Change is nothing new at Box Butte General Hospital. Patients, visitors and employees expect upgraded technology or remodeling. Few may have noticed a short wire fence tucked away behind the Wellness Center parking lot. Walk a few paces and see vegetables sprouting in the hospital’s garden.
Days before the summer solstice, rows of green distinguish themselves from stubborn weeds in the 40 x 40-foot BBGH community garden. I walked through the plot a couple weeks ago with Dan Newhoff, wellness manager, and Shae Goehring, internal communications and marketing specialist. Then it was still a waiting game to see what the staff’s sowing efforts would look like. Keep Alliance Beautiful had delivered a couple bags of large tin cans to offer protection from the elements.
Dan and Shae explained that the garden is an offshoot of the Community and Social wellbeing group, specifically an opportunity for hospital employees, their families and the community to participate and benefit from a cooperative effort. According to the purpose section of the garden proposal narrative, “. . . it gives them (employees) something to do that is bigger than themselves. The produce from the garden can be used for employees to take to their families, used in our cafeteria, and we can use to teach “classes” or “courses” on food preservation. Socially it gives employees an opportunity to work and get to better know their coworkers in a non-work environment way. Relationships could develop or deepen amongst employees. A community garden also can contribute to physical wellbeing in ways that are obvious such as improved nutrition and physical activity, but also in . . . stress reduction, improved relationships.”
Wellbeing is a lifelong pursuit. The garden will last longer than other recent events or programs. Dan explained this endeavor focuses and impacts all five hospital wellness elements. “I lead the wellness champions group and coordinate subgroups,” he said, adding, “Community and Social wellbeing is tough (I had to find something that lasts a long time).”
Overall, Shae said, (our) culture and community has shifted more to focus on wellbeing in the last few years.
The hospital administration met the garden proposal with a lot of excitement. Dan and Shae agreed that “people came out of the woodwork” to help set up: March 1 starter seed kits handed out, May 25 planting, and Earth Day (April 22) building the fence, etc. and a campus trash pickup. Volunteer opportunities are split up based on the life of the garden. Two big contributions have included manure from Jerre Mount and tilling the soil by Ron Brown. Fertilizer and cultivation are according to a diagram Dan showed with all the crops: corn on the west and north edges, rows of beans, carrots and onions, as well as tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, lettuce and a variety of vine mounds.
Dan tends the garden day-to-day himself at this stage. Whenever he needs assistance, working in the garden is a BBGH sponsored event, meaning “employees can help on the clock.”
“People who have helped out think the idea is great. Not everybody can work it into their schedule,” Dan said. “(We are lucky) to be able to do something like this that benefits the employees that’s not healthcare. . . . If people are looking for more than a job or paycheck this is a great place to be.”