Community gardens at Utah hospitals help nurture good health, a sense of belonging

Apr 29, 2022, 5:41 PM | Updated: Jun 10, 2022, 11:23 pm

OREM, Utah — Severe anxiety confines Dinora Espinoza to her apartment much of the time, but there’s one place outside where she feels right at home.

Tending to her plot in a community garden helps ease her mind. The fresh air clears away negative thoughts, she said. And unlike with people, she doesn’t have to worry about her plants passing judgement.

“Being out in the garden, I don’t think about stuff like that,” a beaming Espinoza told KSL TV during a break from tilling soil on a recent afternoon. “It just brings this joy.”

Dinora Espinoza tends to her garden plot.

Her family’s apartment in Vineyard has no place to grow peppers, lettuce and berries. But the Orem Community Hospital does. It’s one of three Intermountain Healthcare LiVe Well gardens in Utah. The others are at Park City Medical center and Fillmore Community Hospital.

Espinoza, 45, said she’s noticed improvements in her physical health, too. She has high blood pressure and diabetes, but her blood pressure dips down to a healthier level during the months she’s planting, watering, and harvesting alongside other gardeners, she said.

Those benefits are the goal of the gardens, said Cameron Symonds, medical director at Orem Community Hospital. The program is designed to nurture participants’ physical and mental health, along with a sense of community, he said.

“Our community garden plots really are a wonderful symbol of growth and healing,” Symonds said.

Intermountain Healthcare’s LiVe Well garden at the Orem Community Hospital.

You don’t have to be a patient or employee at the hospital to participate, but there are no more plots available this season. The application process for plots opens each winter.

Espinoza is one of several community members who tend their own corners of the garden, along with staff members of the hospital system and volunteers.

The garden is a preventive approach to health care that helps people see the hospital as more than just a place where hard things can happen, Symonds added.

“To be healthy, be out, be active, be out in the sun, they’re investing in themselves and their own health,” he said.

The health benefits of gardening are well documented, Symonds noted. People tend to live better and longer. For example, researchers have recorded improvement in dementia and reduced risk of heart attack, Symonds said.

Michelle Conover experienced a different sort of benefit. She developed post-partum depression after the births of her children, now 7 and 3 years old, she said.

“Coming up here in the summers and getting outside and getting into the garden, it helped me a ton,” Conover recalled.

Her kids have tagged along every summer, she added, and they love to munch on peas and other vegetables.

Michelle Conover and her kids transplant young crops at their garden plot near the Orem Community Hospital

Espinoza has long been afraid of bugs, but she doesn’t mind their company as much when she’s digging in the dirt, she said – something that surprised her daughters.

She and her husband came across the program while researching community gardens near their home that could help relieve the effects of her wintertime depression.

They snagged a plot before each filled up, and the experience has given her a new sense of accomplishment and a new outlook as she studies to become an art instructor.

“I’m already starting to think ahead,” she said, crossing her fingers and laughing. “Hopefully everything grows, right?

Dinora Espinoza laughs as she talks about her garden.

KSL 5 TV Live

Your Life Your Health

Laura Bushman vaccines...

Ayanna Likens

Why it’s important to get your children vaccinated

It's World Infant Immunization Week, Intermountain Health doctors have highlighted the importance of getting your children under two vaccinated.

10 months ago

B3 Kids, brain body boost...

Ayanna Likens

Online resource helps students learn about physical and mental health

Teaching kids how to keep their bodies healthy is important, a program through SelectHealth now offers a fun way to learn about physical and mental health inside the classroom.

11 months ago

FILE: Megan Hansen crosses over a stream while hiking Lake Mary up Big Cottonwood Canyon....

Ayanna Likens

Staying safe during spring activities

After months of snow, most of us are ready to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Whether you're playing a sport or hitting the trails - Intermountain Health says it's important to ease into it.

11 months ago


Ayanna Likens

Good Samaritan donates his kidney to a stranger

More than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in the United States. Utah's waitlist for all organs is up to 900, with nearly 600 of them waiting for a kidney.

11 months ago

The McPheters family enjoys hiking together. (Justin McPheter)...

Ayanna Likens

Why it’s important to create healthy habits with your children

Childhood obesity continues to rise, according to the CDC. Health experts say it's important to create healthy habits at a young age with your kids to ensure they have a healthy life.

11 months ago

Lamont Dorrity...

Ayanna Likens

How exercise helps with Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson's disease is affecting more and more people across the nation. While there is no cure, one thing is showing promise in improving symptoms.

11 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

Close up of an offset printing machine during production...

Les Olson IT

Top 7 Reasons to Add a Production Printer to Your Business

Learn about the different digital production printers and how they can help your company save time and money.

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...

Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...

Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.

notebook with password notes highlighted...

PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.

Community gardens at Utah hospitals help nurture good health, a sense of belonging