When you set out to dig a backyard garden bed, chances are you are more motivated by visions of the fall harvest than by notions of emotional wellbeing and community resilience. And yet, happiness and resilience are both benefits cultivated by the act of gardening.

In a recent study by the Sustainable Healthy Cities Network, researchers found that “the level of emotional well-being, or happiness, reported while gardening was similar to what people reported while biking, walking or dining out.” 

Among the study’s survey population in Minneapolis, people with low incomes reported higher levels of happiness associated with gardening as opposed to their medium- and high-income counterparts, suggesting that it is the utility of gardening that causes it to be so satisfying.

Indeed, in light of the many ways the pandemic lays bare the failures in our food system, many households and communities around the world are turning to gardening as a way to build resilience.

In North Carolina, for example, Shareable reports that community gardens are cropping up at public libraries everywhere. At a tool library in New Zealand, gardening tools and sewing machines were the most popular items during the recent lockdown. Locally, the yard and garden tools at the Missoula Urban Demonstration Project (MUD) Tool Library have been in high demand. “Our mowers, line trimmers, and gardening tools were really popular this summer,” reports MUD executive director, Casey Valencia. “We’re happy we can provide access to these tools during a time when they are needed most.”

It’s not only gardening that offers psychological benefits during this era of pandemic. According to psychotherapist Paige Rechtman, quoted by Sarah Garone in The Surprising Emotional Side of Pandemic Home Projects, working on our homes – whether remodeling our kitchen or simply hanging some new art prints – allows us to “take charge of [our] space and day-to-day experience, and gain a sense of control over something.” 

“With the pandemic happening, everything about our future feels uncertain,” says Rechtman. “Being in a space that is open and comfortable can help you feel more comfortable in your mind and body.” 

Resilience-building and self-care take many forms in addition to gardening and home projects. The NorCal Resilience Network defines resilient spaces as “places that feed community life,” including “community gardens, tool lending libraries, storefronts, homes, and even virtual spaces where people gather to host events, exchange information, and support each other.”

In the spirit of celebrating and boosting community resilience, creating comfortable spaces within our homes, and to honor a long-held Missoula tradition, MUD will be hosting a virtual Garden Project Week at www.mudproject.org from Monday, September 21 through Saturday, September 26.

The event, which will be held in lieu of the organization’s annual Garden Party fundraiser, invites the Missoula community to engage with home and garden projects through a variety of online activities, all with an emphasis on sustainability.

Here is a breakdown of what the week will offer and how you can participate from home:

Monday and Tuesday: Short Film Series – Why Regenerative Organic?

  • MUD will screen 3 short films produced by Patagonia Films and presented by the International Wildlife Film Festival that explore new horizons in soil stewardship.
  • Submit your thoughts, questions, and ideas about the films to Soil Cycle director Caitlyn Lewis. Caitlyn will respond via video on Wednesday.

Wednesday and Thursday: Sustainability Demonstrations

  • Check out a rainwater catchment system that was recently installed by MUD at Soil Cycle and learn how to install your own system at home.
  • Aquaponics provide a unique method of growing food. Tune in to get an in-depth look at MUD’s aquaponics setup.

Friday and Saturday: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Kits

  • Two DIY kits will be available to purchase online and pickup at MUD: a native bee house and a succulent terrarium. Online tutorials will be provided for each.
  • MUD director Casey Valencia will provide an update about the current state of MUD and plans for the future.

Throughout the week, visitors to mudproject.org will have the opportunity to participate in a silent auction, purchase new MUD merchandise, and snag a DIY guide of simple home and garden projects by donating to the organization.

When we tend to our homes and gardens, we also tend to our bodies, minds, and communities. Let’s tend to them together, and cultivate so much more.

This piece originally appeared in the Missoula Current on 9/18/20.

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