Living Seasonally

It’s November 23rd, 2016. Until this weekend, the weather felt like September. But despite the warm weather, I’ve been feeling myself return to my winter habits. I am surprised to find that the shorter days drive my behavior more than the temperature outside.

As I spend more time at home cooking, reading, and enjoying the company of friends, I am grateful for the passage of time and the changing seasons. After a frenetic summer, I need the long nights to force me to slow down and rest. This is a time of regeneration.

I cooked more times in the last two weeks than I had in the entire month previous. What I’m cooking has changed also. Root vegetables are prominent in their sweet, crispy glory. I roasted a locally-raised chicken, and was reminded how many ways a chicken can feed a family. (Have you ever made homemade stock?). And, maybe best of all is the salad!!!

Even though temperatures have finally cooled off and the days are short, there is still so much growing at The Farm. This is the season for cold-hardy greens: spinach, lettuce, baby kale, arugula, ruby frills, and so much more. These greens taste sweet, crisp and have more bite than standard lettuce. As one of the CSA customers told me: “Your spicy salad mix has rocked my world!” Not only does our salad mix incorporate a broad variety of greens. But also, greens taste better in the fall/winter because sugar is nature’s antifreeze. Once the greens have frozen once, the flavor changes dramatically!


What are your winter habits? One new habit I’m working on is feeling more gratitude. The best way to make a new habit is to practice. If you’re a St. Joe’s colleague, join the Gratitude Challenge Nov 28-Dec 16th. Learn more here.

Access to Healthy Foods

Hunger and health are deeply connected.

According to Feeding America, 1 in 7 people in Washtenaw County are food insecure. Food insecurity is the USDA’s measure of lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. It also looks at whether or not a household can get nutritionally adequate food.  Food insecurity is associated with poor nutrition, health, academic achievement, and mental health as well as with an increased risk of developing chronic diseases.


Often, food insecurity is associated with living in a food desert. A food desert is an area that lacks easy access to both healthy and affordable food. Often, these are low income neighborhoods that are not near a supermarket.


There is also an association between income and obesity. The diagram above shows that in all 50 states, the lowest income families (dark blue dots) have a greater rate of childhood obesity than the highest income families (light blue dots) in the same state. Sometimes this is related to living in a food swamp, a place where unhealthy foods are more accessible than healthy foods. For example, low income areas have twice as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores compared to high income areas.

The image below shows the area around St Joe’s. (St Joe’s is the star). The green portions show areas of people that have low income and low- access to healthy foods. The orange shows areas where people are low income but have slightly better access for foods.  


The best way to combat food insecurity and low food access? Provide more food! Farms, farmers markets and CSAs are common methods used to address food access issues and The Farm offers all of those. The Farm currently hosts a weekly farmers market in the lobby of St Joe’s as well as a weekly CSA in collaboration with other local farms.

Interested in other farmer’s markets in your area? See here. You can also use this source to find farmer’s markets in your area that accept SNAP.

The farmer’s market runs every Wednesday from 11am-1pm in the lobby of St Joe’s. We accept cash, card, or Prescription for Health tokens.

Fall CSA openings

The Fall CSA*, which started 2 weeks ago, now has several open spots!

What: shares will include salad greens, carrots, beets, eggplant, squash, leeks, cabbage and more.

When: now-Dec 14

How This is a self-serve CSA, meaning that you will be able to pick your shares (a bag of produce) up from a cooler at the Farm anytime from 11am on Wednesdays to 9pm Sundays. Here’s a silly tutorial video on how to pick up your share.

Cost The cost is $20/week. We ask that you pay in full at or before the first pick up. Cost will vary depending on start date.

To join the CSA:

  1. Sign up using this form: 2016 Fall CSA
  2. Payment options include.
    1. Come to the Wednesday Farmer’s market (11-1) and pay with cash, check, credit card or payroll deduct.
    2. Bring cash or check (made out to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital) to the Farm.
    3. If you are a resident, please talk to Matt Malone.

Questions? Call 734-712-4667 or email Amanda (


A share from last fall

*Definition: If you haven’t heard of them, CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, 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 share each week for a set number of weeks. This is a great model for all involved, farmers get upfront capitol when they need it most and consumers get ultra-fresh, local produce.

Benefits of Eating Seasonal Produce

Benefits of Eating Seasonal Produce

We’ve all heard it before – “You should eat seasonal produce”. But…. what does that actually mean?

