#10 Gardening in Zone 10

All areas of the continental U.S. are divided into zones so that gardeners may plant with wisdom (and some science) based on the coldest predicted temperatures in their zone or geographic region. If you view the map, you’ll notice that Zone 10 regions are found only in a small region around San Diego, California, a portion of south Texas, and Miami. Miami and the surround are the largest Zone 10 and 10B section of the entire continental U.S.

Gardening is not unlike social work, particularly in Zone 10. Because of the subtropical climate, beautiful and varied plants can root here with little or no effort on our part, much like our many migrant clients, whom, either through their own volition, or by pressure from natural disasters, violence, or economic desperation, must and do find ways to root themselves here in Miami, often without the support of family, a job, or even the promise of economic stability. Yet, they find ways to flourish here. Their resilience is a strength that exemplifies the “strengths-based” perspective that ought to guide our social work practice.

At the same time, as I learned in my first Zone 10 gardening class, vegetables do not grow easily here in our highly acidic, calcitrant soil. For growing food, raised beds are recommended, in which soil can be added to support and sustain the vegetables’ growth.

As social workers in Miami, we may, without judgment, look for ways to nurture the “soil” in which our clients are arriving, living, and growing. For example, research has found that Miami is the U.S. city with the greatest economic inequality. We also have the highest HIV infection rates in the U.S. And we are ground zero for the negative impacts of climate change, with an estimate 1.9 million of us being displaced by the year 2100.

Even for clinical social workers, we cannot avert our eyes in the face of such staggeringly barren soil, so to speak. Instead, these social and economic realities present us with an opportunity to deepen in our compassion for individual clients and commitment to advocacy for social justice for the communities we serve. What are some ways to do this? First, decide what issue demands your attention. Are you and/or your clients living in a neighborhood impacted by climate gentrification? Are your children/your clients’ children attending unsafe schools? Are your elderly clients the victims of abuse or fraud? The list goes on… Once you have decided where to start, or where you need to start because of a client’s request, check out the open referral program through Miami 211 to look for resources. There are so many ways to help! Namaste.

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