Showing off Benefits of Gardening at Health Fair

This past Wednesday, we had a health fair at work where local, health related organizations came for the day to drum up business and distribute information to staff. Like an open house, staff came down to the conference rooms and visited the vendors at their tables anytime between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. As facilitator of our office Garden Club, I was asked if we wanted to participate for the first time. Our Garden Club meets every other week during lunch and in the past we have hosted speakers and “field trips” to colleagues’ gardens.healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 071

We had a lot of fun; about 200 staff attended including the people from the 32 outside vendors. My colleagues and I had prepared in advance by planting seeds and starting cuttings. We distributed about 80 seedlings of tomatoes, zinnias, and basil plus about 30 cuttings of spider plants, Christmas cactus, and a lady of the night epiphyllum. I had gone through my seed packets and divided them into smaller bags so we had about 50 bags of seeds with copies of the seed packages stapled to the bags. PlantersPlace sent me a box of 30 trial packages of Osmocote fertilizer which everyone loved. I received brochures of the Behnke Nurseries’ Garden Club and special coupons for staff to use at their stores (thank you, Stephanie). The University of Maryland extension specialist sent me business cards with the Grow It Eat It & the Home and Garden Information Center (HGCI) contact information and Master Gardeners brochures (thank you, Jon). I downloaded information from the HGCI site, including the latest HGIC newsletter. I also had a copy of the Washington Gardener and a copy of the Brookside Gardens Xperience catalog of spring and summer classes. Because most of the employees live in Montgomery County, I focused on very local resources but I did create a handout on nurseries and one on public gardens in the Washington DC metropolitan area, which I also posted here on my blog (see tabs).healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 072

Because this was a health fair, I wanted to communicate the mental and physical benefits of gardening. I copied the American Horticultural Therapy Association’s bibliography on benefits of gardening and I created a read-only copy of The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Wellbeing. This 45-page booklet was just published in April by Sustain, a London-based alliance of national public interest organizations that among other things advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals. The findings are applicable to this country and would be a great resource for anyone trying to demonstrate the importance of gardening in a social setting, like a school or community.healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 075

At our table, we had a sign-up sheet so staff could add their names to my Garden Club e-mail distribution list (about 17 staff signed the sheet). Afterwards, my friends told me our table was the most popular but then who wouldn’t want free tomatoes? Other vendors were giving away pens, candy, and granola bars. I did observe that for the most part, there was a fundamental interest in gardening or having plants across the ages. People my age and older (presumably with houses) wanted the tomatoes and basil. Younger folks who did not have the land still wanted to have a spider plant for their desks. It was just a matter of matching up the plant to the person’s stage in life. Next year, we will offer a wider variety of plants such as houseplants and herbs and I may even reach out to more local resources to encourage gardening for all ages.

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