This could be school gardens, growing & sharing organic fruits & vegetables, programs for military staff & families with hands-on gardening activities, or creating a healing garden. The Florida Horticulture for Health Network exists to share ideas, highlight success stories, and include individuals and organizations in this forum. Based in Florida, but not limited to the geographical borders (everything is more accessible in the virtual world we live in) it’s time to connect, engage and promote the benefits of horticulture which we see offers so many different, diverse opportunities to address health and well-being. Join us and our award-winning team!
Introducing the Florida Horticulture for Health Network By Lesley Fleming, HTR, Leah Diehl, HTM, Bree Stark, BS, & Randy Amil, BS Photos by L. Fleming Infographic by B. Stark
So many exciting programs are taking place in Florida where horticulture and health combine to make lives better -- Victory2020 Gardenprogram in Columbia County, the Fresh and Local [hydroponic] Greenhouse Projectat St. Pete Youth Farm, and Sarasota’s Eco Vets farm. Horticulture for health includes all nature of activity where, as the name suggests, human health and wellbeing are promoted and where horticulture is a significant element.
Emerging on the scene is the Florida Horticulture for Health Network (FLHHN). In 2021 a group ofFloridians involved in people-plant interactions began discussions about establishing a network where resources and networking would support, share and expand horticulture-centric health initiatives. Thinking on a broader scale, more expansive than just horticultural therapy, the nexus for this emerging network evolved with input from an advisory group with representation across generations and backgrounds. Some were young emerging professionals and some with leadership experience in national and state horticultural therapy associations (American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) and the former Florida chapter of AHTA.
The catalyst for the network was the establishment of the University of Florida’s Certificate in Horticultural Therapy,its students drawn from within and beyond the state, and their interest in plant-based programming. The increase in virtual communications due to COVID-19, and its wide acceptance as an effective modality for interactions expanded opportunities and accessibility. The network’s plan of using multiple electronic platforms for webinars, group networking (virtual and in-person), epublications, social media engagement, and knowledge transfer seemed timely.
The mission of FLHHN states “We the Florida Horticulture for Health Network support horticulture for health initiatives in Florida and beyond through networking, knowledge exchange, and capacity building. We believe that horticulture and nature interventions can increase quality of life for all people regardless of age, ability, or background,” (FLHHN, 2021). The network’s vision "promotes activities and connects organizations to each other and resources that use horticulture to improve health including: therapeutic horticulture and horticultural therapy, nature interventions, landscapes for health, emerging profession support, allied horticulture and health services, community and school gardens, and food security initiatives." (FLHHN, 2021)
Horticulture for Health Horticulture for health, an umbrella term referring to wide-ranging activities, programs and services, where horticulture used in various capacities and applications can positively impact health seemed a good fit for the emerging network. Referencing Fleming’s horticulture for health framework (2021) which captures the exponential growth and scope of activities across disciplines and sectors, where practices in health services, education, food production, business, landscape architecture and green industry promote human health, reflected activity evident in Florida. Her framework categorizes diverse initiatives like mobile food trucks, digitized horticulture technology, ecotherapy, parks Rx, forest breathing, and therapeutic horticulture, as parts of a greater whole, where “the multi-sectoral nature and horticulture-specific commonality of [these] each focus on improving human health and where horticulture plays a significant role." (Fleming, 2021)
Health services that use horticulture as an integral part within a therapeutic modality frameworkinclude traditional and non-traditional health services like horticultural, recreational, occupational and physical therapists using gardens, gardening tasks, adaptive gardening tools and techniques, along with counselors, social workers, educators, nutritionists who integrate plant-based food, community and/or school gardens into their services. Nature base therapy, wilderness camps, aromatherapy, forest bathing, and veteran to farmer programming that use plant-based programming, treatment, and garden space are also grouped into this category.
Groups or movements using horticulture as the catalyst for social interactions include horticulture groups, green industry trade organizations, master gardener programs and garden clubs, as well as food security groups – food alliances, food literacy non-profits, and community gardens (Fleming, 2021). These are included in the horticulture for health paradigm for their use of horticultural activity supporting social interactions, sense of community, social cohesion and social affiliation, recognizing the important role social interactions play in health, both psychologically and sociologically (Fleming, 2021).
Landscapes for health (Sachs, 2008), and specifically; designed landscapes, healing gardens (Diehl,2013), healthcare gardens and therapeutic gardens play a role in human health. Examples include population specific therapeutic gardens for children, veterans, seniors, and those incarcerated, “green spaces for ecotherapy, horticultural therapy, nutrition counseling, and infusion treatment” (Fleming & Figueirdo, 2016). These designed landscape elements, both hardscape and softscape work to improve accessibility, indoor air quality, sensory stimulation and sense of place for elders. Access to nature, green roofs, Zen gardens, labyrinths, and rails to trails, are further examples of landscapes for health, with the capacities to improve physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health as well as to provide opportunities for essential people-plant connections.
The category food, nutrition and food security reflects the linkages between plant-based food accessibility, nutrition education to food insecurity, poor health and community disparities. Recently magnified by COVID-19, increased awareness of the role horticulture can play in this sector includes a wide variety of initiatives related to access to food, food systems benefits and challenges, nutrient-dense plant-based food, seed banks, farm to school networks, food box programs, community kitchens and freezers, upskilling festivals and other innovative models targeting nutrition deficits of food insecure populations (Fleming et al, 2020).
Horticultural practices, the fifth category within horticulture for health, organizes health-impacting activity from plants, environmental/regulatory requirements, and consumer preferences (Fleming, 2021). These include consumer driven trends like demand for plant-based protein crops, heirloom fruits and vegetables, organic foods, and plants used for herbal remedies. Also best practices for plant production, processes and products, safety and transparency, digital tools, alternative ways of growing plants, with industry attention for health concerns related GMOs, chemical sensitivities, and children’s delayed cognitive development which have influenced green industry/business efforts. Innovative models for alternative plant-based foods, and use of refurbished shipping containers for hydroponic plant production reflect are examples of evolving horticultural practices.
The Florida Horticulture for Health Network recognizes and embraces programs, services and initiatives that support human health, for individuals and communities. Set to deliver events and knowledge transfer, support networking forums, and share information, the FLHHN will be using a variety of platforms in support of these including website, facebook, webinars on youtube channel,and email at: FLHort4Health@outlook.com
Diehl, L. (2013). A framework for categorizing healing gardens. AHTA News Magazine 41 (2), 4-6. FLHHN. (2021). Mission statement. Retrieved from website Fleming, L. (2021). Horticulture for health framework. Acta Horticulturae. publication pending Fleming, L, Davis, A, House, B, Boss, L. & Carter, J. (2020). Nova Scotia’s horticulture for health activity.Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture. 30 (1); 57-65. Fleming, L. & Figueirdo, M. (2016). Healing gardens for cancer populations. In Fleming, L. Therapeutic Horticulture A Practitioner’s Perspective. Smashwords Relf, PD. & Lohr, V. (2003). Human issues in horticulture. Hortscience. 38 (5); 984-993. Sachs, N. (2008). Isn’t every garden a healing garden: Part I. Therapeutic Landscapes Network. Retrieved from http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2008/08/ The authors, all members of the Florida Horticulture for Health Network advisory group, have diverse backgrounds, educational credentials and experiences, sharing an interest in promoting horticulture for health activity across business, health, education, and horticulture sectors.