Not By Chance Podcast

The Therapeutic Effects of Gardening - Farmer Karl

February 26, 2020 Dr. Tim Thayne Season 1 Episode 14
Not By Chance Podcast
The Therapeutic Effects of Gardening - Farmer Karl
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Tim Thayne interviews Karl Ebeling, AKA Farmer Karl of Grow Life. There is a deep connection to the earth and to other people that can come from working together in a garden. You may be convinced to start your own little garden after hearing some of the compelling stories they share.

Talmage:

Welcome to the not by chance podcast. I'm Talmage, Tim Thane son and podcast manager. Today was a kind of different day. Me and my brother Grayson were setting up for the podcast when my dad ran upstairs and said, Hey guys, I have the perfect person to join as a guest on this podcast. So it was super drop of the hat. This guy is the founder of a pilot youth gardening program, a professional chemical engineer who's dedicated himself to leading a nonprofit organization and the father of five children. His name is Karl Ebeling , also known as a farmer. Carl. Over the past several years, Carl actively pursued his passion to empower people in the context of the garden he founded grow life and organization to grow people and cultivate community. Grow Life started its first chapter as a pilot program in 2018 in partnership with Northern children's services, a Philadelphia institution focused on the promoting the healthy development of children and stabilizing families. The girl life garden club meets after school and during the summer for 50 minute sessions. Once a week. 50 foster children have experienced the benefits of interacting with nature in the garden. Specifically he has witnessed the positive effects that caring for plants has had on them. Their confidence increased as a result of life. Lessons learned through connection to the earth, their food and each other such group experiences instilled gratitude, responsibility and compassion. These aptitudes are necessary for healthy relationships, which are the basis of a thriving community.

Dr. Tim Thayne:

All right , so today we're going to continue our conversation about retro principles for the complex needs of a modern world. If you remember last time I was talking about my grandpa and just what he taught me. Uh, and there's so many lessons and this is going to be another one that relates to some things that, that my grandpa taught me, but I want to introduce my new friend Karl Ebelin . He's an individual that I'm finding has deep interest in really the therapeutic effects of gardening, of working together with other people in a setting like that, which is truly a retro principle when you think about it or it certainly a rare event these days. It used to happen all the time for all of American society, right?

Karl Ebeling:

Yes. In fact , um, you know, I was talking to somebody in the who did an agricultural study of Utah and in the 1960s , um , 60% of the food that Utahns consume was grown in Utah. And now we're at about 3% of the food. So again, this experience of working in the garden, producing something, live edible, healthy, that that has been kind of farmed out, if you will, or given to more national food companies and that distance us from the soil and our roots

Dr. Tim Thayne:

[inaudible] and, and I think like so many of the things, we don't realize how powerful it is until it's been removed or we've lost it. And then we're looking back at it saying, wow, what have we missed out on? What are we not really, you know, benefiting from that we used to. That was just part of everyday life. Yeah. And , uh, so it was really fun to meet Carl today because I didn't realize at the day I was going to do a retro principles podcast that he wouldn't walk in with this retro passion that is needed in our modern world. Uh, it made me think about my grandpa and I mentioned this to him to you a few minutes ago. And uh, so my grandpa lived to a pretty good age, 93 years old and he, this, this person is really important to me because not only was he my grandpa, but I looked like him from the time I was a little kid. And everybody said, Tim, you look like your grandpa, you act like your grandpa. So there was this draw to, to try and be more like him. So I've watched in closely. And so when it comes to gardening, this is a really interesting thing about him. It , he, he , uh, I noticed as his life progressed and as he went through the stages of life, his garden went from huge to overtime . It just shrunk a little bit at a time down to where at the end he was living with my mom and dad and he had a little corner of a greenhouse. Wow . And he was still tending the plants in this little green house .

Karl Ebeling:

What , 10 by 10? Or . . .

Dr. Tim Thayne:

it was, yeah. About like that. Um , and most of the time he was in a wheelchair and so he'd still get out there and get down in the dirt and crawl back on his weld chair. But he'd go to go to work every day , so to speak in the garden. Right. And what , what do you think , um, what, you know, he lived in old age, he really , uh , was, was healthy during that time. Um, and I, and I think in so many other cases I've looked at movement and activity, which gardens kind of require.

