In 2014, associates at Ascension Calumet Hospital in Chilton, Wisconsin, found a way to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables by using vacant land outside the hospital. Of the 1.7 acres, about half an acre was dedicated to a community garden. The rest of the land around the garden is rented by a local farmer.
“We started off small with a gardening committee of associates, master gardeners through UW-Extension and volunteers,” said Jenny Watts, leader, Regional Community Health Improvement at Ascension Calumet Hospital. “The committee hosted workshops for people who were interested in gardening and learning more about cultivating fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs to help reduce obesity.”
2020 was the sixth year that the Ascension Calumet Hospital hosted the community garden. Three new raised beds were planted in summer 2020 and used by the community, bringing the total number of raised beds to 33. Twenty-three of the 33 beds were rented to community members. The landscaping class from Chilton High School was unable to help get the garden ready for the 2020 growing season due to COVID-19.
At the end of summer, 92% of raised bed renters increased their fruit and vegetable consumption after growing their own produce. 97% of produce harvested from the hospital's garden plots was sold at the farmer's market. Hosted right outside the hospital’s cafeteria, all produce is sold for $1. 100% of the funds raised through the beds and produce sold is invested back into the garden. Proceeds from the farmer's market helped fund a new watering system in the garden for renters to use on their raised beds.
“We know proper nutrition is critical to overall health and wellness,” said Watts. “By increasing access to fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, we’re cultivating wellness conversations and working to reduce obesity in our community.”