AMS Healing Gardens [Pilot]

Plant, Prospect, Harvest, Health

Research in the United States shows that gardening has a positive influence on the recovery of hospital patients. As gardening involves being outside, getting physical exercise, taking in sunlight, eating healthily and working on the future. As part of AMS’ research programme The Feeding City at the Flevo Campus, together with Wageningen University & Research and Parkhuys Almere, we are collaborating to find out if we can achieve the same effects in the Netherlands. We started a pilot project called ‘Healing Gardens’ in which cancer patients garden under supervision. We aim to expand this pilot into a larger research program.

Relationship gardening and health
There is convincing evidence that a healthy diet and regular physical activity, especially when started during the medical treatment, have a positive effect on the recovering. Many therapeutic treatments for cancer patients are also focused on the recommendation to eat healthily and exercise more. However, this is not attractive for the majority of recovering cancer patients: less than 25% of patients manage to consume a sufficient quantity of vegetables and comply with the physical activity guidelines. Possibly, gardening is a method that better suits patients’ needs, capabilities and interests. Gardening is a physical activity that exposes people to fruit and vegetables in a natural way, and working in the outdoors provides the necessary vitamin D.

Aim and objectives
We are testing to what extent gardening can help cancer patients meeting the norms of physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake, and to what extent gardening in a group can function as a form of social support. Our objective is to set up a large and structured program to examine the physical and mental effects gardening can have on hospital patients. The aim of this pilot is to test the study design and to identify the needs of potential participants. The focus for the pilot is on (recovering) cancer patients. Moreover, we are looking to find answers to questions on the practical and methodological implications, such as whether people enjoy maintaining a communal plot, or if they prefer an individual space? What are the best methods to measure physical and mental health? How large should a garden be and which plants are most suitable?

The Pilot
The pilot started in the spring of 2017 on the grounds of Parkhuys, where we placed containers in which participants grow fruits and vegetables. The pilot is treated as one of the regular activities offered by Parkhuys, so that professional support and guidance by Parkhuys’ volunteers is available. There is a need to study, try, build, test, explore and plant a lot, and we can and do not want to do that alone. That is why the researchers are looking for the involvement of various parties in Almere: recovering cancer patients, (medical) care, volunteers, education and businesses. Because of the close involvement of the Development Centre Urban Agriculture Almere (OSA), Parkhuys, the hospital and local businesses, Almere is the perfect place to start the pilot.

We’d be happy to discuss how you can be involved in the project.

Project duration
The pilot started in April 2017 and ends in October 2017

Partners during the pilot 
Wageningen University & Research
Parkhuys Almere
Flevo Campus

Project leader
Dr. Esther Veen Rural Sociology Group Wageningen University & Research,

Contact Person
Esther Veen, 0320 291 643.

The Feeding City research programme