A change is coming,and our earth lets us know. Wemay carrysome of winter with us; our losses and grief from last year have been numerous, but as gardeners and farmers we see what emerges from the dark soils – life.
The cycles of life and death,everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature helps our spirits – gardening does this. Gardening allows us time to reflect, connect, and share. It is an activity that nourishes the soul.
Did you know?
The benefits of gardening include:
Improved physical health, emotional wellbeing, and social interaction- all positive ways to work through challenging times.
Exposure to good bacteria and boosting your immune system.1
Charity and Hope! The act of growing and giving flowers and vegetables to family, friends, and those in need is often the most precious gift.
Gardening is also good for the health of our communities – studies show how community gardens can help us develop supportive networks when things get tough.2
Gardening mixes the need to nurture and be nurtured. If you have ever planted a seed and watched it grow to fruit – you know what I mean. If you don’t and want to get started planting – start exploring by checking out an almanac for beginners: https://bit.ly/3w7IdeG! Who doesn’t like to play in the dirt? Let’s get digging!
The Farm at St. Joe’s provides space for hospital staff to tend to the land and one another. If you are interested in volunteering or learning about our other programs, visit: https://stjoesfarm.org/
Local Harvest – www.localharvest.org. Put in your location and you can find community gardens, local farms, farmers markets and more.
Liz is a Registered Nurse who has worked in diverse health care environments in triage care, community health and rehabilitation. Her passion for facilitating educational and therapeutic experiences in the outdoors has led her to horticultural therapy where she designs and facilitates garden-based therapeutic programming to increase human health and wellbeing. Concurrent passions for community health and gardening/farming brought Liz to The Farm at St. Joe’s in the role of Farm Program Manager. She is a passionate gardener and has worked on a number of farms, cultivating health and community through plants.
Did you know you can still eat local Michigan produce even on a 6-degree, snowy February day? It’s true–there are greens galore, root vegetables for days, and apples aplenty. Not to mention all the frozen or preserved foods that are available. How are we growing greens with a foot of snow on the ground? Growers use greenhouses or, more commonly, hoop houses. Less expensive than a green house, a hoop house is a passively heated structure where plants are grown in the soil and allow the growing season to be extended.
Why make the effort to eat seasonal produce?
It tastes better. Fruits and veggies start to lose their nutrients (a.k.a. their flavor) as soon as they are harvested. Local food doesn’t have to travel as far and thus can get to your table faster. Spinach from our hoop house will last two to three weeks in the refrigerator. Can the same be true for boxed greens from the store? Also, sugar is nature’s antifreeze. As temperatures drop, cold-hardy vegetables increase their sugar content to prevent ice crystals from forming and damaging the plants.
It’s good for you. Those nutrients that are being lost post-harvest are what you need to stay healthy this winter. A University of California study showed that vegetables can lose 15-55% of vitamin C within a week. Kale, which grows well in the winter, is a powerhouse source of vitamin C, which can help fight off colds and reduce the duration of illness.
It’s good for your local farmers. Winter is a slow time for your local farmers and buying produce now can help farmers get through the lean times. Many Farmers Markets are held year-round; check out this directory from Taste the Local Difference to find a farm market near you.
It’s a fun way to expand your cooking skills. Have you ever cooked a rutabaga or celeriac? If not, now is your chance. Kale salad is a favorite winter go -to recipe. The trick is to massage the shredded kale with a little bit of olive oil, so it turns dark green and becomes easier to chew.
Curious to learn more about how to eat seasonally in the winter and even year-round? Check out this guide on what’s in season throughout the year in Michigan. Another great way to eat more local, seasonal food is to sign up for a subscription with a local farmer. Sometimes called a Community Supported Agriculture Program or a Farm Share, these programs connect consumers directly to farmers which makes it easy to get a box of the freshest produce each week.
