Colorado Hospital Farms and Gardens

Fresh, local hospital food is part of Colorado's healthcare heritage. As early as the 1880s, some Colorado hospitals had their own vegetable gardens and some even had their own farms. Fresh vegetables, milk, eggs, poultry, pork, and beef were considered to be essential to intelligent healthcare. Here are a few historical examples.

1880s

The Sisters Mercy Hospital in Durango (1882) planted their own garden so that they could have fresh vegetables for their patients.

1890s

The Childs-Drexel Union Printers Home (1892), a sanitarium in Colorado Springs, had a dairy farm, a vegetable garden, 200 acres of wheat, and raised chickens and pigs.

The Sisters at St. Anthony Hospital (1893) received beef, poultry, vegetables, and dairy products from the hospital's own farm in Longmont.

The Seventh-day Adventists who opened the Colorado Sanitarium on Mapleton Hill in Boulder in 1896 followed the dietary prescriptions of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in Battle Creek, so the Sanitarium had its own farm, bakery, and food-processing kitchens.

In April 1896, when Sister Margaret Shea arrived in Grand Junction from Leavenworth, Kansas — a few days before the new St. Mary's Hospital opened — she immediately planted a garden and built pens for chickens and cows behind the hospital. Citizens in Fruita, Grand Junction, and Palisade regularly donated produce, meat, flour, sugar, and other staples to Sister Margaret's hospital kitchen.
During the Great Depression, the Sisters at St. Mary's Hospital felt that their mission as Sisters of Charity meant that they also had to feed the hungry, so they started a soup kitchen that local citizens in Mesa County supported with produce and other goods and services as best they could at a time when everyone was hurting.
The kitchen at the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives (1899) received fresh poultry, eggs, milk, and butter every day from its own farm in Westminster.

Twentieth Century

In 1903, the Sisters of St. Francis from Wheaton, Illinois, opened Sacred Heart Orphanage in Pueblo, where they had a two-acre vegetable garden and a barn with ten cows. Their Wheaton Franciscan Heritage book said that "This was a common practice throughout the Sisters' institutions, as it reduced costs and provided the freshest ingredients for those whom they served."

The Jewish Consumptives' Relief Society on West Colfax and the Evangelical Lutheran Sanitarium in Wheat Ridge — which opened in 1904 and 1905, respectively — each had its own farm.

In 1907, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita, Kansas, opened the first hospital in the San Luis Valley — St. Joseph Sanitarium of Del Norte. Sister Brendan Murphy ran the kitchen, and Sister Alexius Krobst supervised the grounds. People in the San Luis Valley volunteered their services and regularly donated flour and produce as well as feed for the chickens and cows that the Sisters kept.

The City of Denver owned a farm in Henderson, Colorado, that by 1914 was being used to grow vegetables for the elderly, the indigent, and for patients at Denver City and County Hospital.

To help during the Depression, two board members of the Swedish National Consumptive Sanitarium in Englewood drove a truck out to Swedish-American farms in eastern Colorado in the fall of 1936. Seventeen farmers in all sent about 1,500 pounds of potatoes and some sacks of onions back to the Sanitarium.

Farm-fresh hospital food — it's a Colorado tradition!



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