Employee-gardeners grow for good in the corporate backyard
Chieftain seed potatoes, one of the varieties planted at Company Farm. We also planted Carola and Superior.
Company Farm is right next to the parking lot of our Burlington, VT, headquarters.
EMPLOYEES at Gardener's Supply started Company Farm in 2013. The goal: Grow and harvest vegetables to donate to local food systems that serve people in need.
The farm is a set of thirty 4 x 6-foot raised beds on the hillside beside our Burlington, VT, headquarters. At one time, they were display gardens for flowers, but we're putting them to more practical use: growing food.
The result of this pilot project will be — we hope — 500 pounds of potatoes and sweet potatoes. We also want to learn how to make the site efficient, beautiful and productive. Most important, we hope to inspire and engage employee-volunteers to provide direct service to the community.
Eventually, we want to share what we've learned, so other organizations can have their own Company Farms. Wouldn't it be great if more groups could create simple, productive, volunteer-run mini-farms? With a small investment, the returns could be big, including employees with dirt under their fingernails and smiles on their faces.
What's Happening on the Farm?
In 2014, we harvested more than 300 pounds of potatoes. Learn more about year two of Company Farm in our blog.
How We'll Do It
We're keeping it simple and sustainable to ensure success.
- We are growing in raised beds, to maximize productivity and minimize weeding.
- We are growing a small number of crops: 75 percent potatoes; 25 percent sweet potatoes
- We are working with a "mentor farmer," Robert Young, who is guiding our efforts. Robert has grown potatoes successfully in the Champlain Valley, so he can provide essential advice on best practices for our area.
- We have established a Farm Team of employees to care for the crops during the 12-week growth cycle. Most of the effort takes place at planting time and harvest time, though we might need to deploy a "crop mob" if potato beetles get out of hand.
At Gardener's Supply, we believe in doing "good works." In fact, we've donated 8 percent of our profits to gardening-related efforts since the day we opened in 1983. Community service is not just a company policy, tended to by a few people. It's a founding principle that's part of our corporate culture. Each employee is encouraged to support the community in his or her own way. With Company Farm, we hope to provide employees with another way we can give back and work together as we do it.
Follow us through the season on our blog, Gardener's Journal.