After Winter, Must Come Spring

A change is coming, and our earth lets us knowWe may carry some of winter with us; our losses and grief from last year have been numerousbut 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 thisGardening 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/ 

Come volunteer with us! FarmVolunteers@stjoeshealth.org

How do I start a garden? 

The Basics of Planting and Growing a Vegetable Garden? – By Catherine Boeckmann – 2/2021 

https://www.almanac.com/vegetable-gardening-for-beginners 

 Getting Started in Cut-Flowers – by Debra Prinzing, SlowFlowers.com, Johnny Seeds 2021 

https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/flowers/getting-started-in-cut-flowers-top-15-cuts.html 

How do I involve my community? 

Effective Community Engagement – By Marcia Eames-Sheavly, Lori Brewer, and Bobby Smith II (Cornell Garden Based Learning) 

https://gardening.cals.cornell.edu/program-tools/planning-organizing/effective-community-engagement/ 

Who can I contact in my area? 

Local Harvest – www.localharvest.org 

Put in your location and you can find community gardens, local farms, farmers markets and more. 

USDA Community Garden Guide – https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/mipmcot9407.pdf 

Resources 

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. 

Seasonal Eating During the Dark Days of a Michigan Winter

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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: nutritionbuddies@stjoeshealth.org for more info or to sign-up.

Looking for other options? Register today for the 2021 virtual CSA Fair and read this article by MSU Extension for Tips on Joining a CSA.