AS St Luke's Farmers

Organic Farming Flips Healthcare Paradigm

AS St Luke's Farm Lynn in greenhouseWords | Debbie Burke

With the explosion of advances in nutrition and the growing interest in the food we eat, comes a new emphasis in healthcare. Now, preventive care and preventive medicine are top priorities right alongside taking care of the ill and injured. One of the major thrusts of good preventive care is through our diet.

In 2014, the Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s University Health Network formed a partnership to create the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm in Bethlehem Township. The 11.5-acre organic farm is designed to offer patients and their families, staff, and visitors access to delicious, farm-fresh fruits, vegetables and, recently started at the Anderson campus, cut flowers. Beginning this year, the farm’s organic produce has also been made available to Monroe County at St. Luke’s Hospital recently opened in Bartonsville. Not only is the produce used for the meals served in all St. Luke’s hospital cafeterias, it is also included in patient meals, and as the season progresses, will be available for purchase by staff and visitors to prepare at home.

“Our thought is if we have healthy soil, we will yield healthy produce and create a healthy community,” said Lynn Trizna, farm project manager. “Farmer Lynn,” as she is sometimes called, started working on farms as a summer volunteer. Although her bachelor’s degree was in urban studies, she fell in love with working on a farm and decided to get into agriculture.

Previously the acreage was used as a conventional soy and corn farm, and it takes time to build up the soil to support other crops. “Even in the past couple of years, we’ve seen a difference,” Lynn added. And the soil continues to get more robust. Among the 100 varieties now grown and distributed are kohlrabi, ground cherries, leeks, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, okra, corn and Brussels sprouts.

The farm exceeds the USDA organic farming practices which regulate against using synthetic pesticides or chemicals. According to Lynn, “We make sure the farm is balanced with different crops, has proper buffer zones and that we don’t get wiped out by some kind of pest or disease. We are creating healthy soil and the byproduct of that is healthy crops.”

Nationally, St. Luke’s is the third hospital system to partner with an organic farm and make produce available to their patients and staff. Although it will take a while to evaluate the good effects of the farm food, it aligns perfectly with St. Luke’s drive for wellness for its employees and throughout its communities.

Lynn said the feedback from staff is extremely positive. “We pride ourselves on quality,” she noted. “We harvest for orders, not just doing a bulk order and sending it out. It’s as fresh as it can be.” Usually, the greens eaten on Monday were harvested that morning. “Folks are amazed by the taste of it. When we pick basil, the air smells fully of basil, it’s not sitting in a warehouse before we send
it out.”

For more information, visit www.slhn.org/Anderson/About/Organic-Farm.

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