CoxHealth, neighborhood gardeners roll up sleeves to partner on urban garden
The health care system would like to eventually incorporate the fresh produce into its cafeteria and patient meals, officials said.
Near the bustling intersection of National Avenue and Primrose Street in Springfield, across from the main CoxHealth hospital complex, rows of kale, peppers, tomatoes, greens, and onions are sprouting forth from rich, dark soil.
Amanda Belle’s Farm was started by CoxHealth on land owned by the health system, and the urban farm is run by Springfield Community Gardens.
Right now, the farm has two high tunnels and some outdoor gardens, but it’s set to expand.
Last year, the farm grew around 5,500 pounds of produce, most of which went to a community supported agriculture program, also referred to as a "CSA program," for CoxHealth employees.
"We also did a lot of donations in the community," said Jesse Baedke, system director of Food and Nutrition Services at CoxHealth. "If it couldn't be used up to the CSA program or used in our food production, we donated that through local charities."
How the employee farm program works
Employees who sign up for the CSA pay $25 per week for a box of fresh produce. This year, 70 employees are enrolled, which meets the current capacity for the program.
Baedke said the hospital hopes to eventually serve the produce in its cafeteria and to its patients. They’re in the process of obtaining certification through the USDA that will allow them to do that.
They also aspire to take part in clinical projects, like food prescription programs that collaborate with pharmacies.
The farm serves as an educational tool. Students in the Cox College Masters in Dietetics program volunteer on the farm and write recipes that are included in the CSA boxes.