Garden project is partnership
This summer, Renown Medical Center and local non-profit Urban Roots are partnering on an endeavor to grow healthy food and a healthier community, by creating an urban farm on what is currently an empty lot near the medical facility. Plans for the project site, which is at the corner of Gould and Second Streets, include the construction of three high-tunnel greenhouses, outdoor gardens and a pagoda that will serve as a space for teaching students from local schools about farming.
“We would love for it to be a model to other health organizations such as hospitals, to be able to see what they can do and to see what the potential is for an empty lot like that,” said Fayth Ross, executive director of Urban Roots.
The idea for the project was announced last October. Permitting is now underway, said Ross, and a contractor has been hired to begin site preparation, including removing gravel and pavement from the lot, and installing fences and an irrigation system. If all goes well, planting of the gardens should begin early this summer.
Urban Roots farm manager Rebekah May Stetson has developed year-round planting plans for the site, which will include about 40 types of healthy produce such as lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, turnips, radishes, carrots, basil and a medicinal herb garden.
“We’ll definitely be going with heirloom, organic varieties that are nutritionally dense,” Stetson said.
Although many details are still in the works, Ross and Stetson hope to see produce grown on the farm go to hospital patients, and they are working with the Renown team to determine who the recipients might be. Of the ideas being discussed, their current favorite is the idea of providing fresh produce as a form of prenatal care.
“We’re hoping to work with low-income pregnant women that are going to Renown,” Ross said. “They’re going there anyway for their prenatal care, and they could receive a prescription for a CSA [community-supported agriculture] basket. So, every two weeks they could pick up their basket of fresh produce that would be grown organically and healthy, and be able to eat some good things that would be beneficial to a pregnant mama. We would try to make that go for a full year, so it covered the term of her pregnancy as well as a few of those first critical months.”
The farm will be staffed by Urban Roots Americorps members, who will instruct students from nearby schools in urban farming techniques through curriculum that is aligned with educational standards for subjects such as math, science and English. Many Urban Roots programs are aimed at elementary and middle-school aged children, but at the Renown garden, they hope to reach high-school aged students.
“The hope at the Renown Garden is to engage some of those older kids and get them exposed to it, and maybe be able to talk about some of the prospective careers they could have, some of the endeavors that they could pursue,” said Ross. “There’s so much that you can teach, just through a garden.”