What’s Growing On: Virtual Seed Exchange brings gardening to veterans at home

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 11:35 AM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Therapeutic gardening has been used to fight depression in veterans since WWII, according to the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

For the last three years, the community living center garden at the Malcolm Randall Veterans Affair Medical Center is used to introduce therapeutic gardening to North Central Florida veterans.

Since the pandemic began, organizers had to get creative with how to make this experience safe but just as beneficial.

After a generous donation of seeds, Danielle Orr, a recreation therapist with the VA, decided to start a virtual seed exchange where veterans can tune in to troubleshoot problems in their gardens and continue growing flowers or crops of their own.

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“We can use what materials they have in their house. It’s great when they’re here and we can see it and watch them and troubleshoot here, but when they go home they may not have some of the materials we do. They may not have a raised flower bed, they may not have the right soil available, but we can use what pots they have available, we can use egg cartons, K-Cup pods - I mean we can use things they already have in their home,” explained Orr.

According to a 2008 study from the University of California-San Francisco, one in three veterans experience some form of depression.

Maribel Bracke is another recreation therapist with the program and says this experience can help fight feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and sadness.

“It isn’t always a pleasant place to be when you’re in a hospital and with new policies coming into play, with not being able to see some family members during this time, to come outside and be in a different environment, it can automatically change your mood,” said Bracke.

Veterans interested in getting involved must be enrolled with the VA Medical Center. It is recommended to call your care provider to find out if therapeutic gardening is right for you.

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