The sun warmed the hoops and we were able to harvest. We’ll see you tomorrow in the hospital lobby from 11-1.

Plus, there is a special event being put on by our partners: Prescription for Health


Nov 3rd last day to sign up for Fall CSA!

Hello Everyone,

Make healthy eating easier–join the CSA program! You will receive a bag of delicious vegetables each week and support local famers. This season is shorter (7 weeks) and features items like: squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, spinach, lettuce, kale, and radishes.

Sign up today! Click here

Cost: $140

Program runs Nov 8th–Dec 20th.

Note: we’ve changed systems and are now using the class/event registration- you have to “add an event” to be able to register and pay

emily and nicole packing shares

Interns helping to pack shares.

Why is there no half-share?

This season is short and will contain many of our storage vegetables, meaning that these vegetables will keep for 1-2 months if you keep them in a cool dark place. Meaning that it is less likely that you will be overrun by vegetables that will go bad quickly. As always, we encourage you to share with a co-worker, neighbor, or friend.

What is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are a way for farms to connect directly with customers. Typically, farms offer a set number of “shares” which customers can purchase at the beginning of the season. Then customers come pick up their shares each week for a set number of weeks. This is a great model for all involved, farmers get up-front capitol when they need it most and consumers get ultra-fresh, local produce.

Our CSA is a bit different: it is collaborative and self-serve. Collaborative means that many farms in the area contribute food. We strive to work with only the best growers that use safe and sustainable growing practices. Self-serve means that you have from Wednesday at 12pm and Monday at 5pm to pick it up.


Eat your (endangered) vegetables!

By Emily Matson, University of Michigan Dietetic Intern

This week at The Farm at St. Joe’s we harvested the last of the Cherokee Purple tomatoes and pulled the plants to make room in the greenhouse for the cold weather vegetables. The Cherokee Purples don’t look like a typical perfectly round and bright red grocery store tomato; they are dark reddish purple and can be quite lumpy at times. So why do they look so different from what we define as a tomato? Those Cherokee Purples that The Farm has been selling at the farmers’ market are what is known as an heirloom variety of tomato. Heirloom or heritage fruits and vegetables are essentially antique varieties, grown for taste or adaptability to an area rather than large scale commercial growing. Heirloom plants are usually open-pollinated varieties, which means that seeds saved from the plant will grow the same variety when re-planted and kept away from other similar plants (1).

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato

Growing these different varieties of fruits and vegetables helps to increase our local (and global) agricultural biodiversity (agrobiodiversity). Agrobiodiversity is all the parts of the system that makes up agriculture including plant and animal varieties and species, how we farm the land, and the land itself that makes up the farm (2). By having multiple varieties of each fruit, vegetable, or animal, rather than only one type of each, we are increasing our agrobiodiversity.

At one point, we had thousands of different varieties of crops that were planted in different regions of the world. As our world becomes more connected, many of those different varieties of plants that may be special to different regions are disappearing and being replaced with the same types that may be grown everywhere. Globally, we are growing more food, but with less diversity of plant species. This loss of diversity and increase in sameness (homogeneity) of crops in our food supply leaves it vulnerable to problems like crop failure (3). By eating fewer and fewer types of plants, we also miss out on all the different types of nutrients and tastes that they offer us (4).


Depending on only one crop for food (called monoculture) can lead to large scale disasters such as the Irish Potato Famine that occurred between 1845-1852. A large part of the population in Ireland depended on one type of potato for the majority of their diet and that potato variety was vulnerable to the potato blight fungus. When the fungus destroyed all the potatoes that had no resistance, many people in Ireland either starved or moved to the United States (5). Ireland’s population still has not recovered from this famine that happened so long ago.

In addition to directly affecting food production, monoculture can also have business consequences. Once known as “Celery City”, Kalamazoo, Michigan was one of the largest producers of celery in the country. In the 1930s, a celery blight hit and the region was never able to recover its celery production and producers went out of business (6).

Increasing our local and global agrobiodiversity helps to protect our food supply from crop failures. If we have lots of different types of plants growing, some of those plants may be resistant if a large scale blight comes through. Those resistant plants will survive and food can still be produced, rather than losing all the plants in the case of a monoculture.


A small scale example of diversity: carrots in one bed, different types of spinach in the others.

Eating heirloom fruits and vegetables encourages farmers to grow more of those varieties and the more we grow them, the longer we prevent those varieties of plants from going extinct. We want to prevent the extinction of heirloom varieties not only to preserve the taste or the diversity they offer, but many heirloom plants also have cultural value. Heirloom plants are as much a part of the people who grew them as they are of the land. They can tell you what tastes, colors, or tastes that people preferred at the time they were selected (1, 7). You may not think that a fruit or vegetable has an impact on people’s culture, but have you heard of the Jesuit Pear? It’s a variety of pear that is unique to the Great Lakes and is considered a symbol of the French speaking communities that established in this region. Keeping this pear variety from extinction has cultural value, much like keeping clothing or pottery, or passing on certain dances or songs.

