Farms: A Source of Calm in a World of Crisis
This is the last of a series about the contribution of our local food systems to public health and safety, although I will continue to provide tips on dealing with COVID-19. For now, I am going to focus on the contribution of community agriculture to wellbeing.
I enjoy my visits to farmers’ markets. I never tire of gazing out in the fields, and soaking in nature. I have grown to appreciate farmers’ markets and farm stands as opportunities to indulge in nature. I enjoy my journey as a stroll past expanses of tomato fields. As I buy watermelon radishes, I admire the agricultural landscape.
The calming effect of nature is well documented on both the individual and societal levels. In the office, taking three minute “nature breaks” improves mental health, reduces stress, and bolsters concentration. Looking at plants boosts productivity and morale. In hotels, just the scent of fresh plants increased natural killer cells -white blood cells that fight cancer.
In communities, green spaces mean greater community well-being. Communities with more parks promote socializing, better health, and a greater sense of purpose. Even in prisons, nature videos combat violence just as effectively as six guards in Kevlar vests and full riot gear. Nalini Nadkarni and her colleagues found that prisoners watching nature videos committed 26% fewer violent infractions as compared to those who did not watch.
This research shows how much we can all benefit from the sights, smells, and sounds of nature. Nature has become lost in the urban jungle. It can be difficult to create in apartments, in traffic, in the office. It has become disconnected from the food we eat in grocery stores and convulated supply chains. Yet, in our state of mass anxiety over where the coronavirus will take us, we need nature more now than ever before. Farm tours, farmers’ markets, and farmstands constitute much needed opportunities for communities to embrace nature. If there is anything I can do to help protect these community institutions, please let me know.