Seasonality of produce is an important factor of food production, and it varies based on the region or state in which you live (i.e., Michigan has different Summers and Winters than California). Farmers need to be aware of what crops grow best during which seasons in order to have the most plentiful harvest, and consumers need to know the exact same information so they know what to look for in the grocery store or at the Farmer’s Market.

There are plenty of reasons why you should pay more attention to seasonal produce. Purchasing seasonal produce is typically less expensive than buying that same fruit or vegetable during its off-season. This relates to the simple concept of supply and demand; in-season produce is in large supply so it is sold at cheaper prices to maintain demand. Produce is more expensive in its off-season because it costs more to import it from regions of the country/world where production can happen year-round. Buying seasonal produce not only supports your local farmer, but it also supports your wallet!

Many even believe that seasonal produce tastes better. When it is only being shipped locally, the crops can be picked at their peak freshness. Additionally, seasonal produce is grown closer to you so it won’t spoil on the journey from farm to table. Buying seasonally can also help you broaden your palate horizons! We often get stuck in our ways of consuming the same meals with the same ingredients over and over again; buying produce seasonally will help expand your recipe book and expose you to dishes that you would not experience otherwise. This will also help you eat a more well-rounded diet of produce with different nutritional content!

Which fruits and vegetables go with which season, you ask? Well, for starters, take a look at either of these great resources published by Michigan State University: Michigan Availability Guide and Michigan Produce Availability Chart. For example, apples are best during the Fall months of September through November, lettuce and mushrooms are grown almost year-round, and tomatoes are grown during the Summer months of June to August/September. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also a great resource for figuring out which produce go with which season, as well as a source for recipes to use those produce for.

If you want to learn more about seasonal produce, farming, or general health and wellness, come on out to the Fall Open House at The Farm at St. Joe’s of Ann Arbor on Saturday, September 24 from 10a to 2p, located on the hospital campus at 5557 McAuley Dr. This event will feature fresh food samples, health and wellness information, kids’ activities, and farm tours! Click here for more information. We hope to see you there!

Recipe: Peanut Sauce


Photo from Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap Recipe Book

Stop by for some fresh vegetables and peanut dipping sauce at the Farmers’ Market this week! This yummy recipe, from Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap, is easy to make and adds excitement to any type of produce. Great for individual snacking or as a party dip, this peanut sauce is sure to be a winner!

Warning: Young Minds Photosynthesizing at the Farm


By Claire Roess, Dietetic Intern, Summer 2016

While hospital-based farms provide healthy and tasty produce for inpatient food trays, they also offer a whole lot more than that. They allow hospital staff members to rent plots and grow their own vegetables, they engage with the community and serve as local places to volunteer, and they form partnerships with neighborhood organizations. Speaking of partnerships, one of the most important roles of these farms is to educate children attending nearby schools.

The Farm at St. Joe’s values such education and aims to “foster joy and discovery through inquiry and exploration of the natural world and food.” Every year, third and fifth graders from Ypsilanti Community Schools come to the farm to learn about how food is grown. Third graders explore the different parts of the plant, and they do interactive activities to understand the differences between soil and dirt and how plants go from seed to compost. Also, they receive a nutrition lesson focused on food advertising and label reading. Additionally, the kids make many observations outside on the farm and predict what will happen in the future. Fifth graders talk about how farming is a science, as it is based on data collection and informed decision-making. They also learn about the life cycle of calcium and do a hands-on activity to model photosynthesis. Furthermore, these students learn about the nutrients in different colored foods and what the nutrients do for the body. They also compare food items in terms of making healthy choices. Both age groups pick and eat a healthy snack during their time at the Farm.

While all of this sounds beneficial, is there any evidence to support experimental garden- or farm-based education? There is, in fact! Several studies show that hands-on interactive activities support children’s development, and hands-on garden activities teach children life skills that allow them to contribute to their local communities. Also, providing education in combination with practical learning resulted in children consuming more fruits and vegetables than if the children only received education and did no hands-on activities. Due to eating more fruits and vegetables, the children also ate more fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C, contributing to overall healthier eating behaviors. Children became more excited about farming and eating produce when they were able to see firsthand how the food was grown. Therefore, these studies suggest that by supporting hands-on learning, the Farm at St. Joe’s is also helping children eat healthier.

Want to schedule a school trip to the Farm? Please contact Amanda Sweetman at or 734-712-HOOP (4667). We’d love to show you what the Farm is all about!

About Claire:

Claire Roess, MPH, is a Dietetic Intern from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She completed a two-week rotation at the Farm, learning about planting, harvesting, volunteer coordination, and using farming to educate both children and adults. She is excited to incorporate what she learned into her practice as a dietitian!