A Community Garden for community health


Mary Crecelius and Dr. Theresa Cavins picture (l-r)

Two of Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital providers are on a mission—a mission to create a healthier community through good nutrition. What could be a better way than with a garden?
The seed of an idea has now begun to sprout—literally. The Bloomsdale Community Garden at the Bloomsdale Medical Centre is closely watching its seedlings of heirloom pumpkins, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, basil, cantaloupes, squash, sweet potatoes and an assortment of mystery plants (you know, the plants you forgot to label) grow. Flowers have also been added to the mix for an array of color.
“We’ve been talking about this garden for some time, so I’m really excited that it’s now becoming a reality,” said Mary Crecelius, MSN, WHNP, APNG-BC. “Healthy eating can really impact our health. We believe in whole foods and are really promoting fruits and vegetables in our diets.”
Here in the Midwest, we might consider certain practices on the east and west coasts to be on the fringe. Did you know there are doctors who write prescriptions for vegetables? When patients go to a pharmacy and turn in the script they get a tomato. While we’re not at that stage yet, the idea of the farm to hospital movement is making its way to our neck of the woods.
“It’s fun to be on the leading edge, and as they say there’s never a crowd at the leading edge,” laughed Dr. Theresa Cavins, breast and general surgeon. “The data has shown for a long time that eating more plant-based foods and less animal products is associated with a decrease risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and almost all the common ailments in our country. If we can encourage people to grow a garden, go the Farmers’ Market or even shop more from the produce department in their grocery store that’s big step in the right direction toward improving their overall health.”
Convincing patients to trade comfort foods like chicken nuggets and fries for freshly–grown salads or grilled cauliflower can be challenging, but Dr. Cavins and Mary are determined to help people rethink their diets. But growing healthy food is just one piece of the puzzle.
“We’ve been looking at a resurgence in going back to community experiences,” said Mary. “Nutrition aside, there are other reasons to consider why some people live longer, healthier lives. The suggestion is that a strong sense of community is a contributing factor. Community gardens can increase a sense of community stewardship, foster the development of community spirit and bring people together.”
Both Dr. Cavins and Mary agree that their Bloomsdale Community Garden has a small footprint now but it’s loaded with potential.
“Our vision is forming and growing,” said Mary. Like other community gardens, we can foresee residents taking ownership of their own plot of ground, but we also want to keep space for those who don’t have in interest in gardening but want to absorb all the good colors and smells. We’d love for people to just enjoy the garden.”
Dr. Cavins says their dreams for the Bloomsdale Community Garden are large, but starting small makes it manageable.
“The garden is a work in progress,” said Dr. Cavins.” We’ll add a shed for storage, maybe a picnic bench and table, walking paths—even a little free library box where residents can share books, not only about gardening, but anything. If our harvests grow large enough, perhaps we can have a community dinner. I love the idea of bringing people together. Our vision really is to promote healthy eating, exercise and relaxation.”
This dynamic duo is hoping people will join them in weeding the garden, keeping it watered and generally giving it the tender loving care that every garden needs to grow. This community garden will give patients the tools they need to improve their own health, and facilitate wellness discussions between community members.
“It’s one of those things you can do on your lunch break or after work–you just make it part of your schedule,” said Dr. Cavins. “You can prioritize things and do what’s important to you. I think healthy food should be everyone’s top priority. Because if you think it’s a lot of work now, wait until you get sick. If you can be proactive on the front end, it’s time well spent.”
All residents are invited to help with the Bloomsdale Community Garden. For more information and to get on the volunteer schedule, call the Bloomsdale Medical Centre at 573-483-2727.

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