Did you know that several Trinity Michigan hospitals have farms on their grounds? St Joe’s Ann Arbor, St Joe’s Oakland, and Mercy Health Muskegon all have farms that work to grow not only vegetables, but also a healthy community.
The Farm at St Joe’s Ann Arbor is 11 years old and has many programs that connect people, farmers and health. Learn more about our program here.
2021 Farm Share Get a weekly or bi-weekly box of local produce! Learn more here. Need financial assistance? Check out our Fair Share option.
Ypsi Area Online Market A virtual farmers market with pick-up options at the Farm or in downtown Ypsilanti. Start shopping here.
Nutrition Buddies: Virtual after -school cooking classes this spring with our resident physicians for 12-14 year olds struggling with food insecurity. Families receive two-seasons of the Farm Share for participating. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to sign-up.
I have a question for you: what does Thanksgiving mean to you?
This holiday has always been my favorite because it means lots of food, family, and an intentional pause in our busy lives to give thanks for the good and, even sometimes, the bad.
Thanksgiving evokes memories of being in the kitchen with my female relatives, learning how to make the gravy without lumps. It brings back that teenage longing to sit at the grown-up’s table. It makes me think of all of the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and those soft dinner rolls. I especially miss my maternal grandmother during the holidays. She had a soft voice, but she was the family director. We sang songs, played games, and generally went where she told us. She was the gravy master. I was just the muscle to whisk it seemingly forever.
The other thing this holiday brings up is the story I was taught as a child: Pilgrims and Indians making friends. My ancestors signed the Mayflower compact. In the past, this was a point of pride! Thinking about how my relatives shaped this nation into what it is today.
It was not until recently that I learned that the story of the original Thanksgiving was largely a myth. In fact, the holiday of Thanksgiving was created during the Civil War as a way to bring a divided nation together (sound familiar?). It’s not just a myth, it’s an active cover for the atrocities that were suffered upon the indigenous people of the area, the Wampanoag. The pilgrims were able to establish a foothold on Cape Cod because a plague of European origin had just recently gone through the population of the area, killing an estimated 70-90% of the people living there. Yes, the Wampanoag helped the pilgrims survive by showing them how to plant crops. But also, the pilgrims raided graves and massacred entire villages.
I’m glad I know this history. I need to know that my ancestors stole this land and that their survival was based on the knowledge of the Wampanoag and the many other indigenous peoples who had cultivated this land for thousands of years.
I’m also thankful for the indigenous leaders who are speaking out and giving us hope. I highly recommend that you read this article by Sam Sherman, aka The Sioux Chef. His words inspired my message to you today. And I think he finishes his story perfectly:
“No matter where you are in North America, you are on indigenous land. And so on this holiday, and any day really, I urge people to explore a deeper connection to what are called “American” foods by understanding true Native-American histories, and begin using what grows naturally around us, and to support Native-American growers. There is no need to make Thanksgiving about a false past. It is so much better when it celebrates the beauty of the present.”
Let’s start celebrating indigenous foods: Did you know that a huge number of the foods we eat are indigenous in origin? Maple syrup, squash, pumpkins, beans, corn, wild rice, tomatoes, potatoes, and turkey!
Here’s a recipe from the Sioux Chef. This article gives lots more indigenous recipes.
4 to 6 cups wood chips (hickory, apple, or hazelnut)
Sunflower oil for rubbing the turkey
1. Place the turkey in a large container (a food-safe bucket or big pot). In a saucepan, heat about 1 quart of the water with the salt until it dissolves. Cool. Then add the salt water, the remaining water, maple syrup, juniper berries and sage to the turkey. Make sure the turkey is fully submerged. Cover (weigh the turkey down, if necessary) and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Soak the wood chips in cold water for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the turkey and pat dry.
2. Prepare a charcoal grill or smoker for indirect heat, at about 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle in enough of the soaked wood chips to cover the coals and allow them to char.
