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Thi Squire is the garden manager for Homestead Hospital, located 35 miles south of Miami on Florida's east coast.

Wait, what? Garden manager? At a hospital? In a county with 30% of the population on food stamps?


Thi (pronounced “Tee”), a longtime urban gardener and sales rep in the burgeoning farm-to-table industry in South Florida, talked her way into a position growing fresh organic produce for the hospital cafeteria.

Not only that, she began using the 10 acre garden to educate and inspire members of the community of Homestead (which see describes as an agricultural center that's also a food desert) to start cooking with whole, fresh, organic plant foods.

Her “Grow 2 Heal” and “Grow Your Lunch” programs are proving incredibly popular with kids and adults alike, and are introducing thousands of farm workers to the culinary potential of the plants they tend and harvest every day.

Thi's infectious enthusiasm, knowledge of gardening, understanding of the root causes of chronic disease, and green thumb, are slowly transforming the culture of Homestead Hospital – and for the better.

I was thrilled to get to spend an hour on the phone with Thi. After writing and talking for so long about what's wrong with healthcare, it was refreshing to focus on a creative, wholistic solution. And one that's so doable, replicable, and ROI-positive.

We covered:

  • the demographics of Homestead: low income, underserved, diverse, legal and undocumented immigrants
  • why most food grown in Homestead doesn't stay in Homestead
  • the burden of chronic disease on the community and the hospital
  • why prevention of chronic disease makes financial, as well as ethical sense for the Baptist Health System (of which Homestead is a part)
  • “If you don't know how to cook and I give you produce, you're not going to eat it.”
  • CEO Bill Duquette's vision for the 10 acres of hospital land that were just growing weeks
  • “We're a hospital. Why would we have a garden?”
  • the importance of educating the hospital staff on the basics of health
  • the culinary delights of fresh produce, herbs, and spices
  • why food texture is crucial (vs mom's mushy vegetables and the overcooked green beans in your high school cafeteria)
  • selling basil, chives, and arugula to South Florida restaurants before it was cool (and before anyone had tasted them)
  • why we need to focus on taste rather than health when first educating people about fresh food
  • people haven't eaten a real tomato in their lives
  • “I don't eat it ‘like that'” – common refrain
  • the Grow Your Lunch K-12 field trips
  • losing family recipes and family heritage – “you can't Google grandma's signature dish”
  • how hospital staff are responding to the garden initiative
  • training the hospital cooks and chefs to add plant-based options to the menu (Food Forward training from the Humane Society)
  • investing $2000 per person can save up to $100,000 in unneeded medical bills
  • the charming sunflower initiative – bringing joy to a stressful environment
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.


Thi's story in the Miami Herald

About Homestead Hospital

The Grow 2 Heal Community Garden

Grow 2 Heal Video (less than 2 minutes)

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Tonight and tomorrow (September 19 and 20, 2017), Josh LaJaunie and I are sharing the “7 High Hurdles to Weight Loss and Health” in webinar format. Both webinars are the same basic content (and both are live), so you can register for the more convenient one.

Read more and sign up here. 

At the end of the webinar, you'll learn about our latest bobsled run of the Big Change Program, and have an opportunity to join us.

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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

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