Farm to Hospital

Farm to Hospital

The farm-to-table movement has been popular for a few years. However, 2014 marked a milestone when the Lehigh Valley saw it’s first organic farm on site at a hospital. St. Luke’s University Health Network and Rodale Institute combined to establish the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

Celebrating its second season, the farm to hospital program offers patients organic produce grown right on the campus of the hospital. All six St. Luke’s hospitals receive the organically grown local produce for daily food preparation. Every Friday, new mothers at St. Luke’s Bethlehem campus receive a fresh basket of produce from the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm. Each St. Luke’s campus has their own weekly farmer’s market, which is held in the hospital cafeteria. The produce is available for purchase for visitors, employees and patients. There also is produce available at a reduced price at all network salad bars.

According to Aaron Kinsman, Media Relations Specialist, Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through outreach and research. “We have developed several models of best methods for organic agriculture. We now are creating more social level models, including institutional food sourcing. This is a model that we created for other hospitals to replicate. It was Hippocrates who said, ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’ This is in line with the philosophy of good health care and not sick care that it is commonly called today.”

St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm also is working with the community. Through St. Luke’s Adopt-A-School program, local elementary schools were inspired to create their own vegetable gardens. Employees from the Anderson Campus helped them with these gardens. Several school groups also come out to the farm for educational tours, where they learn about organic farming and such topics as composting, weed control, and planting crops. In addition, Rodale Institute has started an internship program for the farm.

Lynn Trizna, or Farmer Lynn, is the manager for St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm. Farmer Lynn ensures the quality of the farm’s produce, follows organic farming practices, and coordinates produce deliveries for the St. Luke’s hospitals. She also is instrumental in transitioning the land to organic and overseeing the certification process with the USDA. “It is a three year process to become certified organic. We are in year two of the process. Right now we are considered transitional or chemical free.”


The second season of the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm will include several changes. New this season is the introduction of honey bees. There are three hives on site. The bees will help to pollinate the crops. They also will produce honey, however it will not be harvested until year three. Also joining the bee hives will be bat houses and wildflower gardens. The farm is projected to grow over 45,000 pounds of produce. The varieties of produce will increase from 12 to 30. The acreage of the farm is expected to double from its current five acres to 10.

According to Farmer Lynn, the farm is moving to produce more year round. “Last season we put up a 1,120 sq. foot hoop house to extend the growing season. This year we put a 1,000 sq. foot greenhouse on the farm. This is a heated structure where we will do our plant starts for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and such. We can do cut greens in the greenhouse during the colder months. Our onsite walk-in cooler stores excess produce.”

What crops are being grown at St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm? Farmer Lynn says there is a mixed variety of produce. For the fall the list includes carrots, broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and onions. The greens will include arugula, lettuce, mesclun mix and kale. Of course there will be pie pumpkins and some squash. The farm also has produced fresh herbs, eggplants, beans, cucumbers, sweet & hot peppers, garlic, and a variety of tomatoes.

“Through the partnership between St. Luke’s University Health Network and Rodale Institute, the farm will accomplish what was thought previously impossible, growing organic and nutritious food on site for hospital patients. The farm will act as an evolving model for institutions across the country, as well as for farmers who have the knowledge but lack the resources to start their own farm. St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm is planting a seed in sustainable and local food production.”

Farmer Lynn offers some future plans for the farm. “We plan to have laying hens and incorporate more animals into the farm. Currently we are using goats to control the poison ivy on the farm. We want to expand slowly, maintaining quality, efficiency, and good farming practices. We also may expand the acreage and start fruit production.”

St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm is located at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, 1872 St. Luke’s Boulevard, in Easton. You can read more on the evolving organic farm at Also check out Rodale Institute’s website at

Photography by Anita Sergent

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