Friday, April 23, 2010

Update #2 - Cancer Victory Garden in New Jersey

Here is the second update from the Cancer Victory Garden at the Trinitas Cancer Center in Elizabeth, NJ!
Hi Diana- Just to keep you posted about the herb garden at Trinitas Cancer Center in Elizabeth, NJ.

We have lots of herbs!! 
When I put out the signal that I was looking for someone to take over the garden, our Complementary Medicine Nurse contacted me.  She would love to start a healing garden in the courtyard with these plants.   What could be better???  Hospital administration still needs to give her the okay, but she's coming upon some roadblocks.  She has a lot of plans and it warmed my heart to know someone else wants to go forward with this project. 

Here are some recent photos.

(Photo: Dill)

(Photo: Cilantro)

(Photo: Oregano)

(Photo: Curly Parsley)

(Photo: Everything growing in the tray - looks like a complete success!)


It won't be long before the baby plants will be transplanted to go home with patients and hopefully also into a new herb garden in the courtyard of the cancer center. 

How lucky your patients are to have you on the medical team contributing to their comprehensive care at your cancer center.  Please keep us updated!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Finding Gardening Space

Want to garden but have no space of your own? Want to move beyond just the pots or handing plants on your balcony? Here's a new free match-making website to help you find that special space where you can garden on someone-else's land!

SharedEarth connects land owners with gardeners and farmers.

Austin – SharedEarth ( launches as the world celebrates Earth Day. is a free match-making website that connects land owners with gardeners and farmers.   Land owners share their land with someone they trust and get free fruits, vegetables and flowers.  Gardeners and farmers get free access to land and the opportunity to grow what they love.  The produce is shared between the two parties as they see fit.  The result is a more efficient use of land and a greener planet.

“Community gardens exist in every major city in the United States, yet virtually all have waiting lists.  With over 25 million square feet of shared space on the system, has created an alternative with the largest community of private land owners and gardeners on the planet.  We are making more efficient use of land and a greener planet, one garden at a time,” said Chairman and Founder, Adam Dell.

Much like online dating sites, users create their own profile and find matches based on criteria such as location, years of gardening experience and the type of produce to be grown.  Gardeners and farmers find the service useful because they are able to gain free access to land.  Land owners find the service useful because they often lack the time, experience or commitment needed to cultivate a productive garden on their property.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the best-selling books The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, had this to say about Shared Earth: “Whoa! What a grand idea.”

Shared Earth was born out of Dell’s own experience looking for help growing a garden on his property.  He turned to the Internet to find a qualified match.  And now he reaps the rewards of this partnership through the fruits and vegetables he eats every day. was established as a not for profit sustainable corporation to help facilitate this process for others. 

Please visit for more information and to register for FREE today.

Gosh, what an opportunity! Good luck and have fun finding gardening space for your own special Cancer Victory Garden!

Cultivating health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, April 16, 2010

Michelle Obama visits San Diego community farm and finds a Cancer Victory Garden™

No, the article or person interviewed didn't call her community garden plot a Cancer Victory Garden™, but indeed that is what she is describing. Quoting from the article in today's news:
Tsitsi Mutseta, who moved to San Diego from Zimbabwe eight years ago, said the garden helped ease her mind as she adjusted to her new life in the United States, far from her family.
In addition, Mutseta is fighting cancer and said she told Obama the garden has given her a reason to live.
"I told her I come to the garden to relieve my pain. I get food from the garden that is organic and it connects me with my family because I grew up on a small farm in Zimbabwe," said Mutseta, a tall woman who hugged Obama and gave her leaves from her kale crop. "She said she would pray for me and she loved what I did in the garden."
And how apropos that this woman gave Michelle Obama leaves from her kale plants. Maybe I will cross post this article on my kale blog, too. :-)

In all seriousness, what this woman has experienced and is expressing in this article is exactly what I had in mind and can relate to myself as she describes how gardening is helpful during her cancer journey.  The relief from pain, whether physical or emotional pain or both, through the active connection to the earth by gardening is healing for both the body and spirit. There is no stress of needing to understand or use a new language (whether a recent immigrant learning English or a new cancer patient learning suddenly thrust into the situation of needing to learn "medicalese"). Indeed, I don't believe there is any pill, vitamin, or cancer therapy that can do all of that, especially one that can produce so many benefits at such a low cost and without any side effects.

