Today is the day for all of us to say THANK YOU to all that have served to protect us and to keep us free. And to tell them that we will not forget their service. Several years ago, I had a Veteran, Steve, take our Master Gardener class. Though he has many health issues from serving in Vietnam, he manages to work at our Master Gardener desk answering many gardening questions. The year after he took our class, he started sponsoring other veterans to take the class. Some have completed the course and volunteer hours, other did not. This year we had 3 women veterans take the class. They all carry some "scares" from serving. But this year I realized that with a gentle tug and words of encouragement and pointing out the positives was enough to help them forge ahead to finish their 50 hours. I am hopeful that they will continue to volunteer and learn more about gardening.
One of these strong bright women actually works for the VA Hospital. She asked me if I would be a collaborator to help her receive a grant that would allow her, and our program, to help teach more veterans and to put in a therapy garden. The hope is to provide a space of healing and that some learn enough skills to acquire a job in the Green Industry. Steve and I had discussed this idea for several years but just needed the right person and the grant to come along. The ball is now rolling to fulfill the dream of helping our Veterans through gardening.
We all know that staying more active keeps us healthy longer. I recently read a report about how just getting people out of the office at lunch and out into the landscape was enough to improve their mood and productivity, in fact even more then someone meditating for the same amount of time. Gardening provides exercise, mental clarity, healthy food and a sense of community. Hopefully we will have a way to track how gardening improves Veterans lives and the lives of others. If this program does well in Grand Junction, imagine the potential at all VAs across our nation.
So today I challenge you to not only thank a Veteran but think about how your love of gardening could help someone, Veteran or not in your community. Most CSU Extension offices are currently accepting applications for the Master Gardener / Colorado Certified Gardener class. Here are the benfits of being a Master Gardener: http://www.cmg.colostate.edu/about.shtml
And again, thank you to all that have served.
Susan Carter, Horticulture and Natural Resource Agent, Tri River Area.