The Benefits of Military Base Gardens for Active Duty Military and Their Families
So, are military base gardens personal gardens or are they organized more like a community garden (which puts them, in the Eco Garden Systems’ world, in the commercial space)? The best ones, we feel, are a bit of both. The individual nature or each gardener growing things for their unique needs would seem to favor the “personal garden” narrative. However, the nature of being transient in the military combined with the challenges military families face in blending into their new assignments means there is a need for a more organized program with some longevity and some continuity.
An additional piece here is the benefits military base gardens can provide for returning service members from their assignments away from family and base. Perhaps this motto, gleaned from some trainers years ago that taught military style process management may help:
Mission, Team, Self
This mantra places the mission at the forefront – and if we see “The Mission” as keeping things together at home while the service member is away then we see again the connection to a Community Garden. Combine this with those left behind as part of “The Team” – then we need to make sure that they are also executing their mission – keeping the family together and community once again becomes a big deal.
As a community, we see life on a military base as in need of some anchoring points. From our research, military base gardens can become one of those anchoring points. The old adage is that everyone has to eat and that leads to the truism is that everyone wants fresher food. What could be more fresh than vegetables or fruits grown in your own garden? Now, pivot a bit to building an everlasting community and you have Community Gardening – Base Style. As we have shared about other types of community gardens, the need for continuity on bases is even more profound. With people moving in and out all the time as orders change, we find gardening to be the perfect anchor – those that are “left behind” when the service person goes off on assignment have something to focus on and those that are newly assigned have a ready-made place to meet members of their new community.
So, how do you make military base gardens happen? Well, we happen to have a page for gardening on military bases. A few key points jump out:
- Soil – military bases are not always located where soil for growing is the best (one of our team used to live near MCAS Miramar and, while they did have a nice golf course, the rest of the base was either covered with hardscape (like asphalt) or had soil that was not suitable for growing. In a climate like San Diego and with no soil to grow, having a raised garden bed like one (or more) of our Original Gardens would be perfect.
- Coordination – our guess is that gardens for families is not in the current operating manual for bases or various branches of the service. This means that someone (why not you?) would need to get things started. There are probably quite a few folks with an inner gardener just waiting for an outlet – start a discussion group, check with base leadership or even check with the PX – they might like to be part of a fresh produce operation for folks living on the base.
- Continuity – we mentioned this before but the military life can be a bit transient – that means there needs to be some sort of organization created to make sure that the garden project stays vibrant even as families move on.
Read our Military E-Magazine with features and benefits of the Eco Garden System.
Did you know that gardening and the military have been linked for many years? During World War 2, Victory Gardens were a thing – check out this link that helps explain what Victory Gardens were all about.
Over the past year we have researched and shared information on how gardening can create better health outcomes. What we found was amazing overall – and intriguing in terms of how PTSD can be alleviated through gardening. The ability to focus, the reduction in total stress, the overall benefits to the body of interacting with nature and micro-organisms is fairly well documented – but perhaps not used enough. Our belief is that gardening is one of the better ways to improve this condition that too often impacts our service men and women. Gardening can even help folks cope with PTSD. Here is some pretty compelling information on Gardening & PTSD.
Finally, we think that every Veteran’s Home or Hospital is the perfect place to create an accessible and expandable garden. We have visited multiple VA establishments and have observed one drawback – too many of the gardens built are not accessible to folks with physical limitations. In fact, one that was built specifically for residents was planted with trees as the raised garden bed was too wide for even fully capable adults to work with any efficiency. We are not saying the an Eco Garden is best – but we are saying that our gardens are built to help people with more limited mobility or with limited ability to bend, crawl or kneel experience the joy of gardening.
We want to thank all of our military members for their service and thank their families for the sacrifices they make – they also serve and help the rest of us enjoy all of the freedoms we have today!