Plant therapy is a powerful way to strengthen mental health, boost immunity, anxiety and depression. This kind of therapy has especially bloomed during the midst of the pandemic. With this past year’s rise in gardening-focused meetup groups, Do the Bay events, TikToks, and YouTube channels, this form of healing essentially became accessible to all. The lockdown has brought many to turn to this kind of lifestyle to solace in the death and uncertainty that surrounded us.
In Oakland, plant shops such as Wellness and Releaf, Blk Girls Greenhouse, and Planterday have helped many find that green thumb they never knew they had. However, Planterday, currently a mobile plant shop, is intentionally invested in bolstering the mental health of the community. It does this by connecting plants with mental health awareness, including donating the proceeds of their plant sales from their pop-up plant trailer.
Founded by Matt Day and Yumi Look in March 2020, Planterday is a plant shop (inside of a trailer) committed to growing a collaborative community. From the outside, Planterday’s trailer is unassuming as there is no logo or detailing. However, when you open the doors and walk through, you are inside a little jungle or what Look describes as a “a little haven where you can just relax and breathe.” Besides good tunes and plants, the trailer is also decked out in string lights and a bubble machine working at full steam. Matt Day designed the trailer by hand. You can find plants ranging from African succulents such as String of Hearts to tree climbers like Philodendron Atabapoense. This Saturday, May 1st, PlanterDay has a pop up collaboration with Bake Love, Not Hate in downtown Oakland but plants can always be found at Uchi House, a BIPOC woman-owned furniture store, for online ordering.
Matt Day was inspired by his parents to start this mission-driven mobile plant shop, unfortunately through tragedy. Day’s father, who is Black, worked in Silicon Valley in the 90s. At the time, Day’s father was the only black man in his office. He committed suicide in that very office. “I’ll never know why he did it …but it always perplexed me. “Why did he do it at work?” Day said.
Much of Planterday’s sales go to support Crisis Support Services of Alameda, a local, free, volunteer run nonprofit crisis text hotline in honor of Day’s father. Since August 2020, Planterday has donated over $4,550 to the nonprofit.
After his father’s death, Day lost his Filipina mother to cancer. Day’s mother, an immigrant who came to the United States at the age of 23, battled cancer for a number of years. The disease finally took her right before Day’s 31st birthday, which was two and a half years ago. “I nearly lost my mind,” he said. That is when he started digging in the dirt. The couple started landscaping their front lawn and gardening in their backyard. For them, it was green therapy.
Day quit his day job in tech, and began work at the Grand Lake Ace Garden Center. He wanted to take his plant therapy one step further by opening his own plant business. “Let me start my own plant store so that I can heal myself everyday that I go to work,” Day said. “We’re getting our hands in the earth and it was healing for both of us,” Day said about working with plants with his co-founder and partner Look.
Day bought his trailer in January 2020 just before the pandemic hit the U.S., and began renovating it himself. The dreams of their humble plant trailer seemed to face many obstacles during the pandemic. The weekend he was set to take it out to Lake Merritt, the shelter-in-place order was instituted. They bought about $500 worth of plants and were struggling to figure out what to do with them now that everyone was in lockdown. Day told one of his close buddies at The Dinner Party who helped to spread the word. That was the start of all the plants being catalogued and sold online. Look is an OUSD second grade teacher and after telling her fellow teacher friends, Planterday received even more orders. Since everyone was online, Planterday was able to grow its following and community through Instagram.
Planterday did its first in-person pop-up on August 29th, 2020 and all of their proceeds went to CSS Alameda County. However, this was the height of wildfire season. “Every pop-up that we first scheduled, there were either fires happening, heat waves, or smoke from the fires,” said Look. Despite feeling like the odds were stacked against them, Planterday looked forward to better days ahead.
In 2021, Planterday got a fresh start. “This year, we kind of hit the ground running,” Look said. Instead of heavily relying on online orders, Planterday is now focusing on collaborative pop-ups with local Bay Area businesses, and is doing so almost every weekend.” We’ve had a lot of great opportunities to connect with business owners, entrepreneurs, community members and we’ve got some really cool stuff lined up,” Look said. Alongside continuing to destigmatize mental health awareness, Planterday hopes to open up its own brick-and-mortar wants to one day help support mental health on a policy level.
“It has been a wild ride because in the beginning, we were paying people to sell plants out of their parking lots,” Day said. Shortly after their first solo pop-up last August, Planterday was invited by Tacos Oscar to set up their trailer outside of the restaurant. From there, the plant shop has collaborated with Temescal Brewing, Brown Girl Farms, Taiwan Bento and more. Their most recent collaboration was with The Rare Barrel and Queer First Fridays.
“Before the pandemic, we used to love throwing house parties,” Look said. The couple genuinely enjoys connecting people together. With parties comes music and that is an essential part of the Planterday experience. Besides this, visitors of the trailer can expect bubbles from a bubble machine. “Matt was very digilent in creating this magical space,” Look said.
“We believe in horticulture therapy and encourage folks to engage with it as much as possible,” Look added. Look, who is Japanese American told Oakland Voices about Shinrin’yoku (森林浴), which is a Japanese term that translates to “forest therapy.” It is the idea that being close to and engaging with nature has health benefits. Because we do tend to live in urban cities, “house plants can come in and play such an optimal role in your life,” she said.
“I want people to see me, a Black man and Yumi, an Asian woman, selling plants to people that look like us,” Day said in response as Black and Asian communities are experiencing more visible violence than ever. “Thinking about the trauma people of color have to constantly go through and carry, plants offer a form of healing,” Look said.
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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This Saturday, May 1st, PlanterDay has a pop up collaboration with Bake Love, Not Hate in downtown Oakland, a fundraiser to support Asian American and Pacific Islander issues. Follow Planterday on Instagram to keep up to date with their upcoming pop shops and more.