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Cultivating Wellness: Gardening for the Soul - by Anum Mukhtar

Updated: Jan 19

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, finding moments of tranquillity and connection can be a challenge. One remarkable avenue for fostering well-being is through community farming, where individuals come together to cultivate not just the land but also a sense of shared purpose, green spaces, and a deeper connection to nature. Similarly, being aware of the therapeutic benefits of gardening, the BAME Mental Health Support (BMHS) Green Spaces for Wellbeing (GS4WB) team and volunteers, attended a workshop at Swansea Community Farm for planting experience and education.

The passionate Swansea Community Farm team welcomed us with a smile. Additionally, the enthusiastic BMHS group enjoyed planting onion sets, bulbs, pruned gooseberries, and

blackcurrants and the group was privileged to take home cuttings and pots of microgreens.

Some experiences stand out as truly unique, what elevated this experience was the connection with the goats and other species. Integrating animals into community farms introduces an extra layer of joy and connection. Whether it's the gentle clucking of hens, the playful antics of goats, or the comforting presence of therapy animals, these creatures contribute to a positive atmosphere. The bond between humans and animals is a two-way street, offering companionship, reducing loneliness, and creating a sense of responsibility.

The goats, with their curious eyes and friendly demeanour, seemed to imbue their milk with a touch of their gentle spirit. BMHS participants enjoyed tasting the goat's milk and were lucky to receive pure Welsh honey from the farm.

The act of gardening itself has proven therapeutic benefits. Tending to plants, nurturing

seedlings, and watching the garden thrive can be a meditative experience. The tactile connection with the earth and the rhythmic nature of gardening can promote mindfulness, reduce stress, and elevate mood. The community farm becomes a canvas for shared growth and a living testament to the collective effort of its caretakers. Surrounded by the beauty of nature, individuals can momentarily step away from the stressors of daily life.

Beyond the tangible fruits and vegetables, community farms yielded a bountiful harvest of social connections. Gardening sessions brought ethnically diverse backgrounds together, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose. The exchange of knowledge amid the rows of vegetables strengthens the social fabric.

Green spaces and community farms provide an opportunity to reconnect with nature, offering respite from the constant stimuli of screens and city life. Research consistently underscores the positive impact of green spaces, gardening, and animal interactions on mental health.

Community farms, with their multifaceted approach to well-being, serve as therapeutic

landscapes that promote stress reduction, improve mood and contribute to an overall sense of happiness and fulfilment. Henceforth, these nurturing environments provide sustenance for the body and a sanctuary for the soul. By fostering a sense of community, offering therapeutic gardening experiences, and creating spaces where individuals can reconnect with nature, community farms become powerful contributors to the holistic well-being of those who tend to them.

With thanks to the Breaking Down Barriers, Local Places of Nature Welsh Government via the Heritage Fund Wales for funding our Green Spaces for Wellbeing Project.

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