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May 13, 2011 06:10 PM

An Employee's Garden

Sioux Falls, SD


There's more to a garden than just plants and soil. There's healing and a sense of well-being.  Avera McKennan recently tilled up dirt across from their main campus and invited staff to plant in their community garden.

On a cold blustery day, a garden has begun to grow. It's called the St. Isidore Centennial Garden and as its soil was blessed with holy water, staff at Avera McKennan hospital began to plant.

“On break times, at lunch, if they wanna come over and pull a few weeds or pick some fruits of their labor, that's be more than OK,” Amy Olson with Avera Life Care said.

The garden sits right across the street from McKennan's main campus and is there for employees. It's encouraging work site wellness in a way that's never been done here before.

“We do a lot of traditional wellness services that you would expect employers to do - health screenings and activities and campaigns. This was just a neat way to sort of expand that for our employees to have them think about health and wellness in a whole different way,” Olson said.

Over 50 plots have been taken over in groups. It's a chance to grow healthy foods and to just take a break.

“It's been amazing. When we put the first notices out about the gardens, they were basically full within days so I think we only have 2 plots left,” Olson said.

Everything and anything from pumpkins to flowers are being planted. Some have even begun to take root.

It's work site wellness that's not without a little friendly competition.

“The gardens are going to be ranked and they'll be ranked to see who has the best produce and also maybe the largest thistle or you know having a lot of fun with it,” Erik Helland with Landscape Garden Center said.

The hospital is partnering with Landscape Garden Center where professionals will offer tips and answer questions like how to garden without pesticides.

“The movement is going towards everything going green, being natural. And our goal is to help them out in getting to that point and having a lot of success," Helland said.

It's a chance for staff working in an often very tense environment to manage that stress and perfect that green thumb.

“They're directly doing labor that benefits their bodies and growing food that benefits their bodies,” Olson said.

And if there's an over abundance of produce, staff are encouraged to donate it to places like the Banquet and the Food Pantry.
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