Nathaniel Witherell’s Culinary Wellness Garden Puts Locally Sourced Produce on The Menu

Being recognized as one of the best nursing homes in Connecticut by U.S. News & World Report is a fabulous distinction. Now, we can claim one more: with recent completion and ongoing harvest of fresh vegetables from our Culinary Wellness Garden, we now offer “farm to fork” dining for our residents.

Stephanie MacLeay, a registered dietician with our food service team made the following observation: “Fresh, locally sourced vegetables are not only eco-friendly, they are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Offering a great variety of healthy foods is our top priority.”

As you know, a healthy, nutritious diet offers a crucial boost to the immune system and promotes wellness for a long, happy life. So, for seniors, access to healthy, nutritious foods is even more important.

Although the Culinary Wellness Garden groundbreaking occurred in May 2017, the garden is already yielding lettuce, Swiss chard, cucumbers, heirloom beans, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant and squash. The garden’s green, leafy vegetables deliver calcium and Vitamin D to maintain bone health and fiber to aid digestion and promote heart health. Best of all, Executive Chef Levi Argust has been able to use Culinary Garden produce to prepare delicious roasted vegetables, crisp salads and flavorful dishes like ratatouille. Yum!

The quarter-acre garden was the vision of Bob Willis, long time Nathaniel Witherell volunteer and his business partner, Harry Shea. These two former food industry veterans approached the Witherell about planting a culinary garden to benefit our skilled nursing care residents. Together they spent years lining up donors and volunteers to make the garden a reality. Sadly, Mr. Willis passed away before the groundbreaking, but his legacy lives on as the garden is now in full bloom. A special ceremony at the groundbreaking included the unveiling of a memorial bench in honor of Mr. Willis.

“The Culinary Wellness garden lets us leverage our beautiful natural campus to provide an added benefit to our residents,” says Allen Brown executive director of Nathaniel Witherell.

A dedicated team of volunteers worked hard to make the garden a reality. Garden co-founder Harry Shea reports that Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses, LLC in Greenwich generously donated soil and raised beds, and donated their time to turn the soil and apply the powdered lime that was contributed by Oldcastle. Willis family members and friends installed the deer fencing donated by Tenax Corporation. Master Gardener Jennifer Jackson from Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford designed the master plan for the garden, and Summer Rain of Greenwich donated the irrigation system. Michael Helupka of Helupka Tree Service, LLC, donated wood chips for the garden. Throughout the summer, volunteers have come out to do the planting and harvesting. In fact, Mr. Willis’ three young granddaughters presented the first lettuce harvest to the Witherell’s executive chef in early summer.

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