The Growing Season

good day at the garden

A Happy Harvest


The Growing Season Is Almost Here!

Join Us Sunday, March 3rd for Garden Day at Patch


“There’s always next year, right?” RJ asks.  He’s standing across from me at The Haven’s welcome desk, rubbing his hands back and forth.  The rings on his fingers clink together like ice. It’s an early winter day outside, and we’re talking about last summer, what we got done in Patch, our community garden, and how we can’t wait to get back at it. He mentions the recent write-up about the garden in C-Ville Weekly—“We’re celebs, man,” he says—and I admit that I haven’t read the article yet. What’s really on my mind is the question he just asked: There’s always next year, right? The significance of that question, to me, lies in its rhetorical nature, its hopefulness, how it illuminates Patch’s purpose.

When I first met RJ, he didn’t think he had a next year. Between health problems and serious depression, he couldn’t imagine a minute other than the last painful one he’d lived through. And then came the spring and the beginning of his up-swing. I don’t give full credit to the garden for his recovery, but I do believe it influenced the speed and consistency of his improvement. Putting a small seed in the ground and then watching it grow is nothing short of inspiring. To water a plant is to acknowledge a need beyond your own. Getting out of your own pain and serving someone or something else—that’s huge healing.

In fact, some recent studies have shown that close proximity to living plants can enhance a person’s mental and physical health. One study took place in a psych ward, where the patients were given flowers and then divided into two groups. One group watered their own plants, while the other group had nurses do it for them. In an article for The Atlantic, Amelia Borofsky writes about the study’s conclusion: “On measures of depression before and after the experiment, the patients who watered their own plants showed the most improvement.” This message relates directly to what the garden means to RJ, and how it represents one aspect of The Haven’s dynamic approach to restoration of health and hope.

Last summer, a couple days after harvesting over four-hundred pounds of potatoes, I sat down to breakfast with RJ and some friends. He stuck his fork into a hash brown, held it up and told everyone that it was home-grown, hand-cut. “I own this breakfast,” he said. The sense of pride that comes along with that kind of ownership is transformative. It can teach us to live responsibly, to share what we have with others, and to believe that there will be a next year.

Patch’s first official gardening day this year will be Sunday, March 3rd from 1pm until 5pm. We’ll be weeding, composting, and preparing the soil for another great growing season. Come on out and bring a friend!

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