Thursday, May 10, 2012

Magic beans and horticultural therapy for all ages

I have been reflecting on a great piece called Magic Beans on  Rebecca Altman tells a story about her household with a toddler in melt-down at dinner time.  She shares that it all turns around with a trip to the garden to pick some pole beans that her son had planted with his grandfather.

She marvels at how the simple act of harvesting, preparing and eating beans fresh from the garden made things "all better."  The article is loaded with links to books and articles touting the benefits of involving young people, urban and rural alike, in the production of food.  The connection between improving their emotional well-being, encouraging healthy food choices, and developing knowledge about food and how it is produced equals huge dividends for the overall health of our nation.

I am really interested in helping people know more about food and in helping people who are isolated from rural America - animals, plants, and open spaces - to have access to this environment.  There continues to be a huge gap between those who produce our food and those who only consume our food.  This gap leads to misunderstandings and false information that feeds an "us against them" perspective.  In reality, we all want a safe, healthy and abundant food supply.

Altman's article hit home for me and my upbringing.  My parents have always been huge gardeners and my mom is an expert at preserving food through canning.  Many of my childhood memories involve working together around plants and animals, cooking and home keeping, and outdoor activities.  While reading the article, I found myself feeling thankful for an upbringing that involved being engaged in growing our own food from my earliest days.  There is a fabulous picture of me in a diaper, just at the age where I learned to walk, covered in dirt, and standing atop a huge pile of potatoes.  I couldn't look happier.

This is the beginning of garden season when the seeds we have planted are starting to produce delicious radishes, arugula, and leaf lettuce.  We are about a month away from tomatoes and I can't wait!  My most peaceful moments are when my husband and I are working together in the garden or planting flowers (like we did tonight after work).  Pulling weeds and getting my hands dirty is the best therapy after a long day.

This connection to the earth, our food, and my upbringing draws me back to my family - my roots.  I am so thankful for them and the foundation they gave me.

Photo from a farmer's market in Chicago in 2010.

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