Death and Disease – Can Gardening Save Us?

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It seems that we are constantly reading about a new study showing that the health of our country is in decline. Reduced physical activity combined with poor eating choices has sent rates of metabolic disease and diabetes sky rocketing. Nationally, the diabetes rate is 9.3% of our population. Even more shocking, over 13% of the population in Catawba County has diabetes. Diabetes, the 7th leading cause of death, currently costs us a quarter of a trillion (that’s with a ‘T’) dollars every year in medical costs, disability, work lost, and pre-mature death. Possibly more concerning is a recent study by the Center for Disease Control that indicates that 37% of our national population is pre-diabetic.

The good news about diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions is that the disease can be managed or even reversed with increased physical activity and improved diet. Numerous studies have demonstrated that gardening is a great way to increase physical activity and boost the consumption of vegetables. Children that are often repelled by greens are much more open to trying snacks and meals with vegetables that they helped grow. Gardening goes beyond physical and nutritional benefits. The direct connection with soil and food improves overall health, cognitive ability, socialization, and has even been shown to reduce allergies.

In an effort to extend the benefits of gardening to more communities throughout our area, the Catawba County Cooperative Extension Service will work with libraries and businesses in our county to increase gardening programs and workshops. The 2016 Master Gardener course will run from Feb 2 until April 28 with classes every Tue. and Thur. from 9 a.m. to noon. In response to many residents that expressed interest in a gardening course but cannot attend two classes a week, we are initiating the 2016 Advanced Gardener course with classes once per month in the evening through the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library, Newton Library, and Maiden Library. Both the Master and Advanced Gardener courses are for all levels of gardeners. Participants that attend each of the monthly Advanced Gardener classes (Jan through Dec) and complete 20 hours of service at one of our designated community gardens will receive a series of gift certificates from sponsoring Home and Garden Supply businesses in our area to further incentivize you to start a vegetable garden.

I am not proposing that gardening is the solution to improving the health of our family and community but I do believe that it can be a significant part of the solution. Make a resolution to start a vegetable garden in 2016 – we are here to help you. Call our office for any of your gardening questions (828-465-8247). Visit our website at and sign up for our monthly updates to get information on all the great programs we offer to the public. I hope you will join us in some of our gardening workshops so that you can learn skills that will improve the overall health of your family and community. Call our office to reserve your seat in the upcoming 2016 Master Gardener course or to learn more about the 2016 Advanced Gardener program.