Beyond Produce, Gardening Can Benefit Health

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Access to fresh produce is commonly seen as important. And, obviously, if you sow the seeds, then you can reap the veggies later. But gardening itself can also make you healthier.

Studies show the exercise, stress relief and companionship connected to gardening all as potential benefits.

For example, community gardeners were more likely to have a lower body mass index when compared with non-gardening neighbors, according to a University of Utah study.

And if you aren’t doing the growing, but a relative in your home is, that can have a positive effect, too.

More than 3,000 Clevelanders participate in community gardens through the Summer Sprout program, a partnership between the city of Cleveland and the Ohio State University Extension. It started in 1976 and aims to help the community by providing access to fresh produce and the space to garden. This year Summer Sprout supports 187 gardens across the city.

Participants apply to start a garden and must be located in the city, agree to not sell the produce, and sign up five or more community members per garden (not related to each other), according to Summer Sprout coordinator Courtney Woelfl.

During a visit to a participating garden in EcoVillage in Detriot Shoreway, Peet McCain said he has seen a lot of the health benefits come into play.

“Working with the soil, eating the fruits and vegetables of your labor, the comradery of the community, all of those things have come into play,” he said.

Summer Sprout isn’t the only support option for community gardens.

Glenville resident Jackie Carter found grant assistance from Neighborhood Connections and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, which announced support of about a dozen gardening-related projects in May.

Carter started her community garden, Glenville Growers, this year to help supply elderly residents with produce.

“We have a Save-A-Lot in the neighborhood, but we don’t really have a grocery store,” she said.

While she said she can find it relaxing to sit with her dog on a bench in the garden, any benefits outside the produce are really just “bonus.”

Interested in starting a community garden? Learn more from a Facebook discussion at the Collinwood Friends Garden in the video below. 

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