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Farm-to-Table Dining Enhances Nutrition, Connections in Pella

posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sharon Walker

Hearthstone Dietary Manager Sharon Walker poses next to the community's raised garden beds shortly after this year's crop was planted. 


It's not unusual for residents of Hearthstone in Pella to enjoy getting their hands in the dirt; many come from farming backgrounds, and gardening was a way of life for them before they moved to town. After leaving their rural homes, they missed not only the activity the garden provided -- but also the taste of the freshest fruits and vegetables. 

So when the opportunity came about recently for residents to become involved in a farm-to-table operation at the community, they didn't hesitate to pick up their tools and get to work.

"We had the idea to build some raised gardening beds because we knew so many people missed the fresh foods, and they also wanted to help garden but had a difficult time bending over," Sharon Walker, Dietary Manager at Hearthstone, said. "We asked for an external grant and received it, and students from the local high school helped us construct the beds. And the residents couldn't wait to help."

With assistance from a group of independent-living residents, the community's raised beds are yielding chives, tomatoes, green beans, green peppers, cucumbers, and squash.The community's dining team cooks and serves the vegetables to residents and team members -- a special favorite is fresh salsa -- but the bounty also yields enough to share with others in the greater Pella area. And for a community rooted in Christian mission, that's a win-win.

Equally meaningful, though, is the connection that gardening provides the residents, Sharon said -- not just to the past through the working of the soil, but to one another.

"It gives them something to talk about, and it lets them start conversations with people they may not have talked to otherwise," she said. "It's also a great way to include everyone who wants to be a part of it. We have people in wheelchairs who help us water. So many want to contribute in any way they can."

Gardening also enhances residents' and team members' feelings of well-being, she said.

"The fresh food straight from the garden helps keep our bodies strong, and working to grow the vegetables enables people do to a lot more moving around. Plus, being out in the sunshine is a whole lot cheaper than therapy!" Sharon said with a laugh. "It's become a big part of who we are here at the community, and people are already talking about what we'll plant next year."

Hearthstone is Pella's most complete network of living options and services for older adults, with a focus on health and well-being that encourages residents, clients, participants, and team members to live longer, more meaningful lives. To learn more or schedule a visit, call (641) 628-1244.

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