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DIRT THERAPY By Marianne Taylor
DIRT THERAPY By Marianne Taylor

By Marianne Taylor

In this rapid world of stressful news and a constant barrage of email and text messages, there’s never been a more important time to really unplug, unwind and restore your soul.

The first step is to get your hands off of your phones and computers and into the dirt. You may not have a garden, but not to worry—there are many volunteer garden opportunities calling your name. You’ll learn a new skill, meet new friends and develop a healthy lifestyle.

We are social creatures of connection; we need human interaction to thrive. Whether it is your own garden or supporting the efforts of a community garden, you are contributing to a larger social web and ties that are oftentimes overlooked. Social ties are important to the wellbeing of people in a community, since they can encourage positive health effects and community involvement. Community gardens allow for the creation of social connection and build a greater feeling of community. These connections help reduce crime, empower residents and allow residents to feel safe in their neighborhoods.

Gardens have been an important aspect of many cultures throughout history. In the past, community gardens were commonly used to provide food for families year-round. During World War II, victory gardens were an important source of food for American families.

Community gardens can provide fresh, healthy produce for residents and allow them to reduce their food bills. Many cities and organizations provide opportunities for residents to become involved with community gardens. Check your city for availability to lease a garden plot. Growing your own food provides respite care—a chance to slow down, simplify and calm the mind.

Maybe you would rather connect in the garden at The Ecology Center, which offers volunteers an opportunity to learn and work in their abundant gardens. Or there’s Los Rios Park in San Juan Capistrano, which offers weekly volunteer opportunities to care for and maintain the butterfly gardens. Working side by side with volunteers has a hypnotic effect, calming the brain and reducing stress from everyday demands. Not only are you cultivating a beneficial garden, you’re cultivating beneficial relationships. Amazing things happen when people gather in the garden—we find a common ground. We learn that we are not alone.

Join us at Fall Fest on Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Reata Park and Event Center to connect and engage in nature. Learn something new, bring an instrument and jam with the bluegrass bands, kiss a pony, enjoy the day in nature and be amazed what happens when you gather with community in the garden. For more details on Fall Fest and other programs and volunteer garden opportunities, please check out

Marianne Taylor, of San Juan Capistrano, is the founder and executive director of Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens, a 501(c)(3) teaching gardening and life skills as a way of empowering, engaging and connecting people. Goin Native focuses on educating local families, special needs adults, seniors, at-risk youth and members of the military.

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