Karl Ebeling:

Yes. And actually even your hands in the soil , um , maybe you're not aware of , but there happened studies that the soil is actually living organism. There's billions of microbes doing their thing, a part of the soil whim . And , um, they are actually beneficial. You would, you would , you know, who would think soil, you know, soil is dirt, right? But actually there've been studies shown that those who interact with the soil, with the plants caring for something, producing some food or something beautiful. Um , just like this plant in , in the studio here , um , there's something very , um, um, positive that's going on such that your wellbeing increases. Uh , if I could give an example of this , um, one of my sons who lives in the Utah Valley here , um, he's a graduate in , in it. So most of his world is working on computers programs. Um, uh, he does a lot of software development and that's probably not unique to most of you with children who are into computers. Um, so he, my, my son, my other son was getting married and , uh , we had a reception in my sister's backyard and all the family was called together to work in the backyard, get this backyard ready for our reception. So my son said, okay , this is my computer. It son . He said , uh , Oh, all right , I'll help out for justice Saturday morning. And , um, you know, before he, he'd been struggling with feelings of anxiety where he just, I'm just uneasy about things, worry, whatever it was. And , um , he came with those kinds of feelings to my sister's house and knocked on the door, said, Oh, great, you're here. Let me give you a tool. So he got a weeder, a ho , a rake. And there were some other of my family members in the backyard. And , um, you know, I learned the third person, but , um, I asked him how did that experience go? And he said, you know what, I , I, when I finished my couple of hours working in the garden, I felt like all my things, it was lifted. Like there was like, I could breathe again. And I said, what do you think that, what was the cause of that? Of course, me, you know, farmer Carl , that's my, that's my code name here. But, you know, I, I'm convinced that there's an interaction when we're with other people in the garden, and even when we're interacting with the soil and the plants beautifying, creating order, there's something very fundamental going on with our psyche.

Dr. Tim Thayne:

[inaudible] [inaudible] so that's why I feel good even though I'm weeding the garden. Yeah. I mean, I used to try to avoid that as a kid, you know, but , but I , I actually enjoy it.

Karl Ebeling:

And, and weeding by yourself, I would say yeah , that that's, that's really a punishment. But when you're with a group of people where you're working in the garden, I, I grew up in Pennsylvania and we had a church , um , farm where we grew tomatoes for , uh , Del Monte and we sold the produce so that we could get money for , um, you know, helping the poor out and , um, that experience, we were 20 guys rolling out black plastic, putting holes in the plastic, planting these tomato plants and putting on the little fertilizer. I will never forget the feeling that I had. We were a comradery. We are, we're a team. And , um , I really believe that we're lacking that in our society today.

Dr. Tim Thayne:

Absolutely. I think so. You know, you've walked into the barn today and you've, you've learned a little bit about the history of the barn and, and you , you notice that , uh , we've got a lot of our own family working here with us in at Homeward bound and it rallies star other company , uh , but on the walls and , and all of you can't see this, but we have a couple of signs up there. One of them says Paisley farms and it was an all natural hog and beef farm that we , we created and worked on together as a family. And we have the thing barn over here, another sign that is a really about a little business we did out of the barn here where our kids were milking cows here in the city. So the setting is, we are on a two acre plot in the middle of Lehi, Utah. Uh, it was intentional , uh, to try and have a place where, and I didn't have the science behind it like you do. I , I didn't understand really fully what it was. In some ways it was like about work for me, you know , trying to help my kids learn how to work. Um, but definitely getting into nature, getting our hands dirty. Uh, yeah. Creating gardens, something, growing something yeah. Has been very helpful to our family.

