Orem Community garden leads to better eating habits, friendships

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The LiVe Well Garden at Orem Community Hospital welcomes residents to help plant a garden and keep the produce. (Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare)

The LiVe Well Garden at Orem Community Hospital welcomes residents to help plant a garden and keep the produce. (Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare)

Last year every single person who had a plot in the garden at Orem Community Hospital said it was an excellent experience. They said gardening changed their eating habits, and they started cooking more at home and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Gardeners got to know each other and became friends. So this year, the hospital is adding more space — but the bad news is applications are closed, and there were 55 applicants for 35 plots.

“It’s been phenomenal,” said Laura Salazar, a spokeswoman for Orem Community Hospital and its garden.

The applicants are being interviewed now and likely will know if they’ve got a space by April 15, much earlier than last year (its first year), when gardeners didn’t start planting until after Memorial Day, she said.

Many of the gardeners last year came from the neighborhood around the hospital and live in condos or apartments, Salazar said. Why they want space in the community garden — “the No. 1 biggest reason is they don’t have space at home.”

[pullquote]”We did a post survey of all the gardeners and the thing that struck us most was how impactful it was on eating habits and just how it made them think about food choices.” —Laura Salazar, Orem Community Hospital spokeswoman[/pullquote]

The garden plots come free of charge, and each planter box has its own drip irrigation system. The hospital also provides a little help for participants, many of whom have been first-time gardeners, she said. There’s an intern who spends time at the garden, can answer questions and provide some guidance.

Last year, the intern was a horticulture major at Utah State University who helped gardeners figure out the right fertilizer for their crops, guided them when some plants developed powdery mildew and sent out an email every week with suggestions of what to plant next, she said.

“We did a post survey of all the gardeners and the thing that struck us most was how impactful it was on eating habits and just how it made them think about food choices,” Salazar said. “It was a huge success, and not just in developing gardening skills.”

Though applications are closed for garden space this year, Salazar said the hospital is looking for sponsors to help cover the cost of the garden. If you’re interested in sponsoring the garden, send an email to oremgarden@imail.org or call Salazar at (801) 357-3792. Volunteers are also needed.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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