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Field of canola at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus

The 80-acre field of vibrant yellow canola at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, Bethlehem

Township, with bright yellow flowers that bloom in mid-May, not only attracts beneficial insects, such as honey bees and other pollinators, but also attracts people looking for tranquility or, in many cases, selfies and family photos amid the golden expanse.

The planting of the canola field is the latest way St. Luke’s has used the land at the Anderson Campus to nourish individuals and families and promote physical and mental well-being. Among the campus’ other agricultural and landscape features are an organic garden, a sunflower garden, walking trails, a community garden and cherry trees that were recently planted around the pond.

“We are stewards of this property,” said Ed Nawrocki, President of St. Luke’s Anderson Campus. Nawrocki said. “As such, we want to use this land to make the Anderson Campus a destination for the community that extends beyond our exceptional healthcare. We want all visitors, whether they are patients, employees, members of the community or others, to have a fulfilling experience here.”

For the employees and staff of St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, the beauty of and the focus on wellness through initiatives like the organic garden and the planting of the canola field are a source of great pride.

The organic farm, now in its seventh year, grew from a partnership between St. Luke’s and the Rodale Institute. The St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm grows fruits and vegetables that are used in cafeterias in all hospitals throughout the St. Luke’s University Health Network.

In 2020, the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm grew approximately 50,000 pounds of produce on 12 acres.

“We provide approximately 200 farm shares weekly with high-quality, nutrient-dense foods to employee wellness, the clinical trials, and wholesale orders to the cafeterias,” said Aslynn Parzanese, Interim Manager of the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm.

This year, the organic farm is growing a variety of vegetables, including beets, sweet potatoes, fennel, garlic and sunflower sprouts.

Other crops that have been grown on the farm include lettuce/salad greens, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumbers, summer squash, Swiss chard and kale, garlic, cabbage, potatoes and herbs.

Last year, St. Luke’s started a resident-led CSA project for hypertensive and diabetic patients from various continuity clinics.

“This project enabled patients with poorly controlled blood pressure and diabetes to obtain free weekly shares, along with recipes to use for cooking the produce,” said Dr. Ileana Perez-Figueroa, MD-MPH, who works at the St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, adding, “Any shares that were not picked up by participants were donated to local schools and food pantries.”

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Eighty-acre field of yellow canola in bloom at St. Luke's Anderson Campus.