Diary of an Organic Farm Apprentice: Southside Hospital Organic Herb Garden

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Southside Hospital chef Patrick Beirne.

An unexpected crowd of professionals gathered around an herb garden in Bayshore last week: doctors, administrators, dieticians, CEOs, public relations specialists, chefs, nurses and a farmer. Bonded by a common mission to provide healthy food for hospital patients, these diverse specialists met at Southside Hospital to celebrate the new hospital cafeteria organic herb garden and window boxes.

Conceived by Southside Hospital’s director of food and nutrition, Linda Allison, her team and the Wellness Committee, the gardens were inspired by their desire to bring a fresh element to hospital meals and set a healthy example for patients. “We wanted to bring freshness to patients and show the different ways to flavor without having to use salt,” says Linda, excited by the flavors of basil, oregano, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, and more soon.

The outdoor 18- by 22-foot herb garden a features  certified organic herbs grown by Garden Fusion in Marion Gardens. Six self-watering window boxes full of indoor-friendly culinary herbs line the windowsills of the cafeteria. All soil, fertilizer and compost is organic.

Southside Hospital chef Patrick Beirne will maintain the gardens and use the herbs in the cafeteria. The sparkle in his eyes at the ribbon cutting was a true testament to his enthusiasm for feeding patients the best, most nutritious ingredients.

Southside Hospital, part of the Northwell Health System, is the first of numerous hospitals in the system to break ground in the innovative hospital farming movement gaining international momentum. Part of my mission as a farmer is not only to grow good food for my community, but also to educate non-industry professionals on how to incorporate sustainable agriculture into corporate environments and the healthcare industries. I am very excited to be the farmer collaborating with Northwell Health, consulting them throughout the planning stages of organic hospital farms.

Though our daily responsibilities, stresses, and goals vary greatly, it is clear through our shared enthusiasm and appreciation for homegrown herbs that in order to inspire true change in our food system, we must work together to transcend professional boundaries and expectations. Stay tuned as we continue growing (literally) this exciting and innovative hospital farming movement.