JGH to convert its parking lots into farmland
As the price of food continues to skyrocket, and as the need for sound nutrition becomes increasingly important, the Jewish General Hospital has decided to convert all of its ground-level parking lots into farmland to produce in-demand vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower) and wholesome staples (corn, potatoes, beans) for patients’ meals and for sale in the cafeteria.
The largest field will be created by clearing the sprawling parking lot between Légaré and Lavoie Streets, at the rear of the adult and child psychiatry buildings. A second field will be developed between the entrance to Pavilion H and Côte-des-Neiges Road. In addition, the small valet lot at the Côte-des-Neiges doors will be transformed into an herb garden, while the parking spaces at the Côte Ste-Catherine entrance will be used for growing flowers to brighten patients’ rooms.
While this project—known as the Joyous Garden of Health (JGH) —may seem like an eco-initiative with a 21st-century sensibility, it is actually a throwback to the years that followed the hospital’s launch in 1934. Throughout the Great Depression of the 1930s, vegetables for patients’ meals were grown on much of the then-empty land that surrounded the hospital, with a great deal of crops preserved for consumption in winter.
“I can’t think of a more fitting way to honour our hospital’s legacy, enhance the patient experience and earn much-needed income to improve the quality of our healthcare services,” says JGH spokeswoman Esther Jester.
“Just imagine what these fields will do for patients’ morale and physical well-being. For many, it will be an antidote to the stress of hospitalization, as they stroll through the calm, country-like environment among the rows of corn and flowers. Some patients will also have the option of augmenting their physical and occupational therapy by pulling weeds, turning the soil or harvesting ripe vegetables.”
At the outset, the JGH will have to set aside substantial funds to purchase agricultural equipment and supplies, including seeds, fertilizer, gardening tools, tractors and an in‑ground irrigation network. A steep drop in income is also foreseen, once the parking spaces are eliminated.
However, hospital administrators are confident that the harvested crops will be abundant enough to more than offset the initial financial losses. So much food will be generated that even after the kitchen receives its daily allotment, plenty of surplus will be available for sale in kiosks in all of the JGH’s ground-floor lobbies and in outdoor booths near the city’s sidewalks.
If the project is as successful as anticipated, consideration will also be given to cultivating mushrooms in many of the darker corners of the new underground parking garage beneath Pavilion K.
The latest plans call for the pavement in the parking lots to be torn up and removed by the end of the month, with a new layer of topsoil to be added and crops planted by mid-May.
In charge of the project will be Robert Aprille, Supervisor of the JGH’s newly created Field Office of Leguminous Logistics (FOOLL).
“I’m thrilled that the hospital is willing to proceed with an endeavour that’s so consistent with its history and its values of health and well-being,” says Mr. Aprille.
“If the farm performs well, who knows what else we can accomplish? A couple of years from now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see chickens in the corridors, rabbits in the lobbies and a goat or two in the waiting rooms.”