WAIMEA — Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital resident Naoko Ogata, 102, wanted to feel the seed, Tuesday — not the soil.
“This is tactile stimulation,” said Josie Pablo, the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation Kaua‘i Region recreational director. “The residents need to feel things — the dirt, the seed.”
Ogata and Pablo were among the crew who gathered Tuesday morning to plant seeds for a garden that is planned for KVMH to supplement the HHSC Farm to Institution nutrition program.
“They get to see the different stages the plants go through before they end up enjoying it,” said Monica Moore, the HHSC Kaua‘i Region dietitian. “Gardens provide residents a way to take part in their own food production. Growing your own vegetables, fruits, and herbs is economical, and the results are nutritious and delicious.”
The garden has been in the planning stages for a while, the details being hammered out by a Garden Committee that included Moore, Pablo, and Andre Johnson, the KVMH director of respiratory therapy, and others.
“We make our own dirt,” Johnson said. “Under the guidelines for gardens set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the Food and Drug Administration, the soil has to be pesticide- and insecticide-free. We just put in vegetable waste a few days ago. We also get green waste from the Hanapepe Refuse Transfer Station, and Kaua‘i Nursery & Landscaping, and combine everything with chicken manure. The composting is also aerobic, compared to anaerobic. The guidelines state composting must be aerobic.”
Johnson said there are areas on the hospital campus that are not being used. These areas will be home to the garden that will be planted in pots provided by KNL.
“This is a collaborative project,” Moore said. “All of the departments from Administration are involved. The maintenance people helped clean the areas where the gardens will end up. Andre is spearheading the effort because he has a successful garden (and aquaponics setup) at his home.”
The efforts being put in by the hospital’s different departments are already bearing fruit.
“Edible gardens in long-term care settings promote relaxation, stimulate memories, encourage activity, and may reduce agitation among residents who have dementia,” Moore said. “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the Food and Drug Administration promote the benefits residents have from a variety of fresh foods for their consumption, as long as the dangers of foodborne illness are mitigated to the greatest extent possible through the facility.”
This necessitates the control in creating the planting soil as well as planting the crops in pots.
“You don’t know what’s in the dirt,” Johnson said. “We are lucky that KNL provided us the planters. So far, we’ve just put in kale, collard greens, sage, and bell peppers. The residents are planting beans. Eventually, we’ll have an area devoted to dragonfruit and lettuce.”
Eventually, we want to expand the program to have a garden at the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, another HHSC medical facility on Kaua‘i.
“See?” Moore said. “Naoko Ogata has a busy morning working with the seeds. Now, look at her, she’s resting.”