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Grand River Health greenhouse grows, along with its veggies

At left, Becky Mall of Rifle visits with Grand River Health’s greenhouse operator, Jackie Bernier-Giesel, at a Thursday, May 15, open house. The greenhouse grows vegetables and herbs for the hospital’s kitchen and Grand River Cafe.
Mike McKibbin/The Citizen Telegram |

Green and growing vegetables and herbs greeted visitors at a Thursday, May 15, open house at Grand River Health’s greenhouse.

The greenhouse is in its second year as a source of healthy, fresh, organic vegetables for hospital staff, patients and customers at the Grand River Cafe, in the hospital on Airport Road. It was relocated a short distance from its original location on the sunny south side of the hospital, according to greenhouse operator Jackie Bernier-Giesel. The move resulted in a slightly larger greenhouse, which presented some issues.

“We were 30 feet by 48 feet, but now we’re 31 1/2 feet by 49 feet,” Bernier-Giesel said. “That made it hard to make sure the connections with the hoops and everything else worked.”



Temperatures inside the greenhouse can reach 100 degrees or higher, she added, but the doors on either end can be opened and the sides rolled up to allow air to circulate through.

Bernier-Giesel said each growing bed is individually controlled in terms of water, and 90-day slow fertilizers are used. City of Rifle water is used now, but the hospital district is looking into obtaining nearby ditch water, she noted.



“We have some great volunteers who come in to help weed the beds and kitchen staff will be doing the harvesting,” Bernier-Giesel said.

The more than 100 tomato plants, lettuce and other vegetables and herbs are grown in beds of soil with compressed, shredded coconut husks.

Inmates from the Rifle Correctional Center were among those who helped construct the greenhouse, along with volunteers and donations of materials.

The district sought advice from Colorado State Extension agent Pat McCarty of Garfield County, who attended the open house.

“These hoop houses are pretty popular for greenhouses,” he said. “The challenge, just like any greenhouse, is not to get too hot in the summer. Shade cloths help a lot with that. This has been a neat project.”

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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