Farmer’s Market sprouts at community hospital


On an ordinary summer morning at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Hospital in Valley Stream, nurses and visitors can be seen wheeling their patients onto its open-air grounds, a spacious courtyard tucked away behind the Orzac Center for Extended Care and Rehabilitation. Hospital personnel regularly slip in and out of the spot for a few minutes to take in the fresh air. Some can be seen in between shifts sitting on island tables to eat their lunches, while others steal a moment to talk on the phone before they return to the routine bustle on the hospital floor.
Within the already demanding nature of medical professionals, the pandemic brought a stress-inducing ordeal unlike any other for all medical personnel at LIJ. No one was spared from the pandemic’s toll on the emotional, mental and physical health of hospital workers. “We gave so much during Covid,” said Lissa Nelson, employee health manager at LIJ. Guided by the simple principle that you cannot take care of others unless you take care of yourself first, Nelson sought to better engage the health and wellness of all the employees in the building.
That’s when Nelson proposed to the board of directors earlier this year that the hospital host vendors from the Laurelton Farmer’s Market and group fitness exercise specialists. Now, every other Friday, the hospital’s outdoor grounds have become a staging arena to promote a culture of health and wellness among hospital staff.
“It’s hard to take care of yourself when you’re taking care of other people,” said Jessica Corrado, a nurse in the emergency department, who stopped by with her fellow nurses to browse the wholesome and tasty artisanal goods on display. “You put that in the back of your mind.”
“Food is medicine,” said Hajara Musa, one of the two founders of the Elderberry Sistas team. “And we’re here to heal our community.” Musa’s sweet and pungent organic syrup has alkaline herbs to boost the respiratory and immune systems and combat mucus and flu-like symptoms

“I take a spoon or shot of this a day,” beamed Julia Jean, nurse manager. “It’s for the immune system.”
A few stands down, music blared as Viera Trenchfield, a certified fitness instructor at Soul Joy Wellness, led a low-impact cardio drum dance group session using nothing more than improvised drums fashioned from stability balls placed on flag house buckets and drumsticks. Hospital staff, including Jason Nisbett, a physical therapist, moved energetically to the dance while working up a sweat. “Keeps your endurance up and circulation going,” Nisbett said.
“Changing behavior in a group is better than alone,” said Joy Williams, founder of Soul Joy Wellness. The exercises are “based in fun first to get people engaged in fitness first. We are sedentary people and not focused enough on our own wellness.”
“We meet them where they are,” said Trenchfield, who believes building a lifetime of movement starts with enjoyment. “People are so focused on the rhythm of the beat, they don’t notice” they’re exercising, stimulating their mind-body connection, and working on balancing and cardiovascular proprioception.
At the far corner of the courtyard were the folks from the Laurelton Famer’s Market running their stand of farm-grown, freshly picked produce and vegetables with names such as purple bell peppers, gold beats, and rainbow carrots to buck choy and donut peaches. These signature foods, according to founder Dianna Rose, have a greater depth of flavor and “more robust taste” than your average vegetables. “It’s also a great conversation starter.”
The Laurelton Farmer’s Market, which began on July 23 and will continue until October, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the hospital.