Growing & Healing in the Garden

Hi! I’m Marcella Romeo, from Cross Lanes, West Virginia . Like some people in the area, I grew up helping my parents with gardening & yard work. I also had the pleasure of growing up living on a ‘farm’ with my parents and grandparents, so I would often help with things there, as much as a 4-7 year old could. I would string beans, play with the horses, throw seeds down, jump in hay, and much more.

As I grew up, my family moved and gardening and farming switched to tending to herbs and rose bushes, if anything gardening related. Life took off. I went to college at Marshall University. Dietetics introduced me to the idea of a healthy relationship with food. I began to wonder how people could have access to whole foods, nutrients. In this current world, it seemed impossible.

I found out I had a chronic illness called Crohn’s disease. My budding relationship with food took a turn. As a digestive tract autoimmune disease, food seemed like something I didn’t want.  Whole foods seemed to bother me most, but I knew whole foods would help me to gain nutrients, but the ulcers in my intestines kind of prevented that. It was rough. Along the way, the pandemic began to rear its head & within the last few years, I had the opportunity to use the few acres my grandparents left behind.  I was coming out of the hospital as it began. I was ‘lost’ in a sense. I was very sick, mental hardships wouldn’t leave my mind, and I had no idea how to keep moving forward in life honestly. I needed community.

Gardening provides opportunity for conversation, learning, and growing. I started collecting houseplants and growing herbs with my mother again. In less words, my desire to provide for myself and OTHERS took hold. I felt the need to care for others, which helped to teach me how to care for myself. I tilled an 18 ft x 30 ft area, put up a wired fence, and planned my rows of vegetables and herbs. In hindsight, my area was way too large for what I planted. A lesson! I didn’t yield much except peppers, broccoli, and some tomatoes and eggplants. I learned to note the changing of shade and sunlight throughout the day and how important sun is. I also learned, in the heat of summer, the watering schedule is super important to prevent scorching! However, it was one of the highlights of my life.

My garden began at the height of quarantine in the pandemic. How could people eat if our food chain access would be shut off? It’s an existential thought, but it carried weight and helped seal the deal on my idea to take my hand to gardening! I am very privileged I feel for that experience. I have just kept going since. I’ve done an apartment/balcony style garden out of various containers. I’ve cultivated and learned to care for many houseplants. I learned about different potting properties and how different nutrients are needed for certain plants. I was able to pass this activity along with my partner and now it’s something we enjoy and plan to do. I now work in a soup kitchen, that also has a garden. This year, I plan to be back on the property at my grandparents tilling and preparing the ground in just a few short weeks, in addition to making an attempt to garden out of raised beds at my new house! I hope to use what I learn with Grow Wayne to better grow for the soup kitchen, for myself, and for others.