Lake Barrington-area hospital's farm promotes wellness, fights food insecurity

Most of the healing and wellness at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital take place in its treatment rooms and patient beds.

But just outside the hospital's Lake Barrington-area campus, the seeds for another form of healing and wellness are growing.

The hospital's 2-acre Smart Farm grows corn, lettuce and other produce practically throughout the year to help combat hunger.

Produce from the farm goes to pantries in Barrington and Carpentersville, and regular shipments of food are delivered to Advocate Trinity Hospital, located in an area on Chicago's South Side troubled by food insecurity.

The farm's goods also are sold at a weekly farmers market held Fridays on the property, 490 W. Route 22, and at the hospital every other Thursday. Proceeds from those sales help fund farm operations.

"Our goal right now is to really provide food for those that are in need and who are food insecure," said Jasmine Everett, director of hospital services. At Trinity Hospital, the produce is part of a "Food Farmacy" that provides items to patients in need.

"There are two food insecurity questions that the provider typically asks. And if they deem (the patient) food insecure, they will give them a prescription to the Food Farmacy," Smart Farm Manager Chloe Goodman said.

The farm also partners with the hospital's Center for Health and Integrative Medicine, which combines traditional medicine with holistic medicine, to promote healthy eating habits among patients and in the community.

Dr. Lori Walsh, the center's medical director, said other hospitals across the country that sit near farms are looking to follow the Good Shepherd Smart Farm model.

  Chris Cubberly, left, and Adrian Saliu unload produce at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital's Smart Farm, which harvests produce to be donated to food-insecure people across the Chicago area. Brian Hill/

The farm property features an unassuming farmhouse, the type that was probably common in the Barrington area prior to suburban sprawl. A long gravel driveway leads to a small house, and the property contains other buildings where plants are stored, including a "hoop house" with rows of tomatoes.

A wide array of plants are raised on the farm: lettuce, corn, eggplant, collard greens, tomatoes, peppers, beets, carrots, broccoli and more.

It is a novel partnership between the hospital and two actual farmers, Adrian Saliu and Chris Cubberly. Saliu has experience in permaculture farming, an approach that treats the farm as an ecosystem where plants have different functions.

"Some are pollinators. Some of them bring nutrients to the soil. Others produce food," he said.

It also means "working with nature rather than against it" through sustainable practices such as using plants as fertilizer - green manure.

Cubberly has an encyclopedic knowledge of seeds gleaned from his employment at a seed company in Maine.

Everett said the 2-acre operation produces more than 16,800 pounds of produce per growing season. That equates to about 14,500 meals. A planned expansion could bring that up to 100,000 meals per year, she added.

Dr. Tony Hampton, medical director at Advocate Trinity's Food Farmacy program, said the partnership with Good Shepherd grew out of the need to keep the Food Farmacy sustainable.

Not only does the farm make more food available to more people, but it could also be a model to help educate people about the value of growing food themselves, Hampton said.

"Maybe down the road, we can involve high schools and help (students) understand where food actually comes from," he added.

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