Updated: Nov 23, 2022
Gardening can be a fun hard-work-pays-off type of hobby, not to mention it is often necessary. There is a sense of pride and accomplishment when something flowers or fruits. One can take ownership and revel in the progress that they make.
Of course, gardening as a hobby has many benefits like enjoying the sunshine and moving your body, but how can it impact your mental health? What about your community and environment? We’re taking a deeper look at the benefits of gardening for the self and the community.
In order to supply supermarkets with consistently high yields, conventional farming requires produce to be picked very early, sooner than it is ready. Additionally, research shows that monocropping as an agricultural practice can strip an area of its biodiversity; the soil’s balance of nutrients is depleted, and the food that is grown there also suffers. These factors, along with days or weeks of transportation, causes supermarket produce to fall short of what a home garden can offer.
The food that we grow in our own gardens, or the food someone at a farmers' market grew, can be more nutritious compared to the produce at a supermarket. With composting, natural fertilizing, and avoiding pesticides and herbicides, home gardeners can create a space where they have access to nutritionally dense fruits and vegetables.
Our environment has a huge impact on our lives: the way we think, feel and regulate stress and emotions can depend on what we interact with. Ecotherapy acknowledges the connection between psyche and environment. It includes a variety of practices that offers people an opportunity to connect in a way that establishes or improves a relationship with nature.
Though there are several different practices that fall under the term ecotherapy, results from many studies have shown that practicing gardening and plant care can reduce anxiety and boost overall moods in people struggling with various circumstances. Being in nature also often reduces stress levels and soothes the nervous system. The quiet sights and sounds of digging soil and picking leaves, hearing birds and enjoying the sun are bound to inspire calmness.
Conventional agriculture is the main food system in the U.S. and keeps people alienated from how and where food is cultivated. Knowledge of how food is produced from seed to sprout to table equips people with the understanding of how and when food can be grown, visualize where their meal came from, and create some independence from conventional agriculture.
The intersectional environmentalist defines food sovereignty as “a food system where the people who produce the food are also in charge of the process.” The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) sets an example for communities seeking self-reliance with food. They began agricultural projects, using small urban gardens, beekeeping and rainwater retention to promote people’s consciousness and independence surrounding the food system. This kind of impact benefits individuals, families and communities by creating food sovereignty and food security that was lacking or strained due to conventional agriculture.
Gardening can easily be a solo project, but it is also a great place to create community. The beauty of caring for plants and produce is that it’s not a competitive hobby. Working together with other people, asking for help, and learning from each other are just a few of the positive aspects of community gardening. Like the DBCFSN, many people have established urban agricultural projects to help their community by providing access to healthy foods and education.
Whether you are just starting out a garden or have been growing food for years, farmers' markets are a great way to foster connection in your community with people who are passionate about the same things. Websites like this one can help you find local farmers' markets in your area, and they give easily navigable and exciting access to the happenings in your community.
Connecting with nature is necessary for everyone, but without access to trails or parks, it might feel impossible. Gardening is an accessible way to connect. It invites you to take care of your physical and mental health and participate in your community or practice plant care on your own.
If this convinced you to start a garden of your own, check out our beginner’s guide to gardening to give you some tips and tricks when first starting out.
By Melanie Coffman