Open Door Community Health Centers provides high-quality primary and dental care, pharmacy services, and behavioral health care in 14 locations throughout California’s Humboldt and Del Norte counties. It serves about 65,000 patients per year and employs almost 800 community members. But Open Door is more than just health care. Its innovative Community Health and Wellness Gardens are open to all patients, community members, and staff to access fresh produce, learn about gardening, and relax in nature.

Open Door’s Community Health and Wellness Garden program, which emphasizes garden-based education and food as medicine, began in 2011 with the first garden constructed at the Del Norte Community Health Center. Since then, the program has expanded to three additional sites in Humbolt County, turning vacant lots into vibrant garden spaces with a range of activities for all ages and abilities where no experience is necessary. Each site is unique in its programming, building off the strengths of the site location, the interests of patients and the community, and collaborative opportunities with health center care teams, developing clinical programs and initiatives, and community partners.

Open Door’s Gardens and Food Resources Program is a part of the Member Services Department which provides many different support services, such as navigation and enrollment
assistance for health programs and community resources. These services advance Open Door’s mission to promote social justice and human dignity through exceptional patient-centered care that improves the health and well-being of our patients, community, and staff.

Kara Graham, supervisor of Open Door Community Health Center’s Gardens and Food Resources Program, acknowledges the community’s role in the program’s success. She said, “This welcoming community space was a result of the efforts of passionate staff champions and collaboration with a group of dedicated community partners. The garden, a part of Open Door’s Rx for Wellness program, is one of many services dedicated to advancing the whole-person, patient-centered philosophy of care that Open Door champions.”

The Gardens and Food Resources team also works to advance best practices in addressing the social determinants of health needs in the community with the recognition that food and nutrition security are significant determinants of physical and mental health outcomes. The gardens are one part of a coordinated effort to increase patient access to diverse food resources. In Humboldt County, the program is also connected to Open Door’s focused work on CalFresh outreach and education and enrollment support. For example, sharing information about how one can grow their garden using their CalFresh food benefits and supporting general education and referrals to application assistance.

Graham added, “Collectively, we have experienced ongoing success with our gardens program and positive feedback from patients, community members, and staff alike. The program and each garden site continue to evolve to the different needs and interests we identify and learn from.”

“We are always in the process of learning, growing, adapting, and working to build spaces that promote belonging and inclusion, and we are excited for what the coming year holds as we continue to develop the garden spaces in service of and with the help and support from our community.”

For more information on Open Door Community Health’s Gardens and Food Resources program, email Open Door at or call (707) 269-7073 ext. 3179.

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