OREM — Four-year-old Yannik Foerster is on a worm hunt. “Say ‘Hello’ Mr. Earth Worm!” he said upon finding a worm.
Yannik, his little sister, and his mom, Katie Foerster, are preparing their dirt at the Orem Community Hospital's Live Well Garden. They're getting ready to plant lots of fruits and veggies this spring.
"He's keeping our dirt healthy huh?" Katie Foerster said as they looked at the worm he dug up. "When you're gardening, worms are your best friends," she said.
This is the second year in a row the Foersters are planting a garden at the LiVe Well Center. They enjoyed it so much last year, they decided to do it again.
"[It’s] fun for the kids to get in the dirt and to get outside," Foerster said. “It was a reason every couple of days to get outside and do something with them.”
The Foersters aren’t afraid to get a little sweaty and go out of their way to keep the worms alive. They opt to turn their dirt with shovels rather than a rototiller to keep the worms alive. "We like to use the shovel old fashioned way elbow grease to keep those worms alive," Foerster said.
Maintaining a garden is a lot of work, but Intermountain Healthcare’s Laura Salazar said the benefits go beyond just exercise. She said gardening helps people interact socially. They seek advice from each other and find common ground in participating in the same activity.
"By the end, they all know each other and they hang around and talk for hours. And that's part of living well is that connection to community," Salazar said.
She said it’s also a healthy way to get some sunshine and improve your mental health. "Being outside is fantastic,” Salazar said.
Foerster said she notices a difference for her family.
"You can tell your mood picks up,” she said. "On a day when they [her kids] watch more TV, they're always just a little more like angry or a little more aggressive."
Salazar said gardening makes you more resilient after trying different techniques and experiencing both failure and success. "Anytime that you have a plan and you initiate it and you see it come to life, and this is like really tangible," she said. "Smells good, feels good, tastes good. That's good for your mental health."
Plus, Foerster said it's an easy way to help her kids eat healthy, organic produce. She said her son, who doesn’t typically like to eat vegetables, was excited to eat butternut soup made once a week from their harvested produce last year.
"We just love the vegetables and the fruit. You don't worry about where it's coming from," she explained.
Foerster said most importantly she is excited to teach her kids while they are young. "I love giving this opportunity [to her kids] to be more connected to the earth,” she said. “They get their hands dirty and really do the things that are kind of dying out in our culture."
Orem Community Hospital offers about 50 plots to families through an application process each February, but if you are interested in assisting a family as a garden volunteer, you can apply online.