Seventy-five years ago, if you went to Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys as a patient, the food you ate while there was grown specifically for the hospital.

The farm supplied chicken, butter, peas, squash, onions and whatever other kinds of Minnesota produce you can imagine.

I'm sure the hospital got some oranges and grapefruits shipped in from Florida.

But, if it was a Minnesota fruit or vegetable, the food patients ate came from Minnesota. And, actually, it came from Olmsted County, often from Rochester.

If you ate beets or apples or parsnips, they were grown specifically to supply the hospital.

My question today, considering advice promoted by Mayo Clinic preventive-health experts, is, why do we not still use gardens to supply the vast majority of our food?

Seattle perhaps is the best example.

"On Beacon Hill, just south of central Seattle, landscape developers and a few affordable-food advocates are building an edible food forest," says National Geographic. "Everything grown in the area, from the tree canopies to the roots, will be edible. And it'll be open around the clock to anyone who wants to come and pick some fresh blueberries or pears."

I have long wondered why short-term food assistance in impoverished countries could not be supplemented with the planting — upon any local arable land — of food crops that would reseed themselves.

Now I've begun to also wonder why we could not do that throughout the United States.

Why doesn't every school in the Rochester Public School system have a garden to provide fresh, organic vegetables for the lunch program (saving money to allow kids who can't now afford their meals a lower cost)?

Why doesn't every long-term-care facility have a bountiful garden?

What could Minnesota do with several extra (or, more accurately, "saved") million dollars from not having to buy produce?

The benefits of eating vegetables and fruits are clear. The knowledge and exercise gained from students learning about tending crops are also clear.

And imagine if, any time a local resident was hungry in June, he or she could just go to the town garden and harvest — for free.

That's a pretty healthy-sounding concept to me. Suppose Saint Marys might reignite its farm?

What's your reaction?

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