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“Harvest for Health”—Healing Gardens for Cancer Survivors

“Harvest for Health”—Healing Gardens for Cancer Survivors

AUBURN, Ala.—Cancer recovery can feel like a long and lonely road. For the 14.5 million people living with and beyond cancer in the United States, daily struggles are a reality.

Auburn University’s Department of Horticulture, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Home Grounds Team, Alabama Master Gardeners and the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Comprehensive Cancer Center have partnered together to bring hope and healing to cancer survivors through Harvest for Health, a mentoring program. This new, five-year project is poised to mentor 425 cancer survivors through growing a home vegetable garden. While the program has partial funding from the National Institutes of Health, funding is $30,000 short of the total need.

Tiger Giving Day Project

Harvest for Health is one of more than 20 projects in the 2018, Tiger Giving Day effort on Feb. 21. Donors can contribute to Harvest for Health by choosing “Healing Gardens” on the Tiger Giving Day website, http://tigergiving.org. Donors may also contact Kerry Smith in Auburn University’s Horticulture Department (smithkp@auburn.edu).

Harvest for Health

Harvest for Health began in 2013 when the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s harvest for health/healing gardensComprehensive Cancer Center partnered with Alabama Extension agents to create a gardening intervention pilot study.

Each survivor partners with an Extension-trained Master Gardener mentor to tend a home garden. For 12 months, survivor and mentor plant, grow and harvest the vegetable garden.

Program Benefits Both Survivors, Mentors

Recently, one participant wrote a letter to her Master Gardener mentor.

“I enjoyed the Harvest for Health program so much,” she said. “Gardening has become the first thing I do every morning. I think the best thing you taught me is to ‘have fun with your garden.’”

Kerry Smith, the Harvest for Health Program Coordinator for Auburn Horticulture and Alabama Extension, said with the generous donations to date, program funding has reached the halfway point.harvest for health

“It takes a special person to be drawn to a volunteer activity where you are helping a person with medical difficulties,” Smith said. “It’s not a fit for everyone, but the volunteers who do choose this activity are priceless. They have a gift, so it is a blessing to be able to work with these people. The Master Gardeners volunteers feel rewarded too. Some say they feel they get more out of this than the cancer survivors.”

One mentor said, “What can seem so simple in sun, soil, water, and a seed can be a miraculous life-changing point. This was my cancer survivor’s garden.”

Smith said through your generous donations, together, we are all inspiring cancer survivors to garden at home.

About Katie Nichols


  1. Hi,

    My wife, Phyllis Gauker and daughter, Monica Gauker, are both Auburn U. Grads and both cancer survivors. Monday, Mar. 12, one of you guys will be over to talk with us and set us up for this program.

    Please inform me of what the sizes are of the garden boxes so I can think about where the best places would be for the garden.



    • The Master Gardeners work with each participant to fit gardens boxes and containers into what works best in their yards. The Master Gardener coming to visit with you will get you squared away.