Hospital garden provides homegrown health

Hillsboro Community Hospital staff member Dan Schaefer takes a break from his official duties to check the progress of pepper plants in the first year community garden. “The ground was really poor this year,” Schaefer. “We’re going to compost it and till it in, and maybe expand our garden a little bit more. I hope it gets bigger and better.”New ideas sometimes sprout in new environments.

That’s been the case literally regarding the new community garden that has taken root this summer and fall at Hillsboro Com­munity Hos­pital’s new location.

Dan Schaefer has taken on an additional role as tender of the garden.

The seed to have a staff garden was planted back in February or March.

“When we were about halfway through building this place, I kind of saw all that dirt back there (behind the hospital) and went to Marion (Regier, CEO) and asked her if we could have a community garden,” Schaefer said.

“She thought that was a great idea.”

The project contractor, JE Dunn Construction, agreed to till up a spot for the garden by the oxygen tanks on the backside of the facility.

“I didn’t really have a plan,” Schaefer said. “I just thought people could use it. I didn’t even think of using it for patients. I just thought about the employees.”

Schaefer said the plot, which measures about 10 feet by 30 feet, isn’t huge but it has been enough to produce results in its inaugural year.

“We don’t have a lot in there—cucumbers, tomatoes some green pepers and jalapeno, and there’s some chive out there,” he added. “We did have some spinach, but it didn’t fare very well. It got too hot, too soon for it.”

Schaefer has been assisted by Regina Warren, the hospital cook, who has used the produce primarly for salads served in the cafeteria.

“The jalapeno, we sometimes have ‘Taco Tuesday,’ so they dice them up for that,” he said. “The tomatoes are mostly the small cherry tomatoes. We’ve used them in salads.”

Schaefer said they began planting in May.

“We really didn’t start seeing much produce until the end of July,” he said. “The tomatoes got pretty sad for a while, but we produced quite a bit of tomatoes. The cucumber plants got really big, but didn’t bear a whole lot of cucumbers.

“But we’re starting to get a couple of cucumbers a week,” he added. “The jalapeno, we’ve had bunches of them. Those really grew good.”

Schaefer said tending the garden takes maybe 20 minutes or so out of his day. He said he’s willing to give the garden another run next year—and even expand the boundaries a bit.

He’s hoping to expand the tending crew, too.

“The idea was to have others help, but everyone’s so busy,” he said. “Hopefully, next year there’ll be more participation.

“I’d like to expand and grow green beans—and try spinach again,” Schaefer said. “I think it was just too late in the year for the spinach because its pretty early-season.

“The ground was really poor this year,” he added. “We’re going to compost it and till it in, and maybe expand our garden a little bit more. I hope it gets bigger and better.”

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