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Farm to Hospital

SNMH Collaborates with Sierra Harvest to Build a Vegetable Garden

by Sandra Barrington, SNMH Foundation Staff
Dylan Drummond with Sierra Harvest’s Sierra Gardens Program, Erin Berquist RN and lead of the SNMH Green Team (with her daughter Avila), and Aimee Retzler the Executive Director of Sierra Harvest meet to discuss the hospital’s garden plans that were created by landscape architect Karin Kauffman.

Planting season is upon us and many people around the community are working on their backyard gardens. Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is also on track with garden season, working with Sierra Harvest to create a vegetable garden on the hospital campus.

SNMH’s Green Team is working with Sierra Harvest, a nonprofit dedicated to educating, inspiring and connecting the people of Nevada County to fresh, local, seasonal food.

“Our team has been working with Sierra Harvest for over a year to create the garden plan for SNMH. We are now prepared to move forward, with the help of Sierra Harvest and volunteers,” said Erin Berquist, RN, the lead of the SNMH Green Team.



Sierra Harvest and SNMH are no strangers to collaboration. The hospital’s Green Team have been working together on green food initiatives for many years.

“The Green Team and Sierra Harvest have worked together to procure local food from farms like Mountain Bounty Farms and local rancher Jim LaGate. We have also collaborated to compost and reduce food waste,” said Berquist.



Last month Sierra Harvest provided plant starts to SNMH employees as part of Hospital Week celebrations.

Sierra Harvest has many years of experience in implementing community gardens. The organization’s Sierra Gardens program supports families in growing a portion of their fruits and vegetables at home by building a backyard garden, providing classes, mentoring, and supplies for two years to ensure success.

Sierra Harvest has installed gardens at Alta Sierra School, Grass Valley Library, Nevada Meadows apartment complex, Booth House family shelter, and dozens of private homes and organizations around Nevada County.

SNMH’s vegetable garden will be developed in several phases. The first phase is to prepare the site, construct the fencing, implement irrigation, build garden boxes, and be ready to plant for the fall vegetable season. Future phases include an event space for wellness classes, educational programs, and SNMH Foundation receptions.

“We see a vision of a garden space where cancer, diabetes, and cardiac patients can learn about healthy food choices and how to grow their own vegetables. As the garden expands, we also will work with the hospital’s Nutritional Services Department to provide fresh food for the café,” explained Berquist. “Additionally, we want the garden space to be a place of mental wellness and relaxation for hospital employees.”

A University of Maryland study (2013) found that one’s behavior and physical environment — including the foods they have access to and consume — account for 70 percent of health outcomes. This becomes truer for patients with chronic conditions such as cancer and vascular issues. These chronic diseases can be managed partially with healthy diets.

Hospitals across the country are focusing more and more on preventive medicine to treat the whole person. Offering on-site farmers markets, sourcing local food for the cafeteria and patient meals, providing pick up sites for community supported agriculture, and implementing on-campus vegetables gardens are some of the food-related preventive measures that hospitals are using to a change.

Dignity Health maintains two wonderful examples of community gardens: the Joanne Wheeler Memorial Garden at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, and the Jerry Roek Garden at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton. Both gardens feature contemplative spaces that offer respite to patients and their families. The gardens have also increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables for community members and helped them to improve their eating habits.

While this is the first vegetable garden for SNMH, the hospital has worked with the community to create gardens and healing spaces on campus and in the community. There is a memory and tribute garden near the Family Birth Center with beautiful flowers and a fountain that was a collaboration of the 49er Rotary Club, SNMH Foundation, the Share the Spirit employee committee, and local businesses.

SNMH Foundation is also working with Weiss Landscaping, the Bear River Yuba Trust, and the Rotary Club of Grass Valley to revive the Alzheimer’s Memorial Garden off of the Litton Trail in Grass Valley near Sierra College Drive.

A donation from CommonSpirit Health Philanthropy along with donations from hospital employees has provided the startup costs for the first phase of the garden. SNMH Foundation is continuing to seek funding through grants, business partnerships, and individual donations to support continued growth and expansion.

If you are interested in supporting this collaborative community project, please visit www.SupportSierraNevada.org/donation or call 530-477-9700.


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