Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Necessity is the Mother of Invention: An Interview with Shawna Coronado, Gardening Extraordinaire

At this year's Mother Earth News Fair in West Bend, Wisconsin they had quite a lot of things to see, people to meet, and knowledge to learn.

So. Much. Knowledge.

Like I mentioned in that post, over the span of the 2 day event there was a total of 120 different sessions on everything from chicken keeping to gardening to kombucha brewing, essential oils, tiny homes and so much more. Each person teaching each session was picked for their expertise, background, and experience on the subject so being amongst all those great minds was exhilarating!

One such mind was Shawna Coronado who taught both the Arthritis in the Garden: How to Lower Chronic Pain without Drugs and the How to Grow 35 to 40 Organic Plants Within a 2-Foot Garden classes. I was drawn to her and her classes because not only is she quite the charismatic and funny speaker, she has health issues like me and has learned to work with them when it comes to her passion: gardening.

Shawna is also such a wonderful, kind, and giving woman! She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to do an interview for the website and you guys.

You have written several books, been on television, speak in person several different times a year but it essentially all comes down to this: what got your love of gardening and growing things started?

Without a doubt my love for connecting with the Earth began with my grandmothers. They have all passed now, but every single one of them – and I had 3 as I had a step-grandmother also – were all very involved in one form of gardening or another. Seeing them plant, grow, and harvest vegetables and flowers certainly had an influence on me for the rest of my life. 

Necessity is the mother of invention: an #interview with the #suburban #gardening extraordinaire @shawnacoronado! Find out what inspired her to #garden, how she manages to do her passion with #chronicillness, and more.

Your beautiful garden is located in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. How do you manage to create such an unlikely bountiful and gorgeous oasis in the middle of a suburban/city area?

Necessity is the Mother of Invention. When I first began growing I found out that my property and back garden is mostly shady. In order to grow vegetables and herbs, I had to move out to the sunny part of the garden in the front. Before I knew it, I had a front lawn vegetable garden and a passionate group of neighbors who were very supportive of my growing. I donate approximately 500 pounds a year to my local food pantry and began initiatives centered on wellness and growing in my community. Living walls help expand my front lawn vegetable garden space into more food and eventually turned into a book to inspire people to grow vertically.

Necessity is the mother of invention: an #interview with the #suburban #gardening extraordinaire @shawnacoronado! Find out what inspired her to #garden, how she manages to do her passion with #chronicillness, and more.

As someone who suffers from chronic illness I understand the daily struggles and how it inevitably impacts your daily life as well as your hobbies and passions. Will you share what you were diagnosed with, when, and how it impacts your gardening? 

I have extreme allergies and asthma. Additionally, I have severe degenerative osteoarthritis of the spine. Both allergies and asthma has changed the way I garden – what I grow – and how I clean up afterwards. I take a shower before bed, not in the mornings, to clean all the pollen and mold off of me before I climb into the sheets. I have a HEPA filter fan that cleans the air in the bedroom. I sometimes wear a mask outside while doing my gardening to help reduce the microbes from entering my sinuses. When I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 2015 it changed how much weight I can lift in the garden and how much I can plant and harvest. At first this was very sad for me, but since my diagnoses I have been relearning how to take better care of myself and my garden followers and readers who have conditions like arthritis. Then I work to share that information with them so we can all work in the garden more easily with less pain.

Necessity is the mother of invention: an #interview with the #suburban #gardening extraordinaire @shawnacoronado! Find out what inspired her to #garden, how she manages to do her passion with #chronicillness, and more.

How did you learn to work within your body and health limits and make it work for you?

#1 I focused on eating an anti-inflammatory diet so that my inflammation would be reduced when I was working at a physical job of some kind. This is not simply about finding a better tool to use in order to dig, or lifting a different way in order to reduce pain – learning how to live with a devastatingly painful condition means you have to relearn how to eat and exercise so that when you do approach a job, your inflammation will already be within livable constraints. I eat a dairy-free, grain-free, and sugar-free diet. Within one year of going on the diet my pain has been reduced by about 75%. I highly recommend starting with a licensed nutritionist who can help guide you to a less inflammatory diet if you have a condition like arthritis. As a bonus, the diet has helped me with my allergies as well. Additionally, I grow in elevated bed and living walls so that I do not have to bend as much to create a garden. This helps immensely.

Necessity is the mother of invention: an #interview with the #suburban #gardening extraordinaire @shawnacoronado! Find out what inspired her to #garden, how she manages to do her passion with #chronicillness, and more.

What would be one piece of advice you can give to those people, like you and I, who are chronically ill but still would like to do what they're passionate about, especially if they don't feel it's possible?

When I was first diagnosed I started walking at a track and I could barely take 1000 steps in an hour. At the time I thought I would never be able to do more than 1000 steps because I was in such pain. Then I switched to an anti-inflammatory diet and started doing stretches. Before I knew it I was increasing my steps. Now I take over 5000 steps in an hour. When I work in the garden I work the same way – I start out slow and steady and eventually I can increase my activities gradually. My point here is that if you don’t feel something is possible and you sit at home on the couch or in front of the computer and never try to do something, then you will never move forward. Every time you try, you are moving yourself forward for success. So try and try and try again.

Necessity is the mother of invention: an #interview with the #suburban #gardening extraordinaire @shawnacoronado! Find out what inspired her to #garden, how she manages to do her passion with #chronicillness, and more.

What can people expect from you within the next year? Any special projects underway or in the works?

Yes! My latest book is coming out in January. It is titled, “101 Organic Gardening Hacks” and is a book filled with full color photos and great “how to” ideas, plus it is illustrated with some amazing art – I think the book is beautiful and I am excited to see how it does in the New Year. Outside of that I just signed on for the book after that – my sixth – and will be moving towards wellness in the garden. 


If you haven't checked out her website I highly suggest you head there if you're interested at all in gardening tips, tricks, advice, and information, healthy food and recipes, or inspirational success stories from Shawna herself and how she's turned her chronic condition into a positive life lesson for herself, her family, and her community.

About Shawna

I’m Shawna Coronado. I’m an author and professional photographer (here are my books – LINK) who decided to change her life one day and up n’ left her fancy-pants office job in sales and marketing to find health and happiness. Since then I have created a media career beyond authoring and photography as an on-camera spokesperson, blogger, columnist, keynote speaker, and radio show host. Every day is a new adventure for me.

Connect with Shawna:


Ellen Christian said...

Thanks! I'm always looking for new websites to learn from!

Shelley Zurek said...

I love the beauty of the front garden. What could be more pretty than a garden? That should be in the front yard.