• WisBusiness

Thursday, September 24, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: UW-Oshkosh debuts indoor garden for dining services


By MaryBeth Matzek
The UW-Oshkosh has made a name for itself with its sustainability initiatives, which helped it make the list of the top five "greenest" universities compiled by BestColleges.org earlier this year.



Tower Gardens, a vertical gardening system, is the latest example of the college's sustainability culture. Located in Blackhawk Commons, the campus' main dining hall, the new gardening system features three towers, which have so far been used to grow chard, lettuce and herbs that are being used right in the dining hall, says Marty Strand, assistant director of dining services at UW-Oshkosh.



"I had been looking awhile for a way that we could bring a garden inside and I came upon this idea and then talked with a friend who uses it at Ripon College and everything just clicked," he says.



Tower Gardens are standing habitats for plants that use aeroponics, a plant cultivation technique, to grow food at a faster rate than in a conventional garden, Strand says. The tower works by pumping Tower Tonic, a liquid plant nutrient mixture, up the tower and then cascading it over the plant roots. He says this provides the plants with ample oxygen, nutrients and water.



The gardening systems were installed over the summer and students already are reaping their benefits.



"We don't use any soil and it was fairly easy to put together," Strand says. "We've also purchased some light kits that run on a timer to make sure they get enough light. It will be nice to have something blooming in the middle of winter."



The gardens are a visible reminder to students and visitors about the college's sustainability initiatives, Strand says. "This really puts out there our sustainability efforts. They can see the plants growing and it's already spreading through word-of-mouth that we're using what we're growing in our dishes," he says.



So far, Strand says herbs have been the biggest success since the college is able to grow them cheaper than what it would cost to purchase them. In the future, he says some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, may also be grown.



"The gardens are really neat and it's been a great way to talk up sustainability and local food sourcing," Strand says. "They should pay for themselves within two years."



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New Shawano hospital unites healthcare services at one location



After more than 82 years of providing care from the same location, Shawano's hospital has a new home and name.



Last week, Shawano Medical Center transitioned its patients and services to the new $52 million ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano. The new hospital sits adjacent to the existing ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano clinic, creating an integrated medical campus for area residents.



"We were split before with services at different locations," says hospital CEO Dorothy Erdmann. "The single campus creates more convenience for patients and physicians. Physicians can get to their patients quicker and there's no running back and forth. I think before about a pregnant woman coming in to see her doctor and if the baby had to be delivered, it was then a trip across town. Now, you go right next door."



In designing the new hospital, Erdmann says ThedaCare worked closely with community members to create an inviting facility with lots of natural light and views of nature that also celebrates the area's diverse population (more than 20 percent of patients are Native Americans).



The 128,000-square-foot hospital's patient care units are served by four separate nursing hubs that each serve a small number of patient rooms. The clinic and hospital share services such as lab facilities and imaging areas.



"We really worked with the community in developing the hospital and making it a welcoming place," Erdmann says. "We're replacing a hospital that has stood for more than 80 years. We wanted to do it right. We had a public open house last week and had an amazing turnout and people were very complimentary."



The new hospital is also home to a unique nurse education center – a 5,000-square-foot area operated by the hospital and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. The shared learning space will be used by 60 NWTC nursing students annually and ThedaCare staff members will also be able to use the space for training. It's the first one like it in Wisconsin.



NWTC President Jeffrey Rafn says the space will allow nurses to train in a community health care setting and "to train nurses exactly where they are needed."



Erdmann, who helped develop a similar program at a hospital where she worked in Minnesota, says she is excited about the onsite training facility. "This is going to be great not only for the nursing students, but also for our community as well," she says. "Our staff will also benefit from having this educational and training space available."



-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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