Tucked away, in a sun drenched corner of the CHRISTUS St. Michael Rehabilitation Hospital, is a garden full of life that is helping to give life as well. The garden, full of heart-healthy vegetables, is grown and maintained by the CROP club, or CHRISTUS Reapers of Produce.
The CROP club was initiated about two and a half years ago by Carol Blair, RRT Supervisor of the Cardiac Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department at CHRISTUS St. Michael. The idea came to her while she was working in her own garden at home, and she felt that it might be an activity that patients would enjoy too.
“I’ve got a lot of patients that love gardening, so I thought it would be good for them to feel more involved with the growing of the vegetables,” said Blair. “Each one of them are able to share their knowledge with the rest of the club. I’ve learned a lot by doing it with them.”
The garden consists of six raised beds in the rehab hospital courtyard that were built specifically for patients to grow vegetables in. The patients take care of the entire garden themselves, from planting the seeds, to fertilizing and watering. Once the produce is fully grown, it is reaped by the CROP club and then shared with the entire cardiac and pulmonary rehab. The current spring crop consists of bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, squash, and beans.
The goal of the garden is to get cardiac and pulmonary patients to be more vegetarian oriented and to help them be more mindful of eating their vegetables. According to Blair, half of everyone’s plate at dinner should consist of fruit or vegetables. When patients first begin the program, most are not even eating a quarter plate of vegetables.
“We found that when we were doing our intake questionnaire on what they’re eating when they join the program, they’re not eating enough vegetables,” said Blair. “They’re eating a lot of red meat and a lot of processed foods and things that are full of cholesterol, so we are trying to get them to be more organically inclined and eat more vegetables.”
All current patients of the cardiac or pulmonary rehab are able to reap the benefits of the garden tended to by the CROP club. The vegetables are used to create healthy meals for patients who are then able to take the recipes home to recreate. In addition to this, a dietary lecture is given each month by a dietician.
“We are trying to get them to realize all the different types of these foods that there are. We give them recipes to help them be more diverse with their vegetables,” said Blair.
When each CROP club member joins the program, they are given a baby plant to take home with them and care for. This plant will come to be symbolic of their time in the program.
“The plant represents that they start out as babies and they grow in the program,” said Blair. “As the plant starts producing vegetables, the patients start producing results. It is symbolic of their time in rehab and all that they accomplish.”
The CROP club is always open to new members. Anyone who has cardiac or pulmonary issues is welcome to come to the cardiac and pulmonary rehab and reap the benefits of the garden as well as the other services that they have available. They are located at 2602 St. Michael Dr., Suite 402. For more information, please call 903-614-4262.