Gardening is more than just planting seeds and pulling weeds; it is nourishment for the mind and body. It is a place of growth, community, and pride. The people you meet, the knowledge you gather, and the experiences of both successes and failures provide a special bond between yourself and your crop.
Gardening has different meanings for everyone. I began my gardening journey indoors with a passion for houseplants that grew into an obsession. Like any good hobby, I felt the need for its expansion. While registering for classes last fall, I stumbled across the course, Urban Agriculture Spring. After learning more about the course, I was excited to get to work in the USF garden and expand my knowledge on all things plants.
When I first started gardening, I felt overwhelmed with all the particulars like which tools to use, and which steps go into planting. How do I plant? Am I watering too much or too little? I quickly learned that gardening comes from the heart. There truly isn’t a wrong way to do it. Your garden becomes a representation of who you are. The tools and knowledge help sculpt your vision of the soil you till. Of course, understanding some basics like how to germinate seeds and properly plant a newly sprouted seed are important, but with some basic knowledge, the garden is your canvas.
Taking Urban Agriculture was a great first step in starting my gardening journey. I learned everything I needed to know to start my own garden including how to plant, weed, make compost, germinate seeds, graft trees, install drip irrigation, create herbal tinctures, and more. For myself and those with similar mindsets, it is comforting to know that as long as we are passionate and determined, we will not fail. Gardening gives me that sense of satisfaction, and it is a great outdoor activity where I can meet new people and destress from the rigors of the day. Not to mention that I get to do this in the beautiful USF garden.
Your body will thank you for the freshly grown vegetables and fruits you harvest in the garden. It is also exciting to take the bounty you have extracted from your beautifully tilled soil and experiment in the kitchen. Gardening is a vehicle for a healthier diet and a sense of pride knowing that you created this diet, literally, from the ground up.
Beyond physical health, gardening can have an incredibly positive influence on mental health. It is a boundless outlet to release stress and submerge yourself into a soothing environment. Taking Urban Agriculture classes has helped me destress, be absent from the chaos that my other classes bring, and recharge my body, mind, and soul. Whether I am pulling weeds or planting seeds, I always feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle my next academic obstacle.
Gardening is also a path to connect to Earth and understand nature on a deeper, more personal level. Feeling the damp, cold soil fall through your fingers, watching your saplings come to life, and harvesting your creations is a way to experience the wonders of our planet and we become more mindful when it comes to how we treat it. Gardening promotes a more sustainable environment and reminds us that if we all do our part, Earth can provide for generations to come.
My experience in the garden has also educated me about the issues that our food system faces. Not only do I now understand how much effort goes into having a healthy and sustainable garden, but I have the utmost appreciation for the workers in the farming industry. In the United States, being a farmer for a big producer is a demanding job accompanied by unjust pay and inequitable treatment. Through courses like Community Garden Outreach, I gained a greater understanding of the struggles farmers encounter and I’m determined to demand change in the industry. By urging us to create more urban gardens and accessible food, our reliance on big farming can be reduced. The Urban Agriculture department advocates for the just treatment of workers and believes that all people should have access to healthy food.
Once I found out that USF offered an urban agriculture minor, I immediately added it to my coursework. The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic for me was discovering gardening when I needed it the most. The pandemic has been stressful for all students. We had to shift away from campus and our daily interaction with loved ones and friends. Gardening has become my outlet to just let go. It has helped my mental health, and I have developed a sense of pride and passion in connecting with our Earth through its soil. I am now able to grow my own food, educate others, install drip irrigation, create herbal remedies, and continue to develop my gardening knowledge. I encourage students who have space in their curriculum to take a look at the urban agriculture minor and the classes that are offered to start their gardening journey. Or better yet, stop by the USF Garden and see for yourself what it means to be a gardener.