A book that Michelle Obama and others might wish to read is The Earth Knows My Name by Patricia Klindienst, which lets immigrants to the US tell the stories of how their gardening efforts have helped them to retain their cultural heritage. I confess that I picked up this book, thinking I would "breeze through it". Not only did I not breeze through it, I read it three times.

The first reading actually produced many tears, tears from seeing beauty but also tears that come with sadness and loss, feeling deep compassion for all that these immigrants had left behind along with the many difficulties that came with adjusting to a new life in the US (again, a path that cancer survivors often experience, as life is never the same again, even living in the very same place). The second time I read it, I read it slowly, very slowly, and let myself draw pictures in my mind as I imagined each garden and each gardener. The third time I read the book I actually read it aloud to my husband, just for the pleasure of hearing these stories, and imagining the voices of each immigrant as they expressed their hopes. I can honestly say that, even without any pictures in this book, it is one of the most beautiful and most emotionally-engaging book I have ever read.

In fact, I have recommended this book to every professor I have met who teaches a course in Community Nutrition or Community-based Food Systems. In addition, it was reading this book that led to my deeper understanding of how gardening is potentially beneficial for cancer patients and actually may be the most under-appreciated "complementary medicine" (CAM) therapy available. Hopefully through this blog, and efforts of others, a recommendation that cancer patients consider gardening as an option for potentially beneficial "self-help" complementary medicine therapies will become common enough that gardening as a CAM therapy may be an example of "everything old is new again".  :-)

What this remarkable woman Tsitsi Mutseta has done, through her small garden in San Diego, is to do her very best to emulate the motto of this blog, i.e., to cultivate her own health through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul.

I send her (and all others on a cancer journey) my heart-felt wishes for good gardening, health, healing, and hope!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'll be watching Dirt: The Movie

This post is a cross-posting from my dianadyer blog (my first time to do so) to make sure that all my blog readers have an opportunity to watch the upcoming documentary next week, as important to all cancer survivors as it is to the rest of the television watching audience.


If you haven't picked up on this yet, my blog has a pretty wide range of topics, all related to my far-reaching range of interests. I am putting the date and time on my calendar for watching the following show: Dirt: The Movie, airing next week on PBS TV channels. I honestly cannot remember the last time I did that for something on TV (oops yes I can - I do love to watch the Wimbledon tennis women's finals so I always make sure I know when that is being broadcast), so I highly recommend that you do the same.

Here is the link to the movie info. You will also see a link on that page to find the day/time of showing according to where you live.

The movie is about how we care for (or don't) our soil, the very foundation of our food production and thus life and health on this planet. The word 'dirt' is just a catchier word. In fact, I have heard that the author of the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations took flak from his professional colleagues (other geologists and soil scientists) for the title of his book, but that is what big publishing houses do to try to catch the public's attention in order to increase sales (most authors lose control over such details as the title and the cover image when their book is published by one of the main book publishing companies, just one reason I have turned down offers from two big publishing companies to take over publishing my book).

Two images I have kept in mind after reading Dirt are the following:

Modern agricultural practices are "soil mining", 
meaning we are rapidly outstripping the Earth's natural rate of 
restoring topsoil.

The world loses 83 billion tons of soil each year.

I actually feel that reading Dirt a few years ago was nearly as life-changing, i.e., expanding for my view of the world, as when I read Diet for a Small Planet in the early 1970's. Both books permanently shaped my opinions as a nutrition professional by understanding that our choices of food to eat have social consequences to economic consequences. I find it terribly disheartening that I learned none of this during my professional nutrition education. The next book on the top of my "to read pile" (very large) is The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture by Sir Albert Howard, originally published in 1947, re-published in 2006 with a new introduction by the farmer-poet-activist Wendell Berry. I am only musing at this point, but when reading it, I will pondering if this book should be the first book read by all nutrition professionals in training.

This movie is being shown in celebration of next week's 40th anniversary of Earth Day, but make no mistake, if we don't change our agriculture systems to focus on practices that preserve and rebuild the health of our soils around the world, it is not the earth that will be the loser, but humanity itself (i.e., no soil, no food). I would hope that the movie makes this point clearly.

Ending with another of my favorite quotations about the soil, here is one that is especially apropos:

The farther we get away from the land, the greater our insecurity.
  ~~ Henry Ford

Cultivating health (by caring for our soils) through a garden's nourishment of both body and soul
Diana Dyer, MS, RD