Recovery and Resilience

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Recent studies show that following extreme storm events community gardens can supply food, enhance social empowerment, provide safe gathering spots, and restorative practices, to remind people of normality. There is a study that examines the role played by a community garden in Christchurch, New Zealand, following the 2010/2011 Canterbury Earthquakes. Findings from this study indicate the garden helped gardeners cope with the post-quake situation. The garden served as an important place to de-stress, share experiences, and gain community support. As 2020 approaches it’s end and 2021 begins, it feels as if we’ve been tossed and battered by the equivalent of these crisis-inducing natural phenomena for several months and still counting.

In times of crisis, gardens play an important role in community resilience. They have been central to community recovery and historically have supported their communities following political and economic disturbances. During and after Hurricane Sandy in New York City, community gardens were perceived as safe Community Gardenspaces and “multi-purpose community refuges”. In their article “Sowing seeds of resilience: Community gardening in a Post-disaster context”, researchers Okvat and Zutra point out that community gardens may bolster “psychosocial resilience after a disaster” by providing post-trauma therapy for users that help “alleviate negative emotions and […] engage in experiences that enhance positive emotions”. This recovery and resilience theme is associated time and again with the coming together in the garden, even though each disaster has different effects on communities.

The contagion factor of the COVID-19 Pandemic disaster puts a different element into the recipe for recovery. While numerous studies have proven that the garden contributes to local community life by providing a safe place for social interaction and physical activities, the practice of social distancing is a key tactic recommended by the Center for Disease Control to limit the spread of the disease. According to Dr. Steven N. Scoggin, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine,  social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. He offers sound advice to manage stress and anxiety as well as tips to remain connected during this time of social distancing. You can listen online:

Social Distancing Doesn’t Mean Social Isolation – Managing Stress and Anxiety

Especially now, community gardens are a wonderful place to spend time outside, exercise, produce food, and stay connected while maintaining safe social distancing. The garden is as much about like-minded people connecting as it is connecting to green spaces. Social Distance need not lead to social isolation. Stay in touch even when you can’t gather in person. To learn more about how to participate in community gardening during these times. Read more

Garden Directory

Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.