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UGArden: Livin’ La Vida Local

By Jay Morris, Walk Georgia Health Promotion Intern

UGArden is a learning and demonstration farm on UGA’s campus that is committed to teaching students sustainable food practices and community service. I wanted to visit them and speak about the importance of local agriculture and gardening as a way to lead a healthy lifestyle. Upon arriving, I saw many students, interns, and volunteers hard at work tending to rows of flourishing crops and tinkering with farm equipment. JoHannah Biang, the farm manager, greeted me. JoHannah is responsible for supervising the day-to-day operations of the farm. I used this opportunity to talk with JoHannah about how working at UGArden has deepened her appreciation for health and wellness.

JoHannah first started working in gardens when she was a child. She told me that her grandmothers both grew flower gardens. She remembers helping them tend the flowers and carry water to the garden. She also helped her dad with seeding and planting a vegetable garden he kept at home. JoHannah fondly reminisced about the cool sensation of fresh soil between her fingers, and the sense of pride that accompanied seeing the garden bloom in the spring.

Coincidentally, I visited UGArden around the same time they had just finished harvesting JoHannah’s favorite vegetable: asparagus. She says she really enjoys the flavor of asparagus. Part of the enjoyment comes with the fact that she had grown it herself. She told me that working at UGArden — and gardening in general — had really sparked her appreciation for local, homegrown produce.

“I’m always amazed at the freshness of food. Grocery produce tastes so different. Eating fresh vegetables tastes better, and makes me want to eat more vegetables. You really appreciate it more if you grew it and were invested in it. Eating the food becomes an experience, an act of remembrance.”

Gardening really cultivates of a sense of work, involvement, and ownership of your food.

But the benefits of gardening extend beyond just being able to eat fresher produce. JoHannah said that gardening is great for physical activity and mental wellbeing. After a difficult calculus class, she would blow off steam by weeding in the gardens. She told me that weeding is also a good opportunity to think about life and have conversations with the people around you.

Her advice to people who want to get started growing their own fruits and vegetables is pretty straightforward: start small.

“Use small gallon buckets. You are more likely to be successful if you start small. Grow with your garden, and don’t be afraid of failure. You can always try again next season.”

Volunteering at UGArden is a great way to get started as well. In fact, UGArden partners with Extension as part of the Master Gardener program. Master Gardeners lead research and volunteer teams at UGArden and the garden is always looking for volunteers to help with weekly harvests. Stop by the farm any time between 7:30am and 12:00pm on Mondays and Wednesdays to try your hand at being a farmhand!

Don’t forget to log all the gardening you do on the Walk Georgia website. Remember, at Walk Georgia we are committed to helping you find ways to move more and live more!