As part of Slow Food USA, Ark of Taste is an organization that helps to preserve our agricultural heritage and connects seeds savers, growers, chefs, and all others who make up the human part of agrobiodiversity. Slow Food USA has a local chapter for southeastern Michigan, Slow Food Huron Valley, and some of their work is directly related to the Ark of Taste. These organizations are doing important work in helping prevent more heritage species of agriculture from disappearing forever. You can also play a part in keeping these endangered heirloom plants from extinction. Find farmers who grow these fruits and vegetables and support them by purchasing their heirloom produce, then dig in!

“Heritage foods provide us with a living cultural memory of people, history and place. Preserving this diversity also allows farmers and gardeners to develop new varieties, adapting them both for their taste and for their resilience in the face of climate uncertainty and other environmental changes. Thus, they are both connections to the past and to the future.” Tara Hui, co-founder, Guerilla Grafters

Glacier Star Morning Glory.

Glacier Star Morning Glory. Heirloom flowers are important too!



  1. Jordan JA. The heirloom tomato as cultural object: Investigating taste and space. Sociol Ruralis. 2007;47(1):20-41. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9523.2007.00424.x.
  2. Pautasso M, Aistara G, Barnaud A, et al. Seed exchange networks for agrobiodiversity conservation. A review. Agron Sustain Dev. 2013;33(1):151-175. doi:10.1007/s13593-012-0089-6.
  3. Khoury CK, Bjorkman AD, Dempewolf H, et al. Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2014;111(11):4001-4006. doi:10.1073/pnas.1313490111.
  4. Uccello E, Kauffmann D, Calo M, Streissel M. Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Food Systems in Practice: Options for Intervention. Rome: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations; 2017.
  5. Yoshida K, Schuenemann VJ, Cano LM, Pais M. Herbarium metagenomics reveals the rise and fall of the Phytophthora lineage that triggered the Irish potato famine. :1-48.
  6. Peppel, F. (2005, February). Stalking the Celery City. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://www.kpl.gov/local-history/business/celery.aspx
  7. University of Arizona Southwest Center, Slow Food USA. Conservation You Can Taste: Best practices in heritage food recovery and successes in restoring agricultural biodiversity over the last quarter century. Nabhan GP, ed. 2013.

Sign up now for the Fall CSA!


Do you love fresh produce? Do you want to eat more vegetables and support local farms?

Then sign up for the 2017 Fall CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program at The Farm at St. Joe’s!

What: Get a bag of produce each week from the Farm! Stock up on fall favorites like squash, potatoes etc!

When: November 8- Dec 20. You pick up your produce straight from the Farm (5557 McAuley Dr). You can come anytime from Wednesdays at 2pm until Wednesdays at 8pm.

How: Register and pay online. (If you are a medical resident please contact Amanda, she will help you use your stipend $). 

How much: $140 ($20 per week)

Who? Anyone. Tell your friends!


Questions? Email Farm Manager, Amanda Sweetman, at Amanda.Sweetman@Stjoeshealth.org


Fine print: We do not offer refunds. Bags that are not picked up by 8pm on Mondays are forfeit.


Organic vs. Conventional Growing

Organic vs. Conventional Growing

By Erika Shaver, University of Michigan Dietetics Intern

The Farm at St. Joes follows organic practices, and I wanted to find out if organic produce was healthier and more nutritious than conventional produce, or produce that was grown using non-organic practices. This has been a hotly debated topic in the last decade, and during my rotation here at the St. Joes Farm, I wanted to explore the pros and cons so that I could make a conscious decision for myself.

Before we begin with the debate, let’s talk about organic farming. According to the USDA, organic crop production is a set of practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity (1). Examples of organic crop production include maintaining or improving soil and water quality; conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife; and avoiding use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering (such as GMOs). In general, organic growers aim to use natural processes and materials on their farm (1).

To enhance soil quality at the St. Joes Farm, the Farm applies compost, organic fertilizer, and a natural supplement called azomite once per year. Compost is organic material, such as food scraps and yard waste, that is broken down by microorganisms to give nutrients to soil (2,3). St. Joes also tests its soil each year. This helps reduce the use of fertilizer because the farmer knows how much nutrients are needed in the soil for the upcoming season (4). St. Joes also helps maintain its soil quality by practicing crop rotation, which essentially means that the type of crop grown in one plot rotates each year (1). This prevents pests from becoming too comfortable with a particular area of land and can prevent soil erosion (1).

To control pests, the St. Joes Farm practices integrative pest management, which is an environmentally friendly way to reduce pest problems. The first goal of this practice is to prevent pests by following practices such as removing overgrown and rotten crops. If this does not work, then the goal is to control pests by physically removing them, trapping them, or applying pesticides if these methods do not work (5).  Yes, it is true! Organic farmers are allowed to use organic pesticides if needed. However, they must use organic pesticides, not synthetic pesticides. Weed problems are handled with a similar mindset. One practice St. Joes Farm used to control weeds was good old-fashioned weeding. I had some experience with this one afternoon on the farm! St. Joes also tries purchasing organic seeds when possible. Organic seeds are seeds that have not come in contact with conventional growing practices that may have exposed them to pesticides (1).


