Its a new type of therapy for cancer patients - vegetable gardening. In the study at the university of Alabama, breast cancer patients were paired with a master gardener. They then worked together to plant a small garden in the patient's yard or in a Earthbox - a gardening container on wheels that can be kept on a porch or patio or just by the front door. The garden was planted with vegetable seedlings. The idea behind the study was that the gardening project would encourage increased activity to plant and maintain the garden, and then increase their vegetable intake by eating the fruits (or veggies!) of their labor. I also think it would be good to increase the patient's self efficacy from having managed to try something new.
I'd love to see us at Ceres be able to expand to incorporate this. At Ceres, our clients (mostly cancer patients) can have free food for 12 weeks and then another 12 weeks for a donation. It would be perfect to set them up with a garden at the 12 week time point and encourage them to grow their own organic vegetables so that when their food delivery ends, they will have learned how to cook and prepare their own vegetables.
There are horticultural therapy programs around the US and UK. And if you've grown your own fruit and vegetables before you know what a labor of love it is - and more importantly - how exciting it is to eat your own home grown produce within minutes of harvesting it.
Anyhow - back to the study…. it was a year long feasibility study in 12 adult and child cancer survivors. The gardening intervention was well received and 90% of the subjects saw improvements in measures of strength, agility and endurance. In addition, fruit and vegetables servings consumed each day increased in 40% and increases of >30 minutes/week of physical activity were observed in 60% of the subjects.
I'd love to see it also studied in groups - where neighbors work together and so you get that community spirit on top of it all. Or at Ceres, our clients could work together with the teenagers in our garden…..
What do you think? Do you find vegetable gardening therapeutic? How excited are you to eat your own produce?