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Connection to Earth and Community

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 14, 2012
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This article appears in the May 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Roots run deep for Richard Conn, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Southern Bone and Joint Specialists PA, in Hattiesburg, Miss. Following in his father's footsteps, there has been a Conn providing orthopedic services in this part of Mississippi for the past 60 years. When he's not replacing knees and hips, during the spring and summer, Conn often can be found in his vegetable garden—a three-quarter–acre plot, plus five large elevated beds—with the help of his farmhand growing way more food than he and his wife, Lisa, can consume. 

On his love for gardening: I like being out in the garden, even if I don't do anything but sit and point and walk around, checking on things, getting away from the hustle and bustle and strain that goes on every day in a modern medical practice. It's a nice relief. And it's satisfying.

Some people think it's a bunch of dirt, but to me it's more than that. It's a connection. Fix that dirt up and make it pretty. Then you get those seeds planted, and when those first blooms come up, when the germination starts, it gets real exciting.

On sharing the fruits—and vegetables—of his labor: It wasn't like I said, "Let me plant a garden and start giving it away." I found I would start talking about my garden in the office and these people would respond to it. I started bringing tomatoes up to the office. It went from giving out a few to giving out five-gallon buckets to people coming in wanting to know if I had any. I think they came in more to get tomatoes than a new knee.

When I had a good tomato crop, I would take it to some of the nursing homes here and the Christian Service Center, a great organization that takes care of a lot of people.

On growing the bounty: We've looked at ways to seek out folks who need food. It's hard to do. Part of the problem is the lack of predictability on how your crop is going to do. You have to give kudos to the people who do feed us in this country, the farmers, because Lord of Mercy, that is a tough job.           


This article appears in the May 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

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John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.