Cultivating and connecting at Planting Justice
Recommendations from experts in multiple fields—medicine, science, academia, lifestyle, faith—consistently place social interaction and engagement at the top of the wellness list. While diet, activity level, genetics, connection to nature and advantages such as adequate income or access to health care play significant roles in determining individual physical and mental health, scientific research and anecdotal accounts ultimately tell one story. Long-term, stable well-being is experienced mainly by people who live within a circle of loving family members, close friends or even acquaintances with whom a shared passion or purpose is the unifying bond.
Is there one place where these social connections can be found or exercised that also scores extra points by offering multiple individual health-boosting factors? Based in Oakland and happily fitting the bill is Planting Justice.
Co-founded in 2009 by Haleh Zandi and Gavin Raders, the grassroots organization is dedicated to building permaculture community gardens and nurseries, and providing green jobs in the food justice movement to people transitioning from prison. The outgrowth of its operations offers dignified jobs, affordable food, safe environments, a food justice educational curriculum, and active volunteerism aimed at healing communities and green spaces that might otherwise be neglected, overlooked, ignored or abandoned.
The opportunities to become involved—and thus, gain access to ongoing social interactions, outdoor experiences, physical activity, healthy organic food and more—are available to anyone willing to participate. Hosted volunteer work days are open to individuals, community groups, schools and businesses at three locations: the four-acre mother farm and the Good Table in El Sobrante, and at the East Oakland nursery on the border of San Leandro at 319 105th Ave.
Among the unique features of on-site work days are weeding, tilling, planting seeds, transferring seedlings to the soil, light construction like fence repair or completing plant bed containers, retail sales, and general cleaning and maintenance.
Beyond the innate rewards of “playing” in the dirt, nurturing tiny seeds to become mature plants, supporting social justice and the environment, and learning about and practicing healthy nutrition, there is the primary benefit. In Planting Justice gardens, people grow not just plants, but beautiful relationships and personal health and wellness.
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