We’ve all heard about the increase in popularity of back yard vegetable gardens. Seed sales are up 20% from last year – even the White House has gotten in on the act.
But there’s more to vegetable gardening than just back yards. Organic gardens are popping up in schools, giving children a hands on experience with planting, tending and harvesting their own food. Churches are starting gardens for their congregants who may not have space at home, as well as to grow food for the needy. Restaurants are also starting small gardens to grow produce and herbs.
There’s another new trend emerging where Americans work – office gardens.
As companies look for low-cost ways to improve employee health and morale in these difficult times, many are turning to gardening. Office garden plots are springing up everywhere from Maine to Washington State.
In Bloomington, Indiana, Twisted Limb Paperworks created a 1,500-square-foot garden outside the recycled paper-products company’s office to grow herbs and vegetables. Fred Haberman, owner of a Minneapolis PR firm, spent $10,000 to set up a garden at a remote location for his 30 employees. In addition to fostering a sense of employee morale, he also uses the garden to relate to his clients, many of whom are in the organic food industry.
Rhonda Turner, HR manager for Lundberg Family Farms, a producer of rice products in Richvale, California, explains that their garden is an extension of their wellness program, which includes health screening, regular exercise and flu shots. “We wanted access to more fresh vegetables,” she said, explaining that in addition to happier, healthier employees, the company hopes to save money because of reduced insurance use. “We grow flowers in addition to our vegetables,” she said, “we even started our own compost pile.” The employees helped build the beds and regularly go out before work and during breaks to tend the garden and pull weeds. Turner says “We had a bunch of extra zucchini, so everyone took some home and came back the next day with different dishes they created. It’s been a lot of fun.” There was even a salsa making contest.
The good news is that most offices have sunny spots to start a garden, and with the new techniques of using raised beds they can keep the workload of weeding down, while the fun parts of planting and harvesting remain. All you need are six hours of sun and a bit of garden knowledge and you’re on your way to a healthy, rewarding office project.