We spend a lot of time here working on ways to expand food choice and access for low-income residents. That choice and access includes community and home gardens and urban farms. It’s about health, nutrition and diet. But I read something this week that got me thinking about the ways food production by individuals can have benefits beyond the physical. Gardening and farming can be spiritually “nutritional,” and that can serve our clients, too.
It is fairly settled that big cities don’t sleep very long or well. They aren’t quiet. The bustle might slow down, but doesn’t stop. It’s not that there’s more noise than other times (um, Industrial Revolution anyone?), but there seem to be fewer areas of silence. And, I’m the last one to say there’s anything wrong with the sounds of an active city. But, it is also fairly settled that humans need quiet, too. Not the sad quiet of loneliness or solitariness or separation. But, the aloneness, solitude and separateness of focused observation. Meditation.
George Prochnik says a balanced sound diet requires noise and silence, and we can “improve our sound diet by adding to our intake of natural sounds.” Ohh, let’s think of natural garden sounds as our aural organic food! “Quiet” isn’t sad in this context, it’s joyful and health-inspiring. Indeed, a Science Daily article attests that it only takes five minutes to get the benefit of gardening – it improves mood and brings general well-being.
Another reason to work a garden (or farm)? A garden’s relative quiet helps you listen. You hear things differently – discovering and observing through sound. And things slow down there, too. You can’t just pull things willy nilly. Harvesting and weeding take care and precision. People also seem to pay attention to other people.
So, how can a garden or farm help us discover more of the good in a city? How does it expand our attention? How do the focus, observation and care found there alter the way we perceive the rest of the community? Well, we need to experience gardens and farms over and over to really know them…their quirks and needs. That is what it takes to see the details of the place. And through that practice, one begins to notice the other details of a city and community.
How does any of this help us help our clients? Well, maybe our residents have the potential to take different stock of their entire community – the details — and find things they want to replicate. Maybe, just maybe, access to a balanced sound diet, like a balanced food diet, can improve entire communities. Please sir, I want some more (natural sounds)!