When we think of hospitals, we usually think of two things: food and healthcare, which are what a small private Kailua facility brought together for National Food Day this weekend. Castle Medical Center hosted a health fair, farmers market and tours of its newly-installed FarmRoof garden system, a first for any Hawaii hospital.

A rooftop garden, and in the spirit of Halloween, a honu jack-o-lantern.

I was captivated by this concept and couldn’t wait to see the garden. But first, I attended the health fair, with its panel of hospital specialists giving their time on a Sunday morning to offer advice on nutrition for pediatrics to gerontology. What I came away with was more than their words; seeing their personalities, enthusiasm and compassion brought home my certainty that visitors on this side of the island will receive excellent healthcare, if the needed.

As for the food part of the fair, I got to taste numerous nutritious dishes made with locally-grown produce. I also gathered with a group of women who exclaimed over the flavors and deliberated possible recipes. We assumed the food had been brought in from local restaurants because it was that good, but we were astounded to find that it actually came from the hospital’s café. I just have to say it again; it was delicious! Some of the produce was even harvested from the facility’s new roof garden. Next, was the tour.

Kale chips and fresh produce at the Castle farmers market.

Because 90-percent of Hawaii’s food is imported from the mainland, it’s not a surprise that there’s an emphasis on sustainability and increasing local food production. The state Department of Agriculture has a goal to bring farming into the present and making it the “new” enterprise for the next generation, similar to how the restaurant business makes cooks into chefs. Castle’s rooftop garden is a great example of how the state needs to make up for its shortage of farmable land space. Visitors can view the garden from the second floor.

When I have visitors we always make it to a farmers market to buy local produce. I love it when I buy apple bananas, for example, hand them one and watch their eyes pop and jaw drop as they take a bite and say, “So that’s what a banana is suppose to taste like!” Now they are ruined for life and will just have to come back to paradise to experience our special delights. (Can you say Hilo Lychee”?)

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