3. Place the turkey in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Brush the turkey with the sunflower oil. Place the turkey in the grill or smoker and cook until the internal temperature of the thigh registers 165°F, about 3½ to 4½ hours. Remove and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
The summer season has come to an end, and that means it’s time we bring out the long sleeves and gloves and rotate crops here at the Farm.
Seasonal changes in sunlight, precipitation, and temperature affect many aspects of life on this planet. In Michigan, the cooler autumn weather may disturb our sinuses or mood and lead to modifications in the clothes we wear. For the environment, however, the air becomes cold and dry causing soil to lose its moisture and plants to drop their leaves. Have you ever witnessed summer fade into fall? We can visually see that nature is at its peak when the greenery transforms into vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red. This shift occurs as the days get shorter and leaves prepare for winter by halting their production of chlorophyll.1
I was able to see how a farm transitions from summer crops to fall/winter crops when I helped with removing the tomatoes from the hoop house and prepared planting beds for future fall and winter harvests. We said goodbye to the tall, tangled vines and deep roots of the tomato plants and harvested the last of the cherry tomatoes – until next year, Solanum Lycopersicon!
Fun fact: Tomatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of South America and were first cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas in 700 AD. The fruit arrived in the United States around the late 1700s and found its way into Louisiana kitchens by 1812. It did not grow to be popular nationwide until the early 20th century.2
Nutrition highlight: Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and an antioxidant called lycopene.3 Lycopene gives tomatoes their red color, and most importantly provides protection for your heart.4
Tip: Crushing and cooking tomatoes allows lycopene to be more easily absorbed into the body.3
I arrived at The Farm in the midst of the harvest season. I helped in harvesting the last of the tomatoes, the last of the peppers, and the remaining eggplants – all were stripped and removed from their soil beds. This process allows for other crops to be planted in replacement, it’s called crop rotation. “Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land to improve soil health, optimize nutrients in the soil, and combat pest and weed pressure.5
As I watch the seasons change and I’ve been harvesting the ripest fruits – it has really given me a sense of what it means to eat seasonally. Seasonal food is when fruits and vegetables are naturally at their peak and harvested right at that time. These foods tend to be purchased and consumed closely after their harvest, when they are cheaper, more complex, and richer in flavor than out of season produce simply due to freshness and availability. The cool thing about eating seasonally is that you can gain key nutrients through a variety of foods. What this means is that instead of eating Florida oranges all-year-round to get your vitamin C, you can eat Michigan apples, acorn squash, red bell peppers and broccoli in the fall; beets and white potatoes in the winter; arugula, leafy greens, and sprouts in the spring; and sweet peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries in the summer! Neat, right? If you’d like to see what other foods are considered seasonal in Michigan, check out Cultivate Michigan.
Eating seasonally naturally helps you consume a variety of fruit and vegetables AND variation is akey dietary guideline. It allows for a broader intake of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, and ensures that you get all the nutrients you need while adding interest and excitement to meals.7, 8 Dietitians recommend eating a rainbow of foods regularly.
My favorite feature of seasonal foods are the fun festivities associated with them, especially at this time of year. Many of our famous fall activities here revolve around two of Michigan’s seasonally cultivated foods–apples and pumpkins–and I am so excited to enjoy the delectable items that are prepared using these fruits. That’s right! Apples and pumpkins are both considered fruits. Let’s take a deeper look into these nutritious treats:
Apples are one of the largest and most valuable fruits grown in Michigan,9 and are ranked among the top three fruits produced worldwide.10 Harvested between the months of August and October, they can be eaten fresh, sliced, canned, juiced, and sauced, and are great sources of fiber and vitamin C – with fresh, whole apples offering the most nutrients. For a delectable whole, baked apple recipe visit Tastes Better From Scratch.
Pumpkins are typically used for jack-o-lanterns this time of year.9 However, they are also a great source of nutrients such as antioxidants and beta-carotene (converted to vitamin A in the body). Harvested between the months of September and October, they can be eaten entirely – seeds and all, except their stalk. For a savory pumpkin chili, visit Chew Out Loud.
