Sankofa Garden Homes: Home gardens promote a healthy life

CLARENCE GLOVER | 9/16/2018, 11:26 p.m.
As we begin our second year of the Sankofa Garden Homes articles, I would like to shift our focus for ...
Professor Freedom works in the front yard of his Sankofa Garden Home, picking collard greens. A bushel of okra stands behind him. Sankofa Garden Home

Sankofa Gardening Homes

As we begin our second year of the Sankofa Garden Homes articles, I would like to shift our focus for this article from the garden itself to the gardener. Yes, the gardener you and I. Beyond providing us with healthy food to eat how does our garden help us to main our daily health?

While you may not be aware, there is a growing body of research and practitioners who focus on how gardens help us maintain healthy lives beyond simply providing healthy food. While many of our “Africans who Built America” ancestors, who were brought to America through slavery and worked for no pay and later who worked during Jim Crow for little pay, developed strong bodies and minds in the fields and gardens they worked in despite the conditions they worked under. This is evident through their endurance and skills that built America and the many inventions they created during these periods of history. As “Descendants of Africans who Built America” we often only focus on the negatives of these periods of our history. I submit, we would do well to extract the positive elements of these difficult times and glean the elements that are being shared today in the name of the “growing green movement.”

Being a people who have always “grown greens,” the garden should not be a stranger to us today. But because many of us have equated growing food or cotton with slavery and Jim Crow, we have left the fields and gardens and as a result left behind the healthy benefits that they can provide us today.

I challenge you in the spirit of Sankofa, to reach back and fetch what we left behind so that we can reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. As African Americans, we suffer from some the highest rates of blood pressure, cancer, obesity and Alzheimer’s. Many of these diseases can be reversed if we returned to the garden again. Not only would we be eating better, we would also be engaging our spirits, mind and bodies in a way that would develop a holistic way of living.

We would not have to spend additional money on gym fees or exercise equipment. We need but put on our garden clothes and shoes and walk out our front or back door into our waiting garden and begin a daily regiment of spiritual, mental and physical development.

Like any exercise, make sure you stretch before you begin your garden workout. Over a period time you will begin to feel the difference in your flexibility, range of motion, strength and endurance. Don’t be surprised when you begin to lose those additional pounds you’ve been trying to lose.

With health in mind you will begin to approach your gardening with a sense of “mindful gardening.” What I mean is, you will be more aware of everything you are doing that benefits your total well-being, breathing, bending, stretching, lifting, hauling, digging, pulling, twisting and reaching. Being mindful of these and other actions will help you perform each action properly so that they benefit your overall health.