Tuesday, March 31, 2009

GIY gardening makes for good nutrition and fun

Most of us have a general idea of what the term organic means. We’ve seen the labeling on grocery store products and know that it is “a good thing.” But, beyond knowing that we want to be healthy and feel good, what do we want from our organics?

This question was the focus of a community wellness workshop about organic gardening and standards attended by about 30 people at the Australasian College of Health Sciences in Portland, Oregon, March 21. During the three-hour, free community workshop, Master Gardener and Senior Vice President Erika Yigzaw, repeatedly asked the audience, “Why organic?” Participants shared some of the expected, such as: to protect the environment, to reduce dependence on GMO (genetically modified organism) crops, to save money.

But, as Yigzaw pointed out, there is a bit of unexpected practicality too. Since the end of WWII and the use of victory gardens, subsequent generations have become more and more removed from the garden. This growing dependence on outside food suppliers has also created a gap in education. If we no longer know where our food comes from, we can no longer make informed decisions about health and nutrition. A solution, Yigzaw emphasized, is going organic, gardening within your means. Meaning, you don’t have to go large scale to grow your own; rather, you only need a plot large enough to grow what you can reasonably maintain and eat. (For example, with the help of seedling heat mats, apartment dwellers can start container gardens on their kitchen tables.)

Further, GIY gardening (grow-it-yourself gardening) is an important community-building activity, which teaches children about self-reliance and nutrition. As seen on the news show 60 Minutes and the March 20 New York Times article, “Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House,” Michelle Obama is making nutrition a top priority.

Evidence of her commitment to community education, Mrs. Obama publically broke ground for an organic garden on White House property, which, according to the Times, will educate children about healthy, locally grown foods “at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.”

Like Mrs. Obama, this is an effort we can easily make in our own backyards. Teaching children about grow-it-yourself gardening and the health and environmental benefits of organics (namely, synthetic pesticide free fruits and vegetables, increased nutrients, environmental protection, self reliance, cost savings, and sustainability, to name a few), is perhaps one of the greatest investments we can make in the future health of our nation.

For more information and garden-to-kitchen tips, PowerPoint presentations from the ACHS workshop can be downloaded from the Apothecary Shoppe College Store website: https://www.apothecary-shoppe.com/index.php?cPath=45.

Downloads include workshop topics: family-friendly GIY food-growing projects, seed starting, organic composting, soil requirements, health benefits of growing and eating organic, nutrition, and a presentation about organic standards, processing of organic botanicals from garden to teacup, by ACHS Master Herbalist Christina Suarez, owner of The Good Herb Company.

Upcoming ACHS community education events include: a summer kick off open house, a lavender harvesting and distillation workshop, a holistic health fair, and an herb day celebration. For specific dates, check the ACHS Community Wellness calendar: http://www.achs.edu/course-desc.aspx?pid=179&id=6.

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