The AMI Farm at Augusta Health is a partnership between Allegheny Mountain Institute and Augusta Health to improve the well-being of Staunton, Augusta County and Waynesboro residents through increased knowledge about and access to healthy foods.
Through a sustainable production farm, a broad curriculum of nutrition education programming, and future plans for a demonstration garden the AMI Farm at Augusta Health is actively working to change health through healthy eating. Two specific uses of the produce harvested from the Farm are the Food Farmacy Program, a unique nutrition education program for those with Type 2 Diabetes, and by the Augusta Health Nutrition Services staff to prepare patient meals and food served to employees and guests in the hospital's Blue Ridge Café.
Other community programs and opportunities at the AMI Farm at Augusta Health
Monthly Events, Workshops and Classes at the Farm and throughout the community
- Sample class titles include Seasonal Eats: Picnic Produce; Home Compost Basics and Your Brain on Food
- Check offerings each month at www.alleghenymountaininstitute.org or https://www.augustahealth.com/calendar
Weekly Farm Stand
- Tuesdays, 3 pm – 6 pm at the Barn at AMI Farm at Augusta Health
- If the chance of rain is greater than 70%, the farm stand is located inside the Augusta Health Wellness Center, Room 119
Volunteer Opportunities—Work at the Farm!
- Tuesdays, 3 pm – 6 pm at the Farm
- Sign up at www.alleghenymountaininstitute.org or call (540) 886-0160
Prescriptions for a healthier life
While most want to live a healthier life, changing their lifestyles to reach that goal is simply tough. It's more than just changing habits, people need knowledge on what to do and the resources to be able to get it done.
A unique program for helping those with chronic disease is the Food Farmacy prescription produce program at the AMI Farm at Augusta Health. It's a physician referral program for patients with Type 2 Diabetes and an A1c greater than 7.5. The program is 16 weeks long and includes nutrition education provided by a physician and a registered dietitian from Augusta Health, cooking demonstrations and tastings by a professional chef, and free take-home produce harvested from the Farm. Participants receive recipe cards to use when preparing the food. Blood draws and biometric measurements are collected at the first and last sessions in order to measure the health impact of the program.
Martie Wells of Stuarts Draft was referred to the Food Farmacy by her endocrinologist, Jessicah Collins, MD.
"Dr. Collins asked me if I would be interested in participating in a program about fresh vegetables," said Martie, "and I replied absolutely without hesitation!" She hoped the program would help her learn more about diabetes and help make healthy eating a bit more affordable.
"I love everything about the Food Farmacy," continued Martie. "I love the people involved—the instructors, the chefs and the other participants. Some of the information is not new to me, but it's presented in a way that's not repetitive. I sit with different people each week so I can meet them all. It's nice to have a program that's not just educational, but also presents fresh and tasty food."
Another aspect of the program that Martie loves is the variety and quality of the vegetables. "The food is delightful," she said. "One week we had salmon with beets and lemon. I like salmon, and the vegetables just made the taste of the dish wonderful."
Based on family size, the participants receive vouchers for vegetables they can choose themselves to take home for the week. "I have a family of four, and I receive two good-sized reusable bags of veggies when I leave. The recipes provided are easy to do. If there's anything tricky in the preparation, the chef shows us how to do it before we leave. We go through all our vegetables every week."
As far as her outcomes, Martie knows she's already eating healthier and that her change in diet has resulted in some weight loss. But aside from personal benefit, she hopes the program has a larger impact.
"I hope they can expand the Food Farmacy and offer it to more and more people," she added. "It's important that people learn that it's OK to eat this (healthy) way, it's fun and it actually tastes good. The more people we can get into the program, the more it will help the community at large."
There’s never too much of a good thing
So what do you do with thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables delivered to your doorstep? That's the question being answered by Augusta Health's Nutrition Services staff since the AMI Farm at Augusta Health went into production earlier this year.
The answer is that you gratefully use them in every way possible—for patient meals, for meetings catered at the hospital, in nutrition education classes and especially in the Blue Ridge Café for staff and visitors.
"We work very closely with the farm staff from Allegheny Mountain Institute," says Travis Foster, Chef Manager in Nutrition Services at Augusta Health. "They let me know the par levels of the vegetables about two weeks in advance so we can plan and adjust food orders and menus if necessary."
"Right now, for example, it's the week of a million eggplants," he adds, "so we've added ratatouille and eggplant parmesan to the menu."
The AMI Farm at Augusta Health is located on the Augusta Health campus on the former Yoder Farm. Through a partnership with the Allegheny Mountain Institute, Augusta Health has developed a sustainable production farm that uses organic practices and begun plans for a demonstration garden in the future. The Farm provides locally grown produce for use by Sodexo in the Augusta Health food system while also providing a venue for nutrition education and healthy food.
The AMI Farm at Augusta Health will produce more than 8,000 pounds of vegetables and herbs in 2018 on its 1.25 acres.
Fresh produce is delivered by the Farm staff each week. "They do a great job of preparing the vegetables for delivery," says Foster of the farm staff. "It comes to us very clean—less dirt than some commercial vendors." The Nutrition Services staff uses an industrial, continuous-feed food processor to prepare the vegetables for use. Those used in the Blue Ridge Café are listed daily on a chalkboard outside the cafeteria and are designated with an Allegheny Mountain Institute marker at the point of use.
Doug Pugh, Sodexo Nutrition Services Director at Augusta Health, notes there are several benefits to using produce grown right on the hospital campus. "The greatest benefit is simply that it's a better product. It's a difference you can taste. People mention it to us all the time—that the vegetables taste fresher, especially the greens. It's a richer, more 'mineral' taste. Additionally, we've cut our produce order in about half, and it's a more sustainable product that we don't have to transport a great distance."
Produce is obviously seasonal, and while Augusta Health uses a large quantity of vegetables, the varieties used for patient meals are often specific and limited. Pugh and Foster will begin working with the AMI Farm staff in November to help select the seeds ordered for 2019.
"As the people responsible for creating the meals, it's wonderful to be able to work so closely with those responsible for creating the produce we use," adds Pugh. "It just creates a tastier, healthier product for our patients, visitors and staff. It's great for the health of the community in many ways."
Follow our series about Community Outreach where we take a close look at the initiatives taking place to address nutrition and physical activity, diabetes, and mental health in Staunton, Augusta, and Waynesboro.