Buying local and seasonal fruits and vegetables not only benefits our health, it benefits our environment and local economy. If you’re buying food that’s grown near where you live, you’re likely buying in-season produce. This is how seasonal eating habits correlate with local purchasing to support our farmers and environment. Our environment benefits through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when food travels fewer miles to get to your plate.11 Less food miles result in less pollution and cheaper produce! This also stimulates our local economy by generating jobs due to supply and demand. If you visit a local apple orchard or pumpkin patch this fall, be sure to stay safe, have fun, and rest assured knowing that you are helping our economy and environment continue to thrive!
Hey, it’s Kat again. In today’s guest post, I’ll be talking about the history of hospital gardens as we know them today.
Tracing the history of hospital gardens shows us that there is a common thread of belief in the importance of fresh air, sunshine, access to nature and working the land as positive contributions to the healing process.
Healing gardens have long since served as places for recovery; for the restoration of the mind, soul and body. Monastery settings in the Middle Ages were the first instances where a garden was specifically incorporated as a part of the healing environment.
These spaces served as places for contemplation as well as for growing vegetables, fruits and herbs.
A document believed to have been written by a monk in the early part of the ninth century describes a plan of an ideal garden for the Benedictine Monastery of Saint Gall in Switzerland, laying out many of the same formal features that show up in healing gardens today: intersecting paths for contemplative walking, a well or fountain, an herb garden, a green “court” or lawn.
In addition, outside the monastery’s walls there were also several acres of crops to supply necessary food for clergy, workers, visitors and the poor.
The Church itself was instrumental in the establishment of hospitals during the Middle Ages that have influenced the delivery of healthcare through the centuries.
Later, the religious connection between spiritual healing and the garden began to fade and give way to a much more human-centered built environment. As hospitals developed, the formal cloistered garden features were often replaced by an open area for patients to walk and take in the sunshine and fresh air.
Some progressive hospitals that primarily cared for people with mental illness placed a greater emphasis on the active work of tending to gardens and fields. A prominent example is that of the Hospital at Zaragossa in fifteenth-century Spain. At this hospital, a routine of normal daily activities, including gardening, was encouraged for patients who were able—rather than confining them as was the custom at the time.
German horticultural theorist Christian Cay Lorenz wrote some of the first recommendations for hospital garden design at the end of the eighteenth century:
“The garden should be directly connected to the hospital… A view from the window into blooming and happy scenes will invigorate the patient… [and] encourages patients to take a walk… The plantings should wind along dry paths, which offer benches… The spaces between could have beautiful lawns and colorful flower beds… Noisy brooks could run through flowery fields… A hospital garden should have everything to enjoy nature and to promote a healthy life.”
Florence Nightingale, the founder of the modern nursing profession, stressed the importance of fresh air and natural sunlight on the well-being and healing of patients in her landmark, Notes on Nursing published in 1859. She described the value of plants and outdoor spaces in the healing process,
“People say the effect is only on the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the body too.”
Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing
Throughout Victorian and Edwardian periods, green spaces in hospitals were seen as places for healing. But in the decades the followed, priorities in hospital construction changed; the industrial revolution and two World Wars took place. Park areas were replaced by parking lots.
But in 1984 a study by American psychologist Roger Ulrich provoked a renaissance in the hospital garden movement. Ulrich showed that patients with views of the outdoors from their hospital bed recovered faster after surgery, and spent less time in the hospital than those who did not have an outdoor view. Ulrich has gone on to publish widely on the health benefits of nature:
“Just looking at an image of nature could be healing”.
Roger Ulrich, ‘Forest Bathing’: How Microdosing on Nature Can Help With Stress
Today there are many beautiful contemporary examples of outdoor hospital environments that promote healing through a connection to plants. These spaces are once again being seen as critical for health and well-being. Working farms at hospitals, however, continue to be somewhat rare—a growing part of the overall movement to create spaces that heal.
