St. Charles Health System is teaming up with a Terrebonne farmer to put locally grown organic produce on the menu.
Earlier this year, Sarahlee Lawrence, of Rainshadow Organics, began supplying St. Charles Redmond with a box of produce each week. But “as the season got going, I just had so much food,” she said. “I’ve been able to supply them with a full truckload of all sorts of fruits and vegetables throughout this summer.”
Lawrence, who only began farming this year, grows 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables on a three-acre plot. Now she’s in discussions with St. Charles Health System to provide food to its Bend and Redmond campuses, which would allow her to grow her farm to 25 acres.
“This is my first year really growing,” the 28-year-old said. “I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what works, what doesn’t, so next year I’m feeling pretty ready to plant a lot more and know what to plant.”
Providing fresh, locally grown organic produce will be beneficial for both patients and St. Charles caregivers’ health, said Mark Petersen, St. Charles’ director of hospitality services. Many chronic diseases can be prevented by behavioral and lifestyle changes; eating right is one of the first places to start.
“Partnering with Rainshadow Organics will allow us to offer our patients, visitors and caregivers produce that was harvested the day before, at its peak of ripeness and flavor, which makes for visually appealing and amazingly flavorful food,” Petersen said.
And, since the food is trucked in from Terrebonne, it will help minimize St. Charles’ carbon footprint.
“Most produce in Central Oregon comes from distributors in Portland, which in turn comes from around the state, California and overseas,” Petersen said. “Getting our produce from Terrebonne will save lots of fuel and related emissions.”
The arrangement will benefit the community in yet another way: A guaranteed order for such a large volume of food will mean Lawrence will be able to offer shares through her Community Supported Agriculture program to families, and other buyers, at a lower price.
“It benefits the whole community when someone like the hospital decides to commit to using local food, and commit to a grower,” she said. “It just allows me, as the grower, to produce more, and at a more affordable price.”
During the growing season – from about May to November – the hospital campuses will receive the full gamut of seasonal vegetables, including peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, cabbage, beans, onions, leeks, cucumbers, chard and herbs like basil and dill, said Benjamin Brown, food services supervisor at St. Charles Redmond.
Brown said the menus will reflect what’s available, which is a more environmentally appropriate way to plan. And it’s a fun challenge.
“St. Charles Redmond is serving the freshest food in Central Oregon,” he said. “In fact, our produce migrates from farm to table within a day.”
Food supplied by Rainshadow Organics is Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, which means the seed is organic and not genetically modified in any way, and that no herbicides or pesticides are used.