How our staff digs in to help the community
It's one thing to dig around in one's own garden. But why would you dig around in somebody else's? In the case of the annual Day in the Dirt event here in Vermont, it's a day to do service at some of our neighbors' gardens.
Janine Breton, merchandising analyst, helps harvest produce at the Healthy City Youth Farm in Burlington, VT. The Healthy City Youth Initiative is a hands-on, farm-to-school program designed to teach basic cooking and gardening skills, boost physical activity and increase healthy lifestyle choices for Burlington K-12 students.
Erin Kirkpatrick has lead the Turkey Wrangle every November since 2009. In 2013, she collected enough money for the local food shelf to buy 160 turkeys for local residents in need.
GARDENER'S Supply has a long history of supporting organizations that promote gardening, nutrition and the environment — in fact, we give away 8 percent of our profits every year to these important causes.
But 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. The company matches employees' charitable donations, and offers one paid day a year of volunteer time.
Deborah Miuccio and Orianna Prescott in the pumpkin patch, where a single plant produced more than two dozen pumpkins.
Not surprisingly, our employees are inventive in finding ways to help out. Here are some recent highlights:
- In 2014, one of our best ideas came from the pumpkin patch. It started with a single pumpkin plant, which grew to massive proportions, sending its vines throughout our test gardens. By the end of last October, we had harvested 29 sugar pumpkins, tended by Deborah Miuccio, our test gardener. Using pumpkins from the harvest, a group of creative cooks and bakers created more than a dozen dishes, which they sold to raise money for the local food shelf.
- Gardener's Supply has also established the Meg Smith Community Service Award, named for our former Public Relations Director and powerhouse volunteer Meg Smith. The award honors outstanding employee volunteers and the winner is selected by the Employee Stock Ownership Committee and presented by the prior year's recipient.
- In 2013, a group of employees at the Burlington campus started Company Farm. The goal: Grow and harvest potatoes to donate to people in need. The farm is a set of thirty 4 x 6-foot raised beds, just off the main parking lot. In the first year, employee-farmers grew more than 300 pounds of potatoes. Going forward, we hope to grow more — and encourage other companies to turn some of their lawns into farms.
- Gardener's Supply also hosts a Work Day every spring and fall to clean up the land around our headquarters and put our gardens to bed. In 2011, there was a more urgent need. On Aug. 28, Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont. Dozens of towns were affected, including the nearby town of Waterbury, flooded with four feet of muddy, debris-filled water. Postponing our usual clean-up effort, a team of 36 employees armed themselves with tools, cleaning supplies, and 120 pairs of Gardener's Wellies, and joined the recovery work. Other employees pitched in to help at flooded farms in the Intervale, where our company is headquartered. To learn more, read After Irene.
- In 2009, customer service representative Erin Kirkpatrick had a depressing realization. Thanks to the bad economy, more families than usual were turning to local food banks. With budgets stretched tight, these organizations weren't able to provide enough Thanksgiving turkeys, so for dozens of families, Thanksgiving would not be a feast, but just another day of getting by. To help out, Erin organized a turkey drive, collecting donations from fellow employees, bargaining with grocery stores and handling deliveries. By Thanksgiving, Erin had delivered 40 turkeys to the food bank in Burlington.
- One year, our marketing department was invited to help restore a local children's garden that had gone "a little wild." Armed with spades, packs of transplants and seed packets, the excited employees arrived at the garden site, only to find a quarter-acre field completely overgrown with thick grass. "We spent the whole day cutting sod and breaking up clumps of soil with pick-axes," recalls staffer Max Harris. "There was no actual planting involved." But, as gardeners know, soil preparation is the key to a successful garden, and our marketing team slept soundly that night.
- When some areas of our hometown of Burlington, VT, looked in need of beautification, several Gardener's Supply employees, led by public relations director Maree Gaetani, had a planting party. They filled a score of pots and windowboxes with colorful flowers. In the early hours of the morning, they loaded up the company's pickup truck, a bright green 1948 Chevrolet, and drove around town delivering flowers to brighten dull public spaces. The Random Acts of Gardening movement was born, and to this day no one can tell where the next "sneak attack of beautification" will be.
Early spring work at Company Farm
We're delighted to celebrate our employee volunteers. But we know that even without public recognition, our staff would keep finding creative ways to make a difference in their communities.