CARDWATCH Customers Grow their Own…

Many Cura Hospitality-managed senior living communities are harvesting the rewards as they grow their own, using the fruits of their labor in a variety of menu selections to offer healthier, more nutritious offerings to residents, patients and other guests.

At CARDWATCH & Cura customer Peter Becker Community (Harleysville, Pa.), a continuing care retirement community offering comprehensive lifetime range of care from residential living to nursing care, Cura’s chefs use the Earth Maker 124 to enhance the community’s gardening efforts.  The Earth Maker is a continuous-cycle compost maker, to compost Peter Becker dining rooms’ pre-consumer food waste consisting of vegetable waste, cardboard, leaves and woodchips on-site. Featuring a 124-gallon capacity, the Earth Maker allows Cura chefs to compost approximately 18, five gallon tubs per week.  The composted material is returned back to the residents’ on-site gardens where natural fertilization yields safer and healthier crops consisting of lettuce, beans, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, blueberries, strawberries and herbs.

Some of the harvest is used by Cura’s executive chefs to prepare menu items for the residents.  According to Bill Richman, Cura general manager at Peter Becker, “Older adults are as active as ever concerning green issues and are more aware and educated on the key health benefits of the food they eat as well as where and how their food is grown and harvested.”

At The Bridges of Bent Creek, an assisted living community in Mechanicsburg, Pa., Cura Director of Dining Services Christopher Aguillard helps more than 15 residents plant a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables in six raised beds during the community’s third annual Bridges Grower’s Day held in May. This year’s harvest consisted of a variety of fresh herbs and vegetables including tomatoes, green peppers, yellow squash zucchini, cucumbers, Italian green beans, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and chives.

At The Sisters of St. Joseph in Wheeling, WV (see photo at right), residents are taking it one step further by starting community gardens with dining services that gives them an activity they enjoy doing and helps them to become more sustainable while enjoying fresh and healthy food.

Gardens were started in the spring of 2010 for this community that serves independent, assisted living and hospice. Residents and members of dining services planted a 50 x 50 garden which consisted of a little bit of everything –peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkins, beets, onions, potatoes and watermelon – yielding $5,000-$6,000 worth in produce used by dining services to prepare menu items for the residents.

Local students from Wheeling Park High School and members of the Wheeling Jesuit University swim team also helped the residents to plant 25 herb containers including five types of basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano and parsley.  According to Jeff Freshwater, Cura director of dining services, “Assisted living residents are responsible for the care of these plants all winter long which gives them something to do during the colder months.”

This year Freshwater and the sisters will be focusing on high-dollar grocery items, like specialty peppers and Edamame, (a hard to find soybean) that can be eaten fresh and is best known as a nutritional snack.  “We are also planning to expand the garden.  Because this is also a retreat center, we served an extra 1,643 people last year.  So, we will plant an additional ½ acre parcel with pumpkin and watermelon.

To help the new gardener get started, a “Growers Manual” was launched – just in time for the growing season!

Available to all Cura Hospitality-managed cafes, the Growers Manual is designed to meet the needs of every grower.  From the operator who needs the basics on how to start a container garden, to tips for the more advanced gardener who grows and harvests a variety of produce, the Growers Manual has something for everyone!

The Growers Manual features the following topics:

  • The selection of your garden. Cura suggests finding the right location that has easy access to water and good sun exposure

  • How to prepare a healthy soil mixture for a successful garden

  • What should be planted?  Cura provides a list of early crops and full season crops

  • Step by step procedure on how to start plants from seedlings

  • Planting your garden with suggested gardening tools to properly tend your garden

  • The advantages and disadvantages of synthetic fertilizers and organic soil amendments

  • Food safety guidelines for onsite gardens



About Cura Hospitality

A member of Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, Cura Hospitality is a highly responsive and innovative dining services and hospitality provider dedicated to a mission of Enhancing Life Around Great Food.  Cura serves over 50 senior living communities and hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region.  Cura’s culinary, guest service and clinical professionals provide hospitality and clinical care to more than 20,000 residents, patients and guests each day.  Visit us at or become a fan on Facebook at