As you may already know if you have been a reader of my blog for very long, I love gardening. After my surgery in 2012 that left me disabled, I discovered that I would not be able to garden in the way that I always had. It took some time for me to find a new way to make a garden. The results of my efforts are not that great in the way of actual food produced, but the enjoyment I get out of the process is enormous. I love to see the plants growing. I love to see the first flowers blooming, and then the first little beans or tomatoes or eggplants emerging from the blossoms. I might only get one or two pots of beans, or two or three tomatoes all season long, but the little garden I made provides me with the opportunity to get my hands dirty; with a reason to get outside in the fresh air and sunshine; and a feeling of satisfaction that I was able to do it.
Learning to grow your own food comes with a host of benefits. The benefits are so good that it’s being recommended as an activity for veterans to engage in, especially if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or combat-related stress. The more people learn about the good that can result, the more they may be staking off a plot in the yard to get planting.
“Anyone who has tried their hand at gardening has felt the difference that it can make in their life,” explains Julia Falke, co-founder of the Boulder Crest Retreat. “We believe in getting veterans into gardening and it is why we built the Wallis Annenberg Heroes Garden, the nation’s second handicapped-accessible walled garden. It provides combat veterans and their families with the chance to engage in a calming and peaceful activity, and focuses them on the subject of healthy eating and nutrition. It’s one small part of what we do, but it makes a significant difference.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that gardening can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, among other benefits. Some of the other many benefits of growing your own food include:
Gardening is Therapeutic.
According to the American Horticulture Therapy Association (AHTA), horticulture is a time-proven practice and the benefits have been documented since ancient times. They report that during the 1940s and 1950s, it was used in rehabilitative care of hospitalized war veterans, and today it is accepted as a beneficial and effective therapeutic modality.
Gardening is Healthy.
There is a good chance that when one grows their own food they will end up consuming at least some of it. This is a good way to get healthier foods into the diet, specifically more fruits and vegetables. When I grow my own food, I know there were no harmful chemicals used on the vegetables I eat.
Gardening is Social.
Growing your own food can be a social activity, especially if you choose to get involved in a gardening group or community garden. Many people are starting community gardens around the country, where they work together for a common purpose. While the food grown may be consumed by those growing it, some is also often given away to local charities, giving those doing the gardening an added benefit.
Gardening for me gets me out of the house. I go to garden supply stores several times during the season, and talk to the people there, getting advice on the best plants, and best products to use in my garden. The garden is a topic of conversation when delivery people stop at my house. If I happen to have extra veggies, I can give them to my neighbors, which provides another social interaction.
Gardening provides Physical and Mental Benefits.
Engaging in gardening can help bring about mental clarity and reduce stress. In addition to it being a mind-clearing activity, it’s also a form of physical exercise, helping to keep people active and healthy. I know gardening has been good for my mental health. Being able to do something I thought I would never be able to do again has really brightened my life.
Gardening can Reduce Pain.
The AHTA reports that some of the additional benefits that people get from growing their own food include that it can help reduce physical pain, and help with rehabilitation and recovery from surgery or other medical interventions.
Boulder Crest Retreat
Summer is a time to get out into the garden and nature, as well as reconnect with those around us. The Wallis Annenberg Heroes Garden was built in 2014 and designed by Donna Hackman, in association with Lisa Catlett.
“For me, this special garden was love at first sight, and I am compelled to try and make every year even more beautiful than the last season,” Donna Hackman explains. “It has been my honor to design and help tend to this garden, and our combat veterans and their families deserve the very best nature has to offer.”
Boulder Crest Retreat is presently building out its horticulture and culinary activities, that will serve the many combat veterans and their families that stay at the facility. The near future result will be a complete veteran ‘farm-to-table’ program adapted for every season. Ongoing support over the past two years, from organizations such as The Burpee Foundation, The Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club and Middleburg Garden Club, and countless community volunteer hours are helping to make this vision a reality.
Boulder Crest Retreat is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that is funded entirely by private donations by individuals and organizations from around the country. For more information about the retreat, please go to www.bouldercrestretreat.org
ABOUT BOULDER CREST RETREAT
Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness is a rural sanctuary that provides free accommodations, recreational and therapeutic activities and programs to help our nation’s military and veteran personnel and their families recover and reconnect during their long journey of healing from physical and invisible wounds of war. The 37-acre retreat is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Bluemont, Virginia, just 50 miles west of Washington, D.C. The Retreat is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is entirely funded through private donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information about Boulder Crest Retreat, please visit www.bouldercrestretreat.