Hospital connects community with farm fresh produce |

Hospital connects community with farm fresh produce

As the days get colder and shorter, and farmer’s markets reach the end of their season, options for locally-grown produce may seem harder to come by. Yet there is another option for finding fresh local vegetables this season – Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

CSA is the economic agricultural model in which farmers sell “shares” of their harvest to community members. These shares are boxes of produce, usually vegetables or fruit that are harvested and delivered to a central pickup site — typically within a day or two. (Most retail produce is picked up to two weeks prior to purchase.)

Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) has partnered with Mountain Bounty Farm to become a pick-up location for the farm’s organic CSA boxes.

Erin Berquist, RN, who works in medical oncology and surgical nursing, is the ecology contact for SNMH, and she facilitated this new partnership.

“I wanted to give our employees healthy options and support our local agriculture. A dozen people have signed up at the hospital already, and I just started getting the word out,” Berquist said.

Berquist says the health benefits of eating fresh, locally grown produce are also appealing to hospital leaders and employees alike. There are many benefits to being part of a CSA. One is getting the extra flavor and vitamins provided by such fresh produce. Another is the opportunity to be exposed to new vegetables and ways of preparing those foods.

Mountain Bounty Farm sends a weekly email newsletter with a list of what to expect in that week’s box and several recipes. They prioritize staple vegetables like carrots, onions, potatoes, and lettuce, but will occasionally include less-familiar veggies such as fennel or sweet, mild Japanese salad turnips.

“I received the summer CSA and really enjoyed getting new produce that I hadn’t cooked with before. It was an adventure,” Berquist said. “It makes you slow down and work with what you’ve got. We can get back to our roots of cooking our own food with fresh, natural ingredients.”

While Mountain Bounty Farm provides all of the organic produce in their summer boxes, their six-month winter share comes from Riverdog Farm in the more temperate Capay Valley north of Davis. Partnering with them allows Mountain Bounty to provide a year-round supply of fresh and diverse produce. Typical winter boxes include greens such as lettuces, spinach and kale; roots such as carrots, beets, potatoes and onions, and seasonal specialties like winter squash and spring asparagus and peas.

The SNMH CSA pick up location is open to everyone — not just hospital employees — and is one of several in the area for Mountain Bounty Farm, a 16-acre organic family farm located on the San Juan Ridge near Nevada City. Members who join the farm’s winter CSA can select the site that works best for their weekly produce pick-up.

“We have been wanting to do this for a long time and are very excited to be partnered with the hospital,” said farmer John Tecklin, owner of Mountain Bounty Farm.

According to Berquist, adding SNMH as a Mountain Bounty Farm pick up location is only the first step in bringing farm to hospital. The next goal is to begin offering local farm produce in the hospital cafeteria, which could start as early as spring of next year.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

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