First Hospital-Based Greenhouse To Grow Organic Vegetables Year Round

Wouldn’t it be terrific to be able to grow organic vegetables year round? Having the benefit of all of that nutrient-dense and pesticide-free produce at your fingertips would be a windfall to your continued good health. Well, who better to to implement this idea than a hospital? After all, you have a population of patients who are trying to recover from their illnesses, as well as hospital staff who have to be at their physical best all of the time. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital located in West Bloomfield, Michigan (coincidentally where I grew up) has become the first hospital in the nation to build and start a hospital-based greenhouse. I mean, such a great idea! Feed people nutritious organic vegetables and fruits so they can recover more quickly and to enhance the dining experience which provides positive psychological benefits that will also improve the overall experience for patients. A recent article by Sylvia Rector written for the Detroit Free Press highlights this concept.

First Hospital-Based Greenhouse To Grow Organic Vegetables Year Round

Perched on a 8-foot ladder, Michelle Lutz reaches into the leafy tops of the pole-bean vines growing toward the glass roof of Henry

grow organic vegetables

Grow organic vegetables year round in a greenhouse.

Ford West Bloomfield Hospital’s new $1-million hydroponic greenhouse.

“The first ones!” the resident farmer declares, holding up several young pods.

Already that morning she had picked red and green lettuces, heirloom cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, edible nasturtiums and bunches of herbs for the hospital’s kitchen, which uses the produce in patients’ meals and its cafe.

Dozens of kinds of vegetables and herbs — five types of kale, 23 kinds of tomatoes, five varieties of basil, eggplants, squash, hot and sweet peppers, fresh herbs, microgreens and even strawberry plants — have been thriving since mid-summer in what Henry Ford officials say is the first hospital-based greenhouse in the nation.

It is surprisingly prolific. Hospital chefs no longer have to buy microgreens or basil, their most-used herb, because the greenhouse produces all they need. “If I manage this properly,” Lutz says, indicating her 12-by-20-foot hydroponic table, “this will produce 15,000 heads of lettuce in a year. For 240 square feet, that’s pretty incredible.”

But growing organic vegetables year-round for the hospital’s kitchens isn’t the only purpose of the gleaming, 1,500-square-foot glass structure and its adjoining educational center, both entirely funded by an anonymous donor.

The buildings, which will be unveiled Saturday, are designed to educate and inspire everyone from patients to the public to make healthier food choices — in keeping with the hospital’s mission of promoting wellness as well as treating illness.

And because of Michigan’s high childhood obesity rates, many of its educational center exhibits and programs are geared toward kids.

“We want to make sure that every single day we have yellow school buses coming here from all over southeast Michigan,” says hospital CEO Gerard van Grinsven. “We want to influence our young ones to start thinking differently about food and what they put in their bodies.”

His vision for the project doesn’t stop at the West Bloomfield campus. “Ultimately, we can take this to downtown Detroit and start producing food for the entire (Henry Ford) system — not have it just here,” van Grinsven says.

“This is not just about a little greenhouse. It’s about planting seeds,” he says.

Read the entire article here at freep.com:

To grow organic vegetables in a greenhouse attached to a major hospital is very leading-edge. Given recent and some would say drastic changes coming soon to a health care system near you, being able to improve nutrition as part of health care delivery is a natural step forward. We should all try to grow something in our own gardens and improve our health over the long run in order to decrease the risk of having to be in the hospital in the first place. Try your own hand at growing something in your backyard. If you happen to be in a position to have access to a greenhouse, it expands your growing season and your options as a gardener.

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Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.   —  Doug Larson

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About Mike Eis

Physician, Author, Marketer, Scientist, Problem Solver, Carpenter and Armchair Philosopher