How her garden does grow!


DMU student digs in deep

Ellen “Ellie” Bernard is particular about what foods she eats and where they come from. She satiates that “hunger” with a simple solution: As much as she can, she grows her own.

“My classmates all think I’m crazy, but I’m going to raise everything I can,” she says. A student in both the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery and the health care administration program, Bernard has ties to both medicine and the land. Her grandfather Robert Hill taught DMU students at Des Moines’ former Wilden Osteopathic Hospital; her father, Gary Bernard, is a 1987 DMU osteopathic medical graduate, and her mother, Barbara, is a veterinarian. Her parents have a nearly one-acre garden near Galena, IL, and purchase meat from local producers.

Bernard and her fiancé, Kyle Colgan, have followed suit. Though their backyard was a “disaster” of waist-high weeds and glass bottle shards when they moved into their Des Moines home three years ago, it now features a sprawling garden teeming with tomatoes, green beans, peppers, sweet potatoes, strawberries, herbs and more. Zinnias and sunflowers nod along the fence while cats Woody and Gus, shaved by Bernard’s mom to resemble little lions, stalk the undergrowth.

“I consider gardening a huge stress reliever,” Bernard says. “It usually gets weeded really hard after an exam.”


Colgan has brewed his own beer since Bernard gave him a kit for Christmas one year; he reciprocated by giving her canning equipment and a Food Saver vacuum sealer. The couple, who recently acquired a second freezer, preserve salsa, pasta and enchilada sauces, chili base, pickles and giardiniera, and they buy meat through her parents’ farm connections and at local farmers’ markets.

“Last weekend, we bought 28 pounds of chicken,” Colgan says. “We went to the farmers’ market with a cooler and a small cart.”

While many Americans say they don’t have time to even cook a meal, Bernard believes growing one’s own is the best way to achieve personal and environmental health.

“I make the time because it’s important to me,” she says.

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