pixWith the summer months upon us, it is a great time to think about gardening. The good news is that learning to grow your own food comes with a host of benefits. The benefits are so good that it’s being recommended as an activity for veterans to engage in, especially if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or combat-related stress. The more people learn about the good that can result, the more they may be staking off a plot in the yard to get planting.

“Anyone who has tried their hand at gardening has felt the difference that it can make in their life,” explains Julia Falke, co-founder of the Boulder Crest Retreat. “We believe in getting veterans into gardening and it is why we built the Wallis Annenberg Heroes Garden, the nation’s second handicapped-accessible walled garden. It provides combat veterans and their families with the chance to engage in a calming and peaceful activity, and focuses them on the subject of healthy eating and nutrition. It’s one small part of what we do, but it makes a significant difference.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that gardening can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, among other benefits. Some of the other many benefits of growing your own food include:

Therapeutic. According to the American Horticulture Therapy Association (AHTA), horticulture is a time-proven practice and the benefits have been documented since ancient times. They report that during the 1940s and 1950s, it was used in rehabilitative care of hospitalized war veterans, and today it is accepted as a beneficial and effective therapeutic modality.

Healthy. There is a good chance that when one grows their own food they will end up consuming at least some of it. This is a good way to get healthier foods into the diet, specifically more fruits and vegetables.

Social. Growing your own food can be a social activity, especially if you choose to get involved in a gardening group or community garden. Many people are starting community gardens around the country, where they work together for a common purpose. While the food grown may be consumed by those growing it, some is also often given away to local charities, giving those doing the gardening an added benefit.

Physical and mental benefits. Engaging in gardening can help bring about mental clarity and reduce stress. In addition to it being a mind-clearing activity, it’s also a form of physical exercise, helping to keep people active and healthy.

Reduce pain. The AHTA reports that some of the additional benefits that people get from growing their own food include that it can help reduce physical pain, and help with rehabilitation and recovery from surgery or other medical interventions.

“The Retreat utilizes a range of everyday family activities, including gardening, cooking well-balanced meals, hiking, kayaking, as well as age-old and proven warrior practices like labyrinths and meditation,” adds Falke. “This enables combat veterans to make peace with their past, live in the present, and begin planning for a great future – full of passion, purpose and service – here at home.”

Summer is a time to get out into the garden and nature, as well as reconnect with those around us. The Wallis Annenberg Heroes Garden was built in 2014 and designed by Donna Hackman, in association with Lisa Catlett.

“For me, this special garden was love at first sight, and I am compelled to try and make every year even more beautiful than the last season,” Donna Hackman explains. “It has been my honor to design and help tend to this garden, and our combat veterans and their families deserve the very best nature has to offer.”

Boulder Crest Retreat is presently building out its horticulture and culinary activities, that will serve the many combat veterans and their families that stay at the facility. The near future result will be a complete veteran ‘farm-to-table’ program adapted for every season. Ongoing support over the past two years, from organizations such as The Burpee Foundation, The Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club and Middleburg Garden Club, and countless community volunteer hours are helping to make this vision a reality.

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