found some 3×5 note cards to take notes! The most memorable line I wrote down from this book is by Masanobu Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution, who said: “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” (Addendum: I actually read this book three times, reading it aloud to my husband on my third read. I think I need to put this book on my ‘wish list’!)

• Many of my dietitian friends who are members of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. This quote by Angie Tagtow, MS, RD, Food & Society Fellow from Iowa, Environmental Nutrition Solutions, is particularly inspirational: “Healthy soil grows healthy food and healthy food nourishes healthy people who create healthy communities.”

Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, MI is dedicated to helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access. ~~Amanda Edmonds, Founder and Growing Hope’s Executive Director. My dietitian book club makes a monthly donation to Growing Hope so that healthy snacks can be purchased for their after school programs.

I feel a deep connection with these visions and hope I can be an advocate and an ambassador for their goals plus in some way help people who have had a cancer diagnosis, too. Although my individual efforts are small, I hope they reap a harvest that is beyond measure, words, and my knowing.

Finding Gardening Space

Want to garden but have no space of your own? Want to move beyond just the pots or hanging plants on your balcony (or “stealth” gardening within the landscaping around your apartment complex – hee, hee – yes I know someone who has done that!)? Here’s a new free match-making website to help you find that special space where you can garden on someone-else’s land!

SharedEarth connects land owners with gardeners and farmers.

Austin – SharedEarth (www.sharedearth.com) launches as the world celebrates Earth Day.

SharedEarth.com is a free match-making website that connects land owners with gardeners and farmers.   Land owners share their land with someone they trust and get free fruits, vegetables and flowers.  Gardeners and farmers get free access to land and the opportunity to grow what they love.  The produce is shared between the two parties as they see fit.  The result is a more efficient use of land and a greener planet.

“Community gardens exist in every major city in the United States, yet virtually all have waiting lists.  With over 25 million square feet of shared space on the system, SharedEarth.com has created an alternative with the largest community of private land owners and gardeners on the planet.  We are making more efficient use of land and a greener planet, one garden at a time,” said SharedEarth.com Chairman and Founder, Adam Dell.

Much like online dating sites, SharedEarth.com users create their own profile and find matches based on criteria such as location, years of gardening experience and the type of produce to be grown.  Gardeners and farmers find the service useful because they are able to gain free access to land.  Land owners find the service useful because they often lack the time, experience or commitment needed to cultivate a productive garden on their property.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the best-selling books The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, had this to say about Shared Earth: “Whoa! What a grand idea.”

Shared Earth was born out of Dell’s own experience looking for help growing a garden on his property.  He turned to the Internet to find a qualified match.  And now he reaps the rewards of this partnership through the fruits and vegetables he eats every day.  SharedEarth.com was established as a not for profit sustainable corporation to help facilitate this process for others.

Please visit www.sharedearth.com for more information and to register for FREE today.

Gosh, what an opportunity! Good luck and have fun finding gardening space for your own special garden. Let me know if do this and how it works out for you – keep us updated! Local foods and new friends for sure. Life doesn’t get much better than that. 🙂

Photo credit: Diana Dyer.

This post is borrowed with permission from Diana’s blogs Cancer Victory GardensTM and Diana Dyer.

Diana is a wife, mom, organic farmer, Registered Dietitian, and author of the book A Dietitian's Cancer Story. In between all that and more, she is a multiple-time cancer survivor. Diana's website, CancerRD.com, focuses on nutrition information for cancer survivors. She began her blog, DianaDyer.com, to share a wider scope of thoughts about life as a cancer survivor, food and nutrition, gardening, recipes, our environment, and the urgent need for developing food systems that promote health not disease, ecological sustainability, and social justice. Photo credit: Dick Dyer


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