Special to the Tribune-Star
Union Hospital will be opening a community garden on its campus in mid-May. Before they embarked on such a challenge, they looked to their neighbor Indiana State University for advice.
In 2008, ISU started a community garden. Roughly a year after they opened to the public Patti Weaver, a local Master Gardener, stepped up to help manage the garden. Weaver has been gardening since the early 1970s. She first learned from a neighbor, who she watched and helped work the soil with her hands. From that experience, she slowly developed her education on gardening. Ever since, Weaver has passed on her knowledge to others.
“With my education I feel I can benefit others who are new to gardening and pass forward what I know,” Weaver said.
Gardeners Are a Community of Their Own
When you live in Terre Haute you belong to the community of Terre Haute, a neighborhood within the city and a family within a neighborhood. When you bring people from different parts of the city together (in some cases the world), there often is a common link. The common link at ISU’s community garden has been each owns ability to learn how to grow and care for their own food. Weaver has worked tirelessly keeping every gardener informed and making them feel like they belong to something. With that comes the mutual respect for others. For example, Weaver says, if someone is going to put squash in their plot a foot and a half from the boundary, they have to realize that squash plant is going to crawl over into their neighbor’s plot. These lessons teach each gardener to be a good neighbor.
“The ISU community garden has a very eclectic group of people and what the two block of space is saying to the world is that we can get along. We can have a harmony and grow food and have a healthy type of lifestyle for all kinds of economic and socio groups of people,” Weaver said.
Union Hospital Lays the Ground Work
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires not-for-profit hospitals to conduct a community health needs assessment. Union Hospital is a not-for-profit hospital. During their community health needs assessment, they realized that childhood obesity was a big issue in our community. The assessment also revealed obesity in general and access to healthy foods was a problem. The assessment results are prevalent in the neighborhoods surrounding Union Hospital. To curb these problems, Union Hospital officials believe that a community garden would be a great way to increase access to healthier foods by making plots available to their immediate neighbors first. The community garden will be located on one of many Union Hospitals empty plots. The garden will be located at the corner of Seventh Avenue and North Sixth Street.
The garden has been reserved for the residents within the neighborhood surrounding Union Hospital from Third Street to North 10th Street and from Maple Avenue to Locust Street. Union Hospital employees will be going door to door in the targeted area handing out fliers and registration forms for those who may be interested in a plot. The garden plots vary from 10 by 10 to 10 by 15. Plots will be assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“If the neighborhood secures all of the plots, we will think about expanding next year. If there are no plots still available, they will be open to Union Hospital and Hamilton Center employees for gardening,” said James Twitchell, marketing and public relations representative for Union Hospital.
Twitchell says the greater issue for the targeted neighborhood is poverty. A lot of the folks in that area do not have transportation, which limits their access to purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables regularly. The community garden will provide the opportunity to those interested to walk or ride their bike to the garden. Those who have been reluctant to garden, as means of providing for themselves, because of the cost of garden tools are in luck. Tools and water for the plants will be provided on site.
“The community garden makes sense for the neighborhood and the hospital as we continue to look at preventative medicine more in this country. Healthy food is a big part of preventative medicine,” Twitchell said.
Gardening Equals Nourishment
When Weaver first heard the news about Union Hospital’s plan, she got so excited and jumped for joy and wishes them the best of luck. Weaver has extended her skills, once again, to help any gardener who comes on board. She says there is nothing better than eating a piece of lettuce, tomato or radish from your own garden.
“It is heady to know where your food came from and that you grew it and that you can feed people. It is very empowering that you can do that,”Weaver said.
Union Hospital’s community garden is slated to open on May 18. Those interested in reserving a plot should contact James Twitchell at 812-238-7657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a proud volunteer with TREES Inc. and Our Green Valley. She also sits on the Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries Board of Directors. Share your environmental stories and tips with her at JaneSantucci@yourgreenvalley.com.