Hospital gardens provide a natural and calming view, stimulate the senses of therapy patients, provide restoration and relaxation for visitors and staff—and have the potential to grow healthy food for surrounding communities.
Hey, it’s Kat again. In today’s guest post, I’ll be talking about the timely topic of nurse burnout and research into hospital-based gardens.
Burnout among nurses was on the rise even before COVID-19. In a 2017 survey, 63% of registered nurses employed in hospitals self-reported workplace burnout.
Characterized by symptoms of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and loss of personal efficacy, burnout has far-reaching negative consequences for individual wellbeing, quality of patient care and costs to the healthcare system. One study estimated that nurse burnout adds up to $14 billion annual
In 2019, the World Health Organization included burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases as “an occupational phenomenon” rather than a medical condition, saying burnout “is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Research indicates that hospital gardens are one way we can lessen the fatigue and stress that lead to burnout.
For a study in 2018, a team of researchers that included legendary healthcare designer Roger Ulrich, looked at indoor and outdoor break environments and their effect on nurse burnout.
Nurses at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Oregon were randomly assigned to 6 weeks of a daily work break in the garden and 6 weeks of indoor-only breaks. Researchers had the nurse-participants complete the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Services Survey (MBI), a tool used to measure burnout in healthcare workers, at the start and end of each 6-week period.
The nurses also recorded the immediate psychological impact of a break in both environments using another tool that asked them to rate feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, worry, fatigue and pain on a defined scale.
What they found was that for the nurses who took their 20-minute break outside, the garden provided greater reduction in burnout.
They concluded that taking daily work breaks in a garden may be beneficial in mitigating burnout among nurses working in high-stress hospital environments.
The research setting was featured the Portland news recently, highlighting the positive response to the garden in light of COVID-19. One nurse said of the Legacy Health garden,
“It takes you to such a different place that it’s so refreshing to your spirit and your soul and your psyche.”
Another nurse said of the garden,
“It is transformational for me. It really is. Just to even get five minutes in the garden, you shift your paradigm. You’re no longer thinking about the hospital. You’re looking at the plants, you’re smelling the herbs that are growing here, you’re seeing the sunshine.”
Providing spaces for respite is more important than ever—in hospital environments and public spaces alike. What’s good for the mental health and wellbeing of nurses is good for us all.
In the next blog post, I’ll be exploring best practices for designing restorative spaces, according to prominent thinkers in environmental psychology.
Guest post by Kat Shiffler, collaborator with The Farm at St. Joe’s and graduate student in Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan.
by Kat Shiffler, graduate student in landscape architecture at the University of Michigan.
The word is out. The Farm at St. Joseph Mercy is a national model of the “green care” movement, pioneering a new approach to health care by connecting the hospital system with fresh, local food(read this great article about “How the Farm at St Joe’s Transforms its Health System“. But did you know that The Farm at St. Joe’s is working on replicating the model at the nearby St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac?
In January, I began working with The Farm’s Amanda Sweetman to envision and design the 1.3 acre site at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland. When I jumped on board, she had completed soil tests, installed drainage, imported tons of topsoil and planted covercrops, bushes and flower bulbs.
To get into design mode, Amanda and I started with an analysis of the Pontiac location, looking into site conditions like sun and shade, topography, access and walking routes. We spoke with farm staff to compile the strengths and weaknesses of layout of the Ann Arbor site, compiling ideas for best practices for the new Pontiac farm design. And I looked into examples of outdoor healthcare environments and worked to summarize relevant research in environmental psychology and evidence-based design.
As a result, I created several proposals for the space that would combine a working farm, community gardens and specific areas for reflection and therapy. I did research on materials and starting getting into specifics regarding pathways, seating areas, accessible garden beds and gathering spaces. With an eye on ecological design, I began locating and defining appropriate varieties of trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals.
