MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Cute critters, watering plants, and laughing your pants off are some of the expectations of volunteering at Mayo Clinic Health System’s Eastridge Community Clinic Garden, but this space represents more than just a good time.
Registered Nurse Care Coordinator Jennifer Pollitt said the mission of the garden is to assist in access of fresh produce.
“Many of our patients don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and so this is an opportunity for them to not only help grow and produce the produce," said Pollitt.
"But also to not worry about the costs of getting those things to help with a lot of their chronic health issues.”
The specialty garden started four years ago with a grant from then-resident Heather Wells, and just like its produce the program has flourished, bringing volunteers on board.
Psychologist Rosean Bishop said the program assists patients both mentally and physically.
“We like to address your whole body and so that includes your mental health as well as your physical health, and we know that there is a strong link between the two, one affects the other," said Bishop.
"And so what people often underestimate is the role of food in their mental health, and so having a good diet is going to improve your overall mental health.”
Registered Nurse Care Coordinator Melanie Blomstrom said the benefits of being outside is a big help for patients.
“I think it’s also therapeutic for many of our patients, it gets them out of the house, it gets them active and enjoying the sunshine and get their hands dirty.”
The team produces all sorts of veggies from chives, zucchinis and more.
“Green beans and sugar snap peas, and tomatoes are probably the things that the patients like the most," said Pollitt.
Current volunteers consist of staff tag-teaming with patients, however, they invite all community members to come out and get their hands dirty. They hope that through more interest they may expand in the future.
“Someday we’ll be able to expand our garden from the eight plots that we currently have," said Pollitt.
" And our employees have actually asked that if we could expand, so that there were bed specifically for employees.”
The idea of an expansion is wonderful, but until then they want invite community members to come out, get their gloves dirty and maybe pick up a new skill like Bishop did.
“I’ve gotten really good at spreading manure, ”laughed Bishop.
If you would like to volunteer with Mayo Clinic Health System’s gardening program, visit this their website here.