Gardening good for the mind, soul; growing veggies a form of therapy

August 4, 2020

It’s no myth: gardening not only yields fresh food and flowers, it also feeds the mind and soul.

People’s Place II Clinical Director Dr. Joseph Zingaro explains why: “Gardening is one of the few activities that rewards all five senses, even hearing. Bite into a crisp carrot, for example, and you can hear the crunch.”

The Food Bank of Delaware launched a new – and somewhat experimental program – this growing season.  In the spring, the Food Bank’s Community Farm Manager Kyle provided starter plants to partner agencies in New Castle and Kent counties as an experiment, not only to track yields, but also to offer positive experiences.

Agencies could choose how they used the plants – where they were planted, how they were harvested, etc. He’s keeping data to monitor results.

Some of our partner agencies noticed that in addition to growing fresh vegetables and herbs, the people they served also enjoyed gardening itself. For example, Sojourners’ Place Executive Director Robyn Beck-Gott reported, “The residents tend to the garden and for many, this is therapeutic for them.”

That’s no surprise to Dr. Zingaro. “Gardening renews all the senses. When you have times in your life when things seem out of control, gardening is compensatory. You feel more in control. In times like we are having now, people are anxious and overwhelmed; their senses are bombarded. Gardening is like taking a multivitamin for the soul,” he said.

Gardening, though, is not the only activity that can be calming. Some people might find another healthy, healing outlet. “It’s personal,” he added. “I like playing golf, but I like playing alone. For me, it creates a balance. It reaches all parts of the brain and creates a renewal.”

Dr. Zingaro noted that having partner agencies grow produce that benefits those who need it also offers yet another level of satisfaction. “The role of altruism. Helping others creates a feeling of happiness. People are paying it forward, and that is a great concept,” he said.

Gardening to benefit the community, or a greater good, is nothing new though. Dr. Zingaro referenced the Victory Garden – or food gardens to benefit the national cause – concept of World Wars I and II. “We’re always re-inventing the wheel. Good things last, and the idea still works for people,” he said.

“Gardening creates an internal balance. We – humans – are part of the ecosystem: plants, animals, minerals. There’s wisdom in each of those parts. Very little in life yields instant results, and gardening is a constant reminder of bigger truths in life. Gardening allows our brain to see that. It teaches us lessons we need to learn. The ecosystem has wisdom to teach us, if we listen. If we pay attention, even negative things are teaching us,” he said.

Visit www.fbd.org to learn more about Food Bank of Delaware programs, including the Food Bank’s farm stand located in Newark and open from 1-6 p.m. Thursdays and Friday.

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