Mad River Community Hospital is one of the first and one of the few hospitals that serves fresh produce from an on-site vegetable garden and hydroponics greenhouse to patients and in the hospital “Garden Café”. The crops grown are extremely varied and fill six sections of land and two greenhouses. Some of the crops include tomatoes, carrots, beets, basil, potatoes, artichokes, sweet corn, squash and pumpkins as well as several varieties of lettuce.
Having access to fresh, local food fits Mad River Community Hospital's goal of keeping people healthy. Vegetables fresh out of the garden contain higher concentrations of nutrients and the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals. There's an amazing sense of accomplishment felt when serving fresh, homegrown vegetables to patients and staff.
In 2017, the hospital started providing even more healthy food to patients and staff all year long through a hydroponics greenhouse that can grow strawberries, lettuce mixes, cucumber, basil, tomatoes and spinach.
Hydroponic growing is essentially defined by its lack of soil. The system uses the nutrient film technique (NFT), which incorporates a shallow stream of water that contains the dissolved nutrients required for plant growth. Nutrients are monitored and mixed into the water, then an electric pump is used to pump the water into the channels for the plant roots. The water is constantly circulating.
Mad River Community Hospital employs a full-time farmer, Graham Gagne, to tend to both the greenhouse and farm. He coordinates with the kitchen to provide produce for the cafe to cook. Everyday there is a lunch special, usually featuring the produce grown on the farm or in the greenhouse. Volunteers also help on the farm and are instrumental part of the success of the farm.