Back to our roots: Benefits of gardening span from sustainability to spirituality

By Allie Taiber

With processed food and nightly TV dinners have becoming  even more of a regular feature around the globe, many of these communities adopting diets of convenience are blind as to where their food comes from, what’s in it and what it does to the environment. There has been a loss of connection between consumers and producers. It’s time people look into the art of gardening to create relationships, sustainable food and a more well-rounded agriculture community.

Here in Cedar Falls, there are many local gardeners who swear by the practice being extremely healthy, therapeutic and beneficial to the environment. Cedar Falls citizen Jon Taiber has been quite infatuated with growing and consuming his food ever since the huge “buy fresh buy local movement.”

“I always strive to be a healthy consumer. There are many reasons why gardening is important. It really comes back to that connection with the food source. It’s something very important. We put it in our body,” Taiber said.

Local food is often, if not always, better food. Produce harvested from your backyard, local community gardens or farmers markets can be fresher, more nutritious and better tasting than produce that is often picked before it is ripe and shipped to the grocery store.

“In a world where our agriculture has really become industrialized, I think we’ve lost touch with where our food comes from, how food is composed and the nutrients. I think people today may think food just comes out of a box. And in fact it has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is usually the ground,” Taiber said.

The massive infrastructure associated with agriculture in Iowa is overwhelming. It’s time people take a step back to enjoy the simple art of watching a seed grow into something that can be consumed, sustained and enjoyed by the things around them.

Recognizing the benefit to diets and budgets, people often overlook how gardening contributes to environmental conservation. By cutting the commodity chain short, gardens help us conserve resources used in transportation and reduce the packaging waste that ends up in the landfill.

“I think a lot of times the massive business of industrialized agriculture values profits over sustainability. Sustainability is defined as more than just profits. Sustainability means reinvesting in the land and culture for better future health,” Taiber said, and that’s exactly what the people need to focus on.

Aside from the many environmental benefits, there are numerous personal and community benefits planted within gardening. Susan Considine, CFHS science teacher and sponsor of the “Greenhouse Gang,” a gardening club that meets every power hour, recognizes the wonderful benefits of gardening as it has been passed on through the generations of her family.

“I share my passion of gardening with my kids, and it’s something that I got from my grandma, so it’s just one of those things, as far as sharing that tradition of being able to grow your own food and be responsible for your nutrition is something more people should be involved with.”

The presence of gardens improves interactions amongst humans. Working in a community garden with others fosters a sense of ownership, personal agency and stewardship which in turn increases interest in social activism and other forms of community improvement.

“Many times people value quantity over quality, but it’s really about bringing the communities together to produce something special,” Taiber said.

Although many are very removed from the rural agronomy. We’re around it everyday. Every time you hop into a car or spend time in the country, we’re  a part of it.

“I absolutely find it spiritual,” Taiber said. “When I deal with work all day, it’s a much different activity than running a spreadsheet. I think it’s a very healthy activity to get outside on a regular basis, get your hands dirty and be outside. It’s very therapeutic to work in the soil. It’s much like exercising, reading or meditating.”

Gardening gives people the satisfaction of self sufficiency and success. “Seeing something go from seed to final product is extremely satisfying no matter what you decide to do with it. Many times I just go out there and eat it right off the vine. There’s a freshness, a crispness, in knowing exactly where it comes from,” Taiber said.

And Considine couldn’t agree more. “You do get a lot of satisfaction from growing your own food, and it’s also something that’s extremely therapeutic. I really want to share those two things with more kids at school. Something you can do on your own, really be a part of and invested in is always great.”

It’s never too late or too early to start contributing to your own yard our local community garden.

“Start very very small. Experience some of the outlets we have here to look into things. Start going to the farmers’ market. Get to know the local products that can be produced here in Iowa. You don’t have to have a big area. You don’t have to make it complicated. Make some space, purchase a few seeds to your liking and start from there,” Taiber said.

There are many outlets available to start gardening. Buy a little pot, buy a seed, attend the farmers market, join the Greenhouse Gang or ask your fellow gardeners. People should come together and start building and growing the sustainable communities Cedar Falls was founded on.

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