Karl Ebeling:

Yeah. And that , that brings to mind. Um, the experiences that I'm having in Philadelphia , uh , I'm currently on the suburbs of Philadelphia and part of my girl life , um, nonprofit organization is to reach out to foster children across Philadelphia. They, I am partnering with an organization called Northern children's services. And so for two seasons we're working with , um , 10 to 13 year olds who are in a home situation. That's largely not your ideal family. They may or may not have a parent , um, they may not eat dinner together. Um, Cheetos and of the basics , uh , pizza, make sure it's pizza and Cheetos, you know, and, and so when they get out in the garden , um , it's the wonder that I see in their expressions, it's so priceless. It's, it's worth all the effort that I put into creating this experience for them. We have 16 raised beds , um , four by four. Um, and , and they get to plant in them. There were six African-American Latin American kids, you know, from all countries, nationals . They were, they were in the soil with their hands and you were thinking, what are you doing in the soil? But it was actually, it was like filling a , an innate need. They had to connect with the earth and , and what they were growing. That's awesome. And that's really part of your vision, isn't it? To use this a , this innate important thing that we've kind of lost touch with, you know, getting back into the soil, getting growing of her own food and healthy. You're wanting to use that to , to help youth in general and can tell us a little bit more about what Yan is . So , um, there's a couple elements of what I'm trying to do, but it all centers around the principle of inviting society back to the garden. And in fact, I, I'm working on a book called come come back to the garden because even since Adam and Eve , um, we , we learn about the garden and the name human comes from humus, which actually stems from of the dust. And even the name Adam has , um, linkages to the soil. And , and when you understand why the garden was created, it was for us to have joy in happiness and it was two people interacting in the garden, tending, cultivating, tilling , um, interacting with this beautiful nature that was created for our wellbeing. And that interaction is one I am trying to propose in a model, if you will. How do we bring the garden back into modern society? I love that Carl . You know, the thing that comes to mind, it's almost a little mini will wilderness, right? So I, you know, it was a founder, a co founder of a wilderness treatment program and , and having kids in that nature, that natural environment, and of course they get dirty by the way, you know , they actually enjoy , I get my hands a little dirty because it's so different than the office work that I'm doing it, it connects with me in a new level. So there's definitely a piece of that. You know, even, you know, a lot of them parents that , that listen to this,

Dr. Tim Thayne:

they may have had a child in a therapeutic program of some type or maybe their child is struggling in some ways right now and, and, and some of them probably know about these wilderness programs and they have seen the transformation that takes place and we call it kind of a therapeutic milieu . It's like an environment that's the new sort of designed on one hand in terms of how you interact with the kids and what the activities are and you know, the therapeutic component of that environment. But the natural part of it that you really can't create, it's, it's there and you're interacting with it. We probably are under , uh, maybe , uh, maybe we're not seeing the full benefit of the fact that the setting itself, the nature and even maybe the dirt. Exactly. After talking to you, I'm starting to question that and wonder maybe, you know, all those Billy Bass, we're having them take, it's okay if they get a little dirty.

Karl Ebeling:

Yeah. And you're, you're mentioning that , um, um, it brings to mind what's going on in Missoula, Montana. Um, um , they have an organization called youth harvest and um, these are use , uh , typically in the 16 to 25 year age , um, advocated youth. In other words, they've had some , uh, interaction with the law, let's say they're on probation. And typically that involves some court proceeding where they say, okay, you have so many hours of community service. And , um, the beautiful thing about what's going on in Missoula is they have a garden city harvest, which is an organization fostering community agriculture. Um, and that experience, and they, they actually work in tandem. They have five educated youth with , um, probably 12 to 20 university students who are studying environmental science and community ag. And , um, you can watch a Ted talk by Josh Slotnick called community farming. It's not about the food, but , um, what he brings out is, and , and I was just there yesterday in Missoula talking to the lead farmer , uh , Dave Victor. Um , he said it's amazing to watch the chemistry of what's going on the first week. Everybody's kind of like to themselves, they don't know what to think. Um , and they start working in the soil. They start seeding these little plants as together. And the second week you start to see things gel. The third week they are one United team and he said the people, somehow the chemistry of working in nature in the garden with each other has produced some amazing results. So I just wanted to bring that out as an example. That year over year, I think they've been doing this for 12, 15 years. Um, it's transforming used lives.

