Farming in the Sky - Eskenazi Health

What was once considered one of Indianapolis’ best kept secrets is quickly gaining popularity amongst both the community and health care sector across the country. The Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health, a 5,000-square-foot-gardening space on top of the Eskenazi Health Outpatient Care Center, has been featured by both local and national media, even claiming the title of having one of the best rooftop views in Indy.

In addition to providing a breathtaking view of the Circle City, the Sky Farm is a large part of the healing environment that makes up the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital and Eskenazi Health campus, and is utilized to grow fresh produce to feed the patients, visitors and employees of Eskenazi Health. In its first year, more than 2,200 pounds of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs were harvested from the Sky Farm and incorporated into dishes served by Eskenazi Health Food & Nutrition Services to the inpatient units at the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital. The Ingram Micro Mobility Marketplace, Café Soleil and Café Soleil Express at Eskenazi Health also utilize the crops for select menu items, daily specials and chef salad bar options.

Rachel White, sky farmer at Eskenazi Health, works year-round to ensure substantial crop production. Currently, she has a wide variety of lettuces, onions, leaks, radishes, turnips, broccoli, cabbage and beets planted. Her goal for 2016 is to harvest 3,000 pounds of produce.

It’s a lot of work keeping up with a garden this size, but it’s what I love to do,” White said. “I try to utilize every available space for production, and through the help of my volunteers, I think our goal is definitely attainable. I look forward to seeing the end result.”

Many people think gardening is a spring-and-summertime-only task, but you can find White tending to crops even on the coldest of days.

A lot of the produce is able to be ‘overwintered.’ I use protective tunnels that shield the crops from the weather and I’m able to maintain a constant temperature within the hoops, depending on the crops’ needs.”

The overwintered crops are typically ready to be harvested in early spring. A bee hive with approximately 500 bees is also used to increase crop production through pollination.

White, along with Eskenazi Health Food & Nutrition Services, engages the community through various classes taught on the Sky Farm. Beginning on Friday, May 20, “Fresh Veggie Fridays” will take over the Sky Farm from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and will occur every other Friday until mid-September. Eskenazi Health patients, visitors and employees, and the community are invited to attend. Participants will sample healthy recipes, receive fresh vegetables grown at The Sky Farm to take home (while supplies last), learn healthy cooking techniques and receive at-home gardening tips from White.

The Sky Farm also contributed to Eskenazi Health’s recent recognition as one of the top 12 hospitals in the country with the healthiest food options by The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). PCRM, a non-profit organization of 12,000 health care providers, obtained patient menus from 24 U.S. hospitals, analyzed the menus, and then ranked the hospitals based on whether patient menus offer healthy options, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cholesterol-free entrees and soy milk.

The Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can be accessed by taking the green elevators in the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital to the seventh floor.

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