Gardening is Good for Mind, Body and Soul

By TERRA RAE MATTHEWS

Being Tsimshian (Eagle Clan) and a member of the L’heidli T’enneh Nation from British Columbia, Canada, I grew up around a family that lived off the ocean; we have always looked to the land for our food. Fishing and harvesting sea food is very different than farming in New Mexico, so the experience of learning about what and how to grow in the New Mexico climate has been a wonderful experience for our family.

We jumped at the opportunity to grow our own food when the Center for Lifelong Education started the community gardening project last summer. We chose to grow Swiss chard, cherry tomatoes, squash, basil, cabbage, calendula and Santo Domingo blue corn. I enjoyed learning from fellow gardeners about everything that factors into successfully growing food in this New Mexico climate.

Wanting to grow medicine for our family, we chose to start simple by planting some calendula flowers from the green house.  Calendula is such a wonderful medicine that aids in treating the lymphatic system, cold sores, conjunctivitis, coughs, cramps, eczema, fungal infections, and gastritis, to name just a few of its many uses. I wanted to grow it to make a tea to help cleanse the lymphatic system and to make salves, ointments and tinctures.

The calendula quickly grew and spread over one end of the garden, while the golden cherry tomatoes spread over the other end. The corn was a rich red color. Unwrapping the corn husks was exciting. I showed off the small undeveloped corn cobs like it was an award I won!

The Many Benefits of Gardening

I personally took on gardening to help with my health and wellness as I have been dealing with depression since moving to the United States in 2007. Being out on the land, tending to the garden and harvesting the food are therapeutic in many ways. You can pray, sing or meditate when you garden. Being alone or with others, being in the sunshine and around the wildlife here really added to my experience, and I will always be grateful and thankful for this opportunity to grow our own food.

Eating food that isn’t full of pesticides, hormones and chemicals is wonderful and we usually can’t afford to buy organic vegetables and fruit. Now we see it is possible for students on a budget to eat good food. You just have to be dedicated to eliminating food stuff that harms your body. Consuming food stuff like white flour and sugar and processed foods causes cancer and other diseases, and I have lost family members from complications from diabetes and cancer.

Not only did our family lose weight from eating healthy organic food from our garden, we spent more time together outdoors and got some good exercise and sunshine. My spouse, children and I feel good knowing we are making steps to combat diabetes by utilizing the opportunities that the CLE has to offer the students, staff and faculty on campus.

The Greenhouse Project is for anyone who wishes to grow their own organic food. Our family signed up and we are now growing varieties of lettuces, carrots, peas, herbs and much more!

(Terra Rae Matthews is a senior majoring in indigenous liberal studies with a minor in studio art and has been a student worker at the IAIA’s Center for Lifelong Education since July 2013.)

Copyright © IAIA CHRONICLE 2013

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