Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield on Saturday, Sept. 15 officially debuted its new greenhouse and educational center, which will be used to not only provide healthy meals for patients but also educate the community on the benefits of healthy eating.
“We’re in the business of health care, not just illness care, so we need to be faithful to the words ‘health care.’ We have to become health coaches and mentors to the communities we operate in,” said Henry Ford West Bloomfield President and CEO Gerard van Grinsven. “This country is faced with an obesity epidemic, so it was just normal and natural for us to create this incredible greenhouse.
“We are very happy with how it turned out,” he said. “We gathered a lot of support and expertise.”
The greenhouse and educational center are connected and each are 1,500 square feet. They were built at a cost of $1 million, which was entirely paid for by an anonymous donor.
The greenhouse will be used to grow different kinds of organic produce, including lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, strawberries, and Chinese cabbage.
The produce will be grown by organic hydroponic farming, which involves growing plants in water rather than soil.
“They go from the germination area to the nursery channels to the grow channels. It takes about 30 days from when we start the seed to the time that we harvest those greens,” said Michelle Lutz, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital’s resident farmer.
With the addition of the greenhouse, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital now expects to save more than $20,000 a year in food costs.
The food grown will not only be fed to patients, but will also be provided to visitors of Henry’s Cafe, as well as used in cooking classes at the hospital’s Demonstration Kitchen. The produce will also be available to visitors of Henry Ford West Bloomfield’s seasonal farmers market.
van Grinsven added that he hopes to see regular school field trips to the greenhouse so children can be educated more about nutrition.
In addition, the greenhouse will also be used for patient therapy through gardening, while the educational center can also be used for yoga classes.
Lutz is a locally-certified organic farmer and the former co-owner of Maple Creek Farm in Yale, Mich., which has provided the hospital with produce since 2009.
The grand opening of the greenhouse included appearances by Ellie Krieger of The Food Network and former National Basketball Association (NBA) great Alonzo Mourning.
Tours of the greenhouse are now available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the educational center also available for events. For more information, log onto henryfordwestbloomfield.com/greenhouse.
The layout for the greenhouse was designed by Howard Resh, Ph.D., while the consultant was Fred Petitt, Ph.D., the director of agriculture and water sciences for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.