All across the country, employees and business owners are embracing a creative, low-cost incentive program good for the body, mind and spirit. Organic employee gardening on company grounds provide nutritious food and exercise, and a nice mental and emotional break from work.
If your company has the space to do it, here’s how to start an employee garden program that will reap big benefits for all.
How many employees are genuinely interested in having a garden? Note, this should not to be confused with who wants fresh organic vegetables. Yes gardening is fun, but it takes a commitment of time and energy. Ask questions accordingly. For instance:
Are you willing to spend some of your breaks and/or lunches weeding, watering and harvesting the garden?
Thankfully, any number of people can start and maintain an employee garden, its size determined only by the number of people interested, be 2, 20 or 200.
Some companies have waiting lists for employee garden programs for which interest exceeds space. You may opt for this waiting list approach, providing plots on a first-come, first-serve basis. You could then rotate plot availability, so that those who garden one season turn their plots over to a new set of gardeners the next season.
On the other hand, the more people you have working in a garden of limited size, the less time commitment required. Though each employee’s share of take-home produce may be smaller, you may find a higher level of interest as it takes less work.
Set up a meeting of all interested parties to discuss the logistics of the employee garden. At this time, nominate a point-person who wants to help organize a gardening schedule among employees, and field future questions and concerns about the program.
If there are veteran gardeners among you, they probably already know what grows best in your region, according to season. If not, a minimal amount of research online can point you in the right direction.
Will the employee garden be fully-funded by the company or require a nominal fee of participants, such as $10 to $25 per season?
When calculating costs, be sure to include the expense of:
Though you can certainly purchase organic compost for your employee garden, it is ideal to create compost yourself. Coordinate with your building’s landscapers so as to save all trimmings for your compost pile. If you have a company cafeteria, do the same with kitchen staff so as to utilize all compostable food waste. A composting system like the ProtaPod is ideal for company cafeterias, as it can break down food waste in 24 to 48 hours.
Division of Produce
Many companies with employee gardens donate a portion of the produce to a local non-profit. So in addition to dividing produce evenly among employee participants, you may set aside an equal share for a food bank, senior center or homeless shelter.
If you have a company cafeteria, you may consider alotting a portion of produce to the kitchen as well. Promoting this fact, in cafeteria signage and/or the company newsletter can also help build interest in the employee garden program.
Assess Its Value
For every harvest, keep track of how much is produced. Determine its value based on the going rate for organic produce at your local market. Of course, the value of your employee garden is more than monetary. Whether you use a formal survey or simply the power of observation, make note of how gardening at work improves employee teamwork, production and morale.
Image credit (top left): http://www.flickr.com/photos/42647587@N06/3935695842/
Image credit (middle): http://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/423508812/
Image (bottom left): ProtaPod