You know the saying: when you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Well, the executive chef at Avera McKennan wanted the very best and freshest produce for his kitchen so he grew it himself. With the help of the green thumbs at Landscape Garden Centers red tomatoes are sprouting up all over the Avera Prince of Peace Campus.
When Avera McKennan says they are going green, it doesn't get any greener than this. The Avera Prince of Peace Retirement Community volunteered to give up a chunk of their lawn to let Avera McKennan Executive Chef Paul Luttmann and his staff plant a garden. The goal: to produce enough produce to use as ingredients in the hospital cafeteria so they don't have to buy any.
Chef Paul says, "We don't use any pesticides out here. The biggest benefit is you know where it's coming from. You planted it. You watched it grow. You know what went in to the soil and what didn't. Anytime you can bring that back and the closer you eat something to when it's picked the more nutritious it is for you."
Landscape Garden Centers in Sioux Falls provided all the fencing, plants (which are a variety of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, potatoes and basil) plus they came out and tilled 10 separate sections all for free.
Erik Helland co-owner of Landscape Garden Centers: We have a great relationship with Avera and we think it's important to help them out. It's new to them and it's new for us. It's an opportunity for hospitals like this to start growing their own produce, it's better for you. There are so many pluses we figured why not help them out and it's right up our alley."
Chef Paul is already thinking ahead. When the new Avera Cancer Institute opens the cafe will have a stone hearth oven. He wants to have the best pizza so he's going to make the crust from scratch. The sauce will be too. They are using some of the tomatoes that aren't good for slicing to skin and seed and freeze. Then he'll make his own sauce out of them.
Chef Paul says, "To date we've produced 700 pounds of produce. If you were going to buy that on the retail market it is $3,000 worth of product."
Product that is good for you, tastes good, and is certainly good for the bottom line. Growing a garden to feed a hospital is proving to be a really good idea.
Members of Avera McKennan's Food and Nutrition Department volunteer to go to the garden a couple times a week to harvest the fresh veggies. They purposely picked plants that wouldn't require a lot of extra attention since they all have full time jobs!