Dave Martens is passionate about gardening. More specifically, he is passionate about organic gardening for a healthier lifestyle. Growing vegetables organically for the past 35 years, Martens learned the importance of pesticide-free foods long before organic produce became readily available at your local market. But feeding a family is one thing; feeding a nursing home is quite another.
As food service director of the Royal Megansett Nursing and Retirement Home in North Falmouth, Martens had the bold idea of growing enough produce on the property to feed the entire facility (administrator Josh Mamary was all for it, he said), and a 50 foot by 50 foot garden planted in the early spring went a long way toward meeting that goal.
Commercial fertilizer? Compost and cow manure work just fine, says Dave. Pesticides? “No” to that as well – there are natural remedies available that are just as effective in keeping the bugs away.
“It’s all about eating healthy. We should all grow as much organically as we can.”
For Royal Megansett, that meant cultivating 100 tomato plants (4 varieties), 75 plants of lettuce, 75 plants of two types of cucumbers, 48 pepper plants, plus zucchini, summer squash, watermelon and several kinds of herbs. Keeping the crows away was a problem in this first experimental year, but Dave has done some research, and next year he plans to scare them off with wind chimes, and yes, a scarecrow.
Fresh tomato in the summer was a special hit with the residents, reports Martens.
“I would go from table to table during lunch or dinner offering our residents fresh tomato slices, and you should have seen the smiles on their faces! Remember, most of our residents were of the generation that grew up with gardens themselves.”
The organic garden was a “win-win” for Royal Megansett: not only did residents eat in a healthful way, but the home-grown produce helped keep food costs down as well.
Martens, who notes that there are three legitimate growing seasons from spring to fall, plans an early start to next year’s garden.
“I’m planting peas on St. Patty’s Day!” said Dave, with a smile.