Sierra Gardens are popping up all over Nevada County, helping families improve their health by teaching them how to grow food in their own backyards. But one Sierra Garden has a specific second objective – supporting mental health.
Turning Point is a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive mental health care for people with significant diagnoses of mental illness, creating individualized treatment plans to help improve patients’ quality of life. Jeffrey Dupra, Personal Service Coordinator at the Nevada County branch of Turning Point, believes that gardening can be an effective part of that plan.
Dupra was working at Hospitality House when he met past Sierra Harvest Food Love farmers Katie Turner and Amanda Thibodeau and found out about the Sierra Gardens program. Dupra grew up growing his own food, and he understands how a vegetable garden in your backyard can support physical as well as mental health. He helped get a garden installed at Hospitality House not only to supply fresh food to the organization, but to help its clients feel more connected: “People’s brains and bodies are starved for true nourishment,” says Dupra. “I wanted to introduce the dynamic practice of working in the garden, feeling connected to their food source.”
When he moved to Turning Point, he brought the idea of a garden
with him, and with support from Sierra Harvest, got a Sierra Garden installed at the Respite Center, a staffed transitional home for people that are actively in crisis. The Respite Center provides three community meals a day, and now those meals are augmented with fresh produce from their garden. But the garden at Respite Center isn’t just a source of healthy, nourishing food; it also provides an opportunity for residents to connect with nature, each other, and even the Divine. “It has that temple vibe – beautiful, peaceful, outdoors,” says Dupra. “You’ve got something on your mind you can just go down there, you don’t have to do any work.”
For Dupra, the garden is a metaphor – a place that provides common ground on different levels. He explains: “One of the biggest myths around mental illness is that people who are struggling are distinguishable from those who are not. There’s more common ground than uncommon ground between those that struggle and those that don’t.”
Interested in getting a Sierra Garden installed at your home or organization? Contact Sierra Harvest for more information at 530-265-2343. Applications are online at sierraharvest.org.