Mike McKibbin

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January 9, 2013
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Fresh, local, healthy veggies at the hospital

In just a few months, seeds will be planted and fresh vegetables will start growing.

Wait, it's still winter, isn't it? That must mean growing seasons start inside greenhouses, including a new one at Grand River Hospital and Medical Center that will provide fresh, healthy vegetables to hospital patients, staff and anyone else who cares to eat at the Grand River Cafe at the hospital on Airport Road.

"The fresher the food, the healthier the body is our saying," said Director of Nutritional Services Lynne Miller, who spearheaded the four-year planning and construction of the greenhouse, located on the sunny south side of the facility, of course.

"We wanted to put even more focus on incorporating a green and sustainable approach, which is part of our board [of directors] vision, too," Miller added. "We plan to offer our fresh, organic vegetables to in house patients and share with the community, too."

That could include donating excess veggies to area farmers markets and LIFT-UP, she said.

"Our growing season starts in February and goes all the way through November, so we should have a lot of fresh veggies for most of the year," Miller explained.

Inmates from the Rifle Medium Security Correctional Center were among those who helped construct the greenhouse, she said. Many others donated materials and time as well.

The greenhouse is planned to have more than 100 tomato plants, lettuce and other vegetables, grown in beds of soil with compressed, shredded coconut, Miller said, a combination that has worked well in many greenhouses.

"Eventually, we want to start our own compost pile with waste from our kitchen," Miller added.

Patients dealing with mental health issues and those in rehabilitation will be invited to help maintain the vegetable beds as a form of therapy, she said.

A 12-member team of hospital staff from many departments has already been involved in helping get the greenhouse built, with advice from Colorado State Extension agent Pat McCarty of Garfield County, Miller said.

"We'd like to host field trips for the local schools so they can visit a greenhouse and see what's going on," she stated.

Funds for the greenhouse came, in part, from the hospital's volunteer association, and the Caring and Sharing employee giving program.

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The Post Independent Updated Jan 9, 2013 05:33PM Published Jan 9, 2013 05:23PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.