As we began to set in motion the construction we’d hoped would happen this Spring, COVID-19 changed the world. And we are now beginning to reassess the original plan in light of overall changes to healthcare environments.
Access to plants and nature seem to be a universal pressure release valve—important for the mental wellbeing of healthcare workers as well as the general public. In this new context, we are also certain that the demand for fresh, local vegetables will persist and even expand. But what will community gardening look like months from now? Will hospital seating areas be necessarily different? How will the public interact with healthcare settings in the future?
As we investigate these questions, we want to share our thoughts and our process; the process of designing a farm serving a post-COVID healthcare community—and what exactly that means.
For the next couple weeks, I will be sharing some of that research right here on the blog.
Happy Spring and social solidarity through spacial distancing! It’s been a whirlwind, but despite the uncertainty swirling around us, there is so much spring goodness coming our way. We have a hoop house full of greens that are being harvested and we will be giving this life-giving food to our front-line colleagues and to our community partners. We are determined to find safe ways to continue to provide healthy nutritious food to our community members and support our local farmers!
We are building a Food Hub!! The Farm looks like a construction site at the moment but it’s going to provide us with more distribution space for produce and programs!
Daffodils are coming up!
The robins are so happy and fluffy!
Now on to the business…
The Farm at St. Joe’s current priorities are:
Doing our part to contain any spread and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 —both physically and mentally— for staff, volunteers, and community members.
Planning how The Farm will safely provide nourishing food from local farms that will be essential this season.
This is how the Farm Share Program will be providing safe access to healthy food:
Curbside pick up – Wednesday-Friday (schedule TBD).
Using single-use packaging (brown bags instead of boxes).
Strict sanitation of surfaces protocol is in place throughout The Farm.
Staff who handle produce and food-contact surfaces practice strict hand washing and hospital health assessment standards.
In the meantime, on behalf of our entire Farm team, we are truly appreciative of all of you and we are working hard to keep the essential service of providing nutrious food to Farm Share members and the community at large.
We still have spots open to join this season, please registerHERE.
Questions we’ve been getting:
What is The Farm Doing To Stay Safe?
To keep our workplace healthy, we are following stringent precautionary measures like frequent hand washing, sterilizing our work environments, use of gloves, and social distancing.
Can I Come Volunteer?
At this time, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are not accepting volunteers at The Farm. As this changes, we will let you know.
I’m Struggling To Access Food Right Now. Where Can I Go?
If anyone finds themselves in need of emergency food resources, they can dial 2-1-1 to connect to United Way’s 211 call center. The operator will be able to provide info on the nearest food distribution location.
Send us an email at FarmShare@stjoeshealth.org or call us at (734) 712-0501. We’re in and out of the office, so please feel free to leave a message. We will get back with you. Thank you for your patience!
How to help the hospital during this challenging time?
Community Donation of Needed Supplies for St. Joe’s Ann Arbor
In response, the hospital has organized a Donation Center at the Towsley Building, on the campus of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. The following unopened (click here) items can be dropped off.
Hours for donations will be 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. seven days a week (Hours may change due to availability of staffing). Read more.
To protect the health and well-being of our community, the St Joe’s Farmers Market will be closed until further notice.
As we all slow down and step back from physical contact with one another, let us lean in and connect emotionally with one another. Please reach out if you are in need physically or emotionally. You can reach me at Amanda.Sweetman@stjoeshealth.org.
It may not feel like it yet, but spring is right around the corner! We’re gearing up for a big year at the Farm and we need your help!
We were awarded almost $25,000 to refresh the handicap accessible hoop house by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation! We are so excited to be able to offer even more innovative ways for patients to receive care in our beautiful space!
To get started we need to remove the existing raised beds, so bring your muscles and your friends and we’ll get this project off on the right track.
February 8 9am-12pm
February 15 9am-12pm
Sign up HERE or email FarmVolunteers@stjoeshealth.org with questions.