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This week’s guest blogger is Robert Kelley, the executive chef at Chowbotics. Robert believes that good food brings people together, creating a strong sense of community. When he isn’t in the kitchen testing new ingredients and recipes for Sally the Salad Robot, Robert spends as much time as possible outdoors.

I am passionate about cooking and eating fresh, healthy food, and I have always loved the outdoors. When I started helping a friend on his farm in my spare time, I instantly found a lifelong hobby and a way to fulfill both of my favorite pastimes. Living in California, I am lucky to have the ability to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Rich soil, moderate rain and plenty of sunshine make California an ideal location to start a farm or a backyard garden. There is a short time of year (January-February) when crops are unable to grow due to the early morning frost, but if you plan accordingly, you can have a constant rotation of fresh vegetables for the remaining 10 months of the year.

The spring season just started and thus kicked off the year of production for many farmers in and around the Bay Area. With the fairly rainy spring we’ve had, most beans, peas, and the plants of the cruciferous family (broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) are off to a healthy and strong start. This year I built a greenhouse, so I was able to start my seeds earlier than normal. Avoiding the cold has helped the seedlings adapt to the climate as they sprout, and also prevents them from freezing in the early morning.

Gardening can be a helpful way to ease stress and anxiety. Soaking up sunlight outside can be a great source of vitamin D, which can help promote bone growth and decrease mild anxiety. Additionally, spending time outdoors is great exercise for your eyes. Yes, your eyes! Most of us work indoors which limits the strain we put on our eyes to an average of 10-feet. Working, walking or even just relaxing in a park can help build and maintain strong eye muscles by consistently adjusting focus on objects near and far. I also enjoy the process of planning, executing and watching a garden grow. I find it very rewarding when all of my hard work turns into beautiful rows full of fresh, bright food I can eat and enjoy with my family.

Growing what you eat nourishes the body and the soul. Harvesting your own vegetables, herbs, and fresh fruit is a great way pack a ton of nutrients into your diet. Edible gardens provide outdoor exercise, stress relief and, most of all, a healthy food source for you and your family to enjoy year-round.

Grab your work gloves, some seeds, and get to work on your garden of health!