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2020 ARGENTUM AWARDS


BEST OF THE BEST Hydroponic Farming Commonwealth Senior Living


A TASTE OF SPRINGTIME, EVERY DAY


At Commonwealth, there’s the shortest distance possible from farm to fork. The provider took its 5-year project to boost nutrition and minimize carbon footprint to the next level, installing hydro- ponic micro-farms growing up to 45 varieties of leafy greens, herbs, and microgreens directly into the dining room of its Charlottesville, Va., Center for Excellence community. The self-contained cabinets holding LED grow lights and watering systems are stacked into an attractive wall of bright greens, so residents can see their future salads growing. Residents are engaged “from seed to harvest,” with a sim-


plified care system so people of different abilities can partici- pate. Babylon Micro-Farms, a local startup in Commonwealth’s headquarters town of Charlottesville, created by two Univer- sity of Virginia grad students, got management down to a sci- ence—four steps, managed by an app. That means associates don’t have extra work, and in fact, they too enjoy the produce. The fresh selection—including edible flowers—inspires the culinary staff and residents’ appetites. Having herbicide- and pesticide- free produce on site and not subject to the peri- odic recalls of shipped greens presents a health advantage, especially to those with pre-existing conditions. For the first 30 days, consumption of greens by indepen-


dent living, assisted living, and memory care residents in- creased by 35 percent—calling for a second micro-farm to be installed. The micro-farms reduced costs by over 20 percent compared with prior produce purchases. And elimination of one delivery per week from vendors is predicted to save up to 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year. The provider plans to extend micro-farming to all its com- munities through 2020.


Lara Irwin, director of the Commonwealth Center of Excellence, gardens with resident Elise Melvin (pre-COVID-19 photo).


“All I could think about was being a young girl, helping my mother in the garden, picking veggies. It brought back my very best memories.”


36 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE JULY/AUGUST 2020


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