For our last day of class, we all assembled at a community garden in Medford to reflect on our experiences over the course of the semester and offer some extra hands to turn over soil and plant potatoes. It was Earth Day and, coincidentally, my birthday. And, even better, the day before my thesis was due. I was stressed, sleep-deprived, and overwhelmed – not exactly looking forward to spending two hours (two hours I could have spent writing, my cranky self complained) up to my elbows in dirt.
Contrary to my pessimistic expectations, those two hours were enjoyable, relaxing, and rejuvenating. I could not have used my pre-deadline time better that day. Throughout our class, we touched on the healing qualities of the land and agricultural work – watering a plant, gardening, farming, anything that gets you out of a confined mental or physical space and into nature. Burying ugly little potato stubs one foot apart in the dirt that day was therapeutic. Simply going through the motions and noticing the sensory experiences of planting (whether I was actually any help or not) cleared my mind and relieved my stress. Community gardens are incredibly important, especially in underprivileged neighborhoods and areas labeled food deserts, not only for the food they produce and nutrition and education they provide to participating families and children. They are also important for the piece of mind they afford growers, a little patch of green to escape to in the midst of stressful situations.
Community gardens are popping up around the country in urban areas and can really impact the lives and well-being of the people who take part in them. For a map of community gardens across the nation and ways to get involved, check out this website. You can type in your zip code to find gardens in your area and get started! New food activists are policy-makers as well as farmers, organizers as well as gardeners. No act is too small.