Dr. Tim Thayne:

That's , that's fantastic. You know, it makes me wonder, Carl , what could parents do? Okay, so we're gonna have to brainstorm here a little bit. What if they're living in a city, an urban environment? And is there, is there anything they can take from these principles you're talking about right now that would help with help their , their child or their youth who may be struggling in some way?

Karl Ebeling:

That's a great, great question. Um, I think , um, there are PARPs um, you know, it's a great resource , um, in any city. Um, and uh , the idea is how do you, how do you get to the point where you're actually generating , um, I see parks as a , um, a passive activity when you're in a park. You're experiencing that. But I think what you're asking is how can you be an active participating in creating new life in , in, in the garden? Um, certainly there's , um, um, horticultural societies. Um, the four H tends to be in the rural settings . So , um, what one of my visions is, is that grow life would be a charter school organization. So likeminded people in communities can establish the very basics of how do you get a couple of raise beds together on a section of a property where the community can come together.

Dr. Tim Thayne:

Yeah. You know, I, I think when I was first married , uh , brand newlywed , um , my wife, Roxanne and I were, were in an apartment building and the farmer in me wanted a homegrown tomatoes. And so there was no, hardly any dirt anywhere, but there was one little square of dirt outside our apartment. And we planted two, two , uh , small mailings. And , uh, we, we nurtured that over the next little while. And all of our neighbors know about these two tomato plants. Right. They're children. And, and it was, it was really fun. That was just one of those things we did. You know, I feel like even, you know, there's, there's levels of what could happen. I remember planting a little bean in a cup. Yeah . You know, and it got enough sunlight that you put it in the window and water it, and you can see that sprout. So I , I would say that there's probably even something as small as that could have some kind of an effect , right?

Karl Ebeling:

Yes. And , um , you know, I can't be stopped. My wife says , uh, all right, you're gonna do your garden this year. And I'm in the basement, I have my seating trays, I have my heating mat underneath. And I did a tomatoes, eggplant. And what I did is I invited some kids over and I said, Hey, how would you like to work with me on these plants ? And I gifted them the plants that I had grown. And uh , just this last year, this seven year old says, Oh, you've got to come to our house. Look what I've done. And I came to her house, we had a pizza party. She had this tomato plant that was four feet tall, filled with tomato. She said, look what my plan is that you gave me. Look what you've done. And so it's, you know, the realization is giving a plan and giving a child an experience like that in the garden, even if it's at your home or they start out somehow planting a beans seed and letting that grow, all of that can, can engender this love of nature in , in the benefit of feeling like, wow, isn't this a miracle and watching and I'm caring for something now. Now that's giving life back

Dr. Tim Thayne:

[inaudible] and you know, just to kind of wrap up here, I feel like, you know, in a day and age like we are today and you described your son in front of a screen a lot for his job and what he's doing there. And really all of us are now like that. Most of us are like that in front of the screen a lot. I think we have to be very deliberate. Take those moments of time to get away from the screen, get outside. Part of it's probably just outside, right? Get to the park. Uh, spend some time in the yard , uh, you know, grow a little plant, you know, just , just find ways to get back to nature and away from screens. And that alone is bound to make us, it's going to lift our spirits, you know, if nothing else, right, it's going to lift our snacks like it did your son. So , uh, let's keep using the word here, cultivating this idea, you know , with what we can do in our families and , and use this retro principle. And this is crazy sometimes complex busy world where we don't slow down and getting back to the basics and I really appreciate you Carl and I love your passion for this. I really, I think you're gonna, you're gonna continue to, to, you know, continue to expand this and make a difference for a lot of kids. So thanks for coming by today and prompt, you know, impromptu , a podcast,

Karl Ebeling:

such an amazing opportunity to meet you and at the same time be invited on this con podcast in the same day. It's really fun. I just want to just thank Tim for allowing me to share my passion and, and it's just a testimonial over and over again what I see change in the lives of our young people that I hope that you can take some part of this and make it useful for you.

Dr. Tim Thayne:

Wonderful. Thanks so much. You're welcome. Thank you for listening to this episode is really fun

Talmage:

to do because it was just spontaneous and drop of the hat. Make sure to go on social media and comment on our posts, what you liked and what you want to implement with your own family.