AS FEATURED ON NO SIDEBAR
A few years back my husband and I decided to join the local farmers market. We didn’t hem and haw about this decision; it was more of a whim and a feeling that this was where we belonged. We loved the market’s colorful fabric and a healthy pulse. It felt like home to us. While there was anxiety around not knowing what this new adventure would bring, there was also exhilaration.
From the start, I looked forward to the Saturday morning ritual of rising with the sun to load up the truck with the bounty harvested the night before. Each week we rolled in bright and early to set up the side of our white tent by side and unload our offerings onto the dewy grass. There were so much excitement and pride that came with all that hard work leading up to those magical summer weekend mornings.
Before opening, we would head into the local Coffee Mill for the iced mocha and cup of baked oatmeal we craved those early mornings. The sight as we returned was a carousel of color. The vendors added to that vibrant scenery with tents chock-full of flowers, vegetation, soaps, fruits, veggies, local meats, and canned jams. Let’s not forget the savory Wisconsin cheese curds for which our state is beloved!
We all came from different places with the same mission: to offer goods that we had poured our hearts into. I still cherish many of the relationships that were cultivated during our farmers’ market years.
Engaging in conversations with customers while picking out their week’s menu and sampling the fresh jams was gratifying. I was able to put a face to their meals, and they knew it was grown and crafted with love. It was a relationship that started as a seed in early spring and continued to grow as they looked for my tent week after week. The connection was one I could not describe at the time. Looking back, however, I realized I was connected to their meals and there was great joy in sharing the homegrown goodness with them.
Now that I do not have the market to foster those connections, I feel their absence, this year especially. With so much focus on the negative, I notice we are losing touch with some of the crucial elements of life. We are seeing chronic illnesses on the rise as well as disconnection with our health and bodies.
I also found myself in the same position and guilty of the same disconnection after our farmer’s market days ended and daily stresses began to take their toll. But I was able to correct my course and restore connection and purpose to my life. It started by getting my hands dirty and focusing on what could heal me from the inside out.
With the health of our communities front and center this year. I’ll weigh in on the magic of getting our hands in the dirt and how to revitalize and nourish the connections we are missing: earth, food, families, and ourselves. Here are my top reasons to get your hands dirty, and put those feelings of disconnect behind you.
1. Our bodies and minds feel better outdoors.
Fresh air and time in nature are paramount when it comes to mental health. The garden serves as a meditative and mindful experience for us. The garden is a tool to lure us outside, heighten our senses, and allow nature to decompress our heads bursting with clutter. Tending to something that asks minimally, but provides abundantly provides the fulfillment we long for.
The garden clarifies my thoughts and quiets my mind in a form of meditative, emotional healing. Watching nature’s miracles play out before our eyes relax our minds and fill our souls.
2. Gardens allow families to forge and deepen connections, not just with the earth, but amongst each other.
Watching your food sprout from a tiny seed teaches us all about the miracles of nature and the connections needed to support them. The tiny seed planted in the soil, watered and tended grows into a bountiful source of nourishment that repeatedly shows up night after night on your dinner plate. That garden to table connection provides a value we have lost or forgotten.
The hunter-gatherer connection is a deeply-buried concept due to our modern conveniences. Let’s unearth it by restoring the simple blessings in planting nature’s seeds, harvesting its bounty, preparing fresh meals, and breaking bread together. Let’s use the garden to rekindle connections to each other, the earth, and our food.
3. Cultivate new growth and opportunities to learn together.
The journey of learning how to nourish and maintain a garden starts with a tiny seed and ends at the dinner table. Along the way, we discover the role that soil plays in producing flavorful fruits and vegetables. As on any journey, we encounter a few foes, (in our case, a neighborhood woodchuck) that we manage to outwit.
Savor the joy in harvesting, cooking up your favorites in the kitchen, and try your hand at a new preservation technique. The lessons learned on this journey are strengthened, shared, remembered, and cherished as time goes by. There is nothing like popping open the jar of tomato sauce, pesto, or strawberry jam in the dead of winter to remind us of the valuable skills and connection we cultivated earlier that year.
It’s during long winters that I most crave those exhausting Friday nights of weighing green beans and harvesting lettuce for the market. It never felt like a burden because the next morning I would gaze down that row of white tents and see everyone’s “garden” glory. We were all magically connected by the market, the earth, and our love for our loyal patrons.
I invite you to go to the garden. You will find it a perfect space to clear your thoughts, reconnect to your dreams, learn, and perhaps start down a new path.
Think of all the places your dirty hands could lead you! Is it time for your garden revival?