The Voluntary Health Services hospital converted a patch of wasteland into an organic garden

Fancy a farm in the city? Endowed with land that was running waste, the Voluntary Health Services (VHS) Hospital recently converted a part of their premises into a fancy organic vegetable farm. Thanks to this, VHS now enjoys a constant supply of tasty and fresh organic vegetables for its kitchen, which supplies free food to poor patients who go there from across the country. Another unexpected but happy spinoff has been the rejuvenation of VHS staff, who are simply thrilled to see delicious vegetables growing by the buckets in a land that had so far been a wasteland. And why not - VHS’s kitchen garden has been a massive team effort, with hospital’s staff across disciplines from doctors and nurses to hospital workers, pitching in with ideas and labour.

Once the idea of the kitchen garden was mooted, R. Ramadoss, VHS’s senior manager – estate affairs and security, and Capt. A. Gandhi, VHS’s GM-HR, swung into action. A 10-member committee was formed. A horticulturist and soil expert were consulted. Three gardeners were employed. The land was levelled and raked, and a lorry load of organic manure (cow dung) was added and mixed with the soil before sowing was taken up on April 12. About 15 days later, the first 100 bundles of greens were harvested. Now, other vegetables like okra are being harvested at the rate of five kilos every other day, enough for VHS’s kitchen needs, with plenty left for the VHS staff to take home. Only organic pesticides and manure is used in this vegetable garden.

VHS started with greens - palak and siru keerai, and vegetables like broad beans, okra, brinjal, and tomatoes in an half-acre plot within their campus. Following the success of this initial foray into vegetable farming, VHS is now about to add a herbal garden, a fruit orchard and more varieties of vegetables, besides dug wells and vermin-compost pits. That should be feasible, considering that VHS sits on a 25 acre estate. Says VHS’s honorary secretary, Dr.S. Suresh, “Hopefully, VHS will be soon a hospital with massive green cover and an institutional premise that co-exists with nature. Very few institutions have the luxury of space. When available, we need to harness it. Besides, this greenery is very good for recuperating patients, not to mention the morale-boosting impact it has had on every one of us”.