A century ago, farmers plowed the ground and raised crops where St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor’s 364 acre campus is today. On April 14, 2010, a horse-drawn plow tilled a four-acre plot under the shadow of the new hospital.
The Farm at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor is believed to be the first hospital-based farm in the state of Michigan, and one of only a few nationwide. With the help of volunteers in 2010, two 30’x 96’ hoophouses were constructed to allow crops to grow year-round so they can be sold at the hospital’s weekly Farmers’ Market. In 2013, the third hoophouse was completed as the first accessible clinical hoophouse for patient care.
Farm fresh produce is included in hospital food, as well as the menu of Huron Woods on the campus of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.
“We are excited to be able to use the land in its original form.” said Rob Casalou, president and CEO of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, Saline and Livingston, adding that produce also will be donated to Food Gatherers of Washtenaw County.
The list of vegetables includes tomatoes, basil, broccoli, lettuce and peppers. Dan Bair, a local farmer contracted by St. Joe’s, tends the land and runs the farmers’ market.
“When it comes to healthy eating, one of the most difficult aspects for people is finding quality produce at reasonable cost,” said Lisa McDowell, Registered Dietitian, St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. “We get many consultation requests from patients hoping to lose weight and begin living healthier lifestyles. Opening a farmer’s market featuring home-grown produce is a great way to enhance the healthy eating habits of people in our community.”
The long-range vision is to increase horticultural therapy based patient care and nutrition based youth programming at The Farm.
“Initially, we will sell the produce at a farmer’s market held at the hospital and donate produce to Food Gatherers,” Casalou said. “As the farmland expands, we will integrate the vegetables grown on our land to the cafeteria and patient menus. This is an opportunity for us to live our mission and provide healthy food to the people in need throughout our community.”