Mercy Health debuts community garden


SPRINGFIELD — Earth Day is this weekend, and gardening season is just around the corner, so Mercy Health is getting in on the action by debuting its own community garden at Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Medical Center (SRMC).

Located near the back patio of the SRMC café, the new garden area features a functional raised bed layout with pathways and a new fence around the perimeter. Hospital departments will take ownership of individual beds, deciding what to grow and caring for what’s planted.

“The garden is a great tool for networking that allows our staff to get to know each other and work together toward a common goal,” explained Dr. Joseph Morman, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health – Springfield. “It also allows them to lead by example, not only promoting healthy eating but also many of the other benefits gardening can have on both the mind and body.”

Gardening is a great form of exercise, with just 30 minutes of weeding in the garden burning up to 110 calories. Being outdoors also provides an extra dose of Vitamin D, which can improve bone health and boost the immune system. Studies have also shown that digging in the dirt can trigger the release of serotonin, a natural anti-depressant that makes you feel relaxed and happier.

“This garden has and will continue to be an amazing opportunity for nine departments here at Springfield Regional Medical Center to get involved with the hospital, while also taking a break from their daily responsibilities,” said Stephanie Novosad, director of Nutrition Services for Mercy Health – Springfield. “Our teams have spent a year planning our gardens, and all of our hard work is finally going to come to life soon as the spring season approaches.”

The nine departments involved this 2023 growing season will be nutrition services, volunteer services, therapy, acute rehab, heart services, surgery, sleep/EEG/DME, oncology and education/administration. Collectively, they’ll be growing a large variety of vegetables and herbs, with plans for seasonal flowers and perennial grasses on the perimeter outside the fence of the gardens to welcome visitors.

Everything is expected to be planted and in the ground by mid-May, with a special ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, May 24. Once the fruits of their labor are harvested, each department will get a chance to take home what they’ve grown. Anything left over will be donated to local food banks.

The garden was funded by the Mercy Health Foundation Clark & Champaign Counties, while the SRMC Auxiliary donated $2,000 to cover tools needed to maintain the garden.

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