The carrot beds we weeded for an afternoon. It took some time!

Pros and cons of organic produce

In the past decade, the academic community has debated whether organic produce is more nutritious than conventional produce.  Some review articles support this argument (6,7). One article describes that there is 12 percent more vitamin C and most phytochemicals, such as phenols, in organic produce compared to conventional produce. These nutrients often have antioxidant properties that can help reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease (8,9). However, other review articles suggest that conventional produce is as nutritious as organic ones (10, 11). The challenge with review articles is that they include studies with many different crops from different years. Nutrient content can vary greatly by weather and variety (7), and, thus, it can be hard to tell how much impact the growing practice (conventional or organic) has on nutrient content when it’s being compared to produce of a different variety or season (7). However, there does seem to be enough information to demonstrate that organic produce provides more nutrients than conventional.


An example of  variety on the farm. These are red, orange, and yellow snack peppers.

In regards to pesticides, there is general agreement that organic produces has less about 30% less pesticides than conventional produce (11,12). However, most conventional produce has pesticides levels below the allowable limits for consumption (12). Yet, the greatest exposure to pesticides is not by eating produce that is sprayed but by being a farm worker on a farm spraying chemicals regularly. Farm workers exposed to pesticides can develop breathing problems, skin rashes, miscarriages, birth defects, depression, and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s (12). Lastly, pesticide exposure also has environmental impact. Certain insect and bird populations and the balance of predators and prey in the environment, for example. In particular, honeybees’ immune systems are weakened in the presence of pesticides, which make them more vulnerable to their enemies (13).

So which should you choose? It is a challenging question that often comes down to personal choice. This rotation with the St. Joes market has reminded me how close and personal a worker gets with the plants he or she harvests from. This is humbling for me, and reminds me to try purchasing organic as often as I can. Even if it doesn’t affect my health as much, it affects others, whether that’s the farm worker or the honey bee. From a dietitian’s perspective, however, I want to mention that buying any produce, whether organic or conventional, is better for you than choosing to buy none at all. I know I struggle at times to purchase organic over conventional, particularly when the price is higher. However, I often find certain produce, such as organic carrots, to be comparable to their conventional counterpart. These are the small wins I always shoot for, and if I can purchase more, I will definitely try.


  1. US Department of Agriculture. (2015). “Introduction to Organic Practices.” Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Organic%20Practices%20Factsheet.pdf
  2. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.) “Compositing Basics.” https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
  3. Rueb, E. (2017). How New York is turning food waste into compost and gas. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/nyregion/compost-organic-recycling-new-york-city.html?_r=0
  4. Oklahoma State Soil, Water, and Forage Analytical Laboratory. (n.d.). “Benefits of Testing.” Retrieved from http://soiltesting.okstate.edu/benefits-of-testing/
  5. Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.) “Introduction to Integrated Pest Management.” Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/managing-pests-schools/introduction-integrated-pest-management
  6. Baranski, M. et al. “Higher Antioxidant and Lower Cadmium Concentrations and Lower Incidence of Pesticide Residues in Organically Grown Crops : A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analyses British Journal of Nutrition British Journal of Nutrition.” British Journal of Nutrition (2014): 1–18.
  7. Brandt, K et al. “Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences Agroecosystem Management and Nutritional Quality of Plant Foods : The Case of Organic Fruits and Vegetables Agroecosystem Management and Nutritional Quality of Plant Foods : The Case of Organic Fruits and Vegetables.” Critical Reviews in Plant ScienceDecember (2015): n. pag. Web.
  8. Higdon, J. V., Delage, B., Williams, D. E., & Dashwood, R. H. (2007). Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiologic Evidence and Mechanistic Basis. Pharmacological Research : The Official Journal of the Italian Pharmacological Society, 55(3), 224–236.
  9. Cornelis, M. C., El-Sohemy, A., & Campos, H. (2007). GSTT1 genotype modifies the association between cruciferous vegetable intake and the risk of myocardial infarction. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86, 752-8.
  10. Dangour, Alan D et al. “Nutritional Quality of Organic Foods : A Systematic Review 1 – 4.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 90 (2009): 680–685.
  11. Smith-Spangler, Crystal et al. “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier than Conventional Alternatives.” Annals of Internal Medicine 157 (2012): 348–366. Print.
  12. Forman, J., and J. Silverstein. “Organic Foods : Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages Abstract.” Pediatrics 130 (2012): e1406–e1415. Web.
  13. Horrigan, Leo, Robert S Lawrence, and Polly Walker. “Review How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture.” Environmental Health Perspectives5 (2002): 445–456. Print.