Veronica Vega (@veronicavega) was once the star of “Love and Hip Hop: Miami.” But now, she’s traded in her microphone for gardening gloves and is embracing a life of horticulture. She recently worked on a community gardens project in an assisted living facility and was part of the team that cultivated a bountiful harvest for the residents. In this podcast episode, she talks about the power of gardening, the relationship between nature and human connection, and her personal daily relationship with nature. Veronica also takes us back to her hip hop days and her brush with fame.

On what she learned about permaculture:

“Permaculture is emulating nature’s design. So, you can have more biodiversity and the least amount of waste. I didn’t really understand what permaculture was until I was hands on in that space. I discovered two things: I really love soil and I really love worms (laughs). … I realized how soil is formed, and what healthy soil looks like, and how you’re able to produce all the things you can produce with healthy soil. … There are so many things, like how you design (a garden) in curves as opposed to straight lines because it creates less stress. There were so many beautiful things that I learned.”

The functionality of the garden she helped build:

“Everything there is self-sufficient. If you didn’t water it, it would almost grow on its own, and the plants that are planted next to them would help those plants grow. So, everything comes together naturally to where it needs the least amount of human help, which I think is magnificent.”

What it felt like to help community residents:

“It was the most centered and most authentic feeling that I’ve ever felt. As we were doing the work, different residents came outside and were inquisitive. … And it just completely fills you with purpose. So, when they come out and whatever is happening in that entire space, it feels like God is there, like everything becomes one.”

How YOU can start gardening today:

“I think the first step is to get a plant, or maybe two plants for the inside of your house. And then to be able to start a connection with plants. … The key with plants is to understand that they have consciousness in the same way that we do and there’s a way that you connect with plants, but if you’re not paying attention and you’re not present you miss the entire connection. A lot of people say that their plants die or that they don’t have luck with plants or that they don’t have a green thumb, and I always say that it’s about the attention that you pay to the plant.”

On her nonprofit A2Mia:

“We create awareness and raise funds for organizations that aid in mental health by doing a cycling trip from Atlanta to Miami each year. And we sponsor the cyclists who come on the trip for free. All they have to do is give a donation before we start, and then we give to two organizations at the end. We always give to an organization in Atlanta and one in Miami. This year we’re giving to Lotus House and City of Refuge, which are two homeless shelters which provide resources for the people who are there and help them get on their feet.”

Her relationship with nature:

“When you are in nature there is no way you can escape what is right in front of you. So, for me, taking your shoes off and stepping in the grass, all those things … they kind of lift the veil of all the things we’ve created and allow you to see the world in a naked way. And to feel it, as well. So, it has given my life way more purpose and way more meaning, and it has made me way happier and more fulfilled.”

On leaving music and reinventing herself:

“That was one of my biggest fears – to start over. Because I wanted to finish. I wanted to get to what I had seen already. … I never enjoyed the journey either. Life is a journey, and I wasn’t enjoying it, I was just looking at the final, and I was always trying to get to the final and so nothing in the middle of what I didn’t have yet and where I already was, was good. And so, I was living depressed.”

On how her negative “Love and Hip Hop: Miami” experience sparked a change in her life:

“I actually feel like that was probably the turning point in my life, where I decided that this is getting too dark and too toxic, and I don’t want to do this anymore and this isn’t who I am. When I was able to see myself on television and my family was like, ‘That’s not who we know,’ and I didn’t know if that was me, or if this was me. I couldn’t even tell anymore. … And I had to take a step back and start connecting with nature again.”