The idea sprouted during a KBS Building Healthy Foundations committee meeting. The group was researching new ideas for wellness programs, and plans for an employee garden took root.
“This is an inexpensive project with a big return on investment,” said John Gillenwater, Vice President of Business Development. “We have the space for a garden, so why not utilize it to provide vegetables for our employees?” Gillenwater heads up the wellness committee for KBS.
A grassy area beside the main office was plowed and four raised garden beds were installed. The beds are surrounded by a graveled walkway and perimeter fencing will soon be installed. A group of about 10 employee volunteers planted tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers and herbs.
Participation is voluntary and is conducted during off hours. Key to the garden’s success is prioritizing necessary tasks and communicating those to employees. The KBS group is using a web-based volunteer calendar to manage garden tasks.
An added bonus was supporting the community through the garden. KBS purchased the plants from the Hermitage High School Technical Center’s Spring Plant Sale. The sale features a large selection of annuals, perennials, vegetables and herbs grown by the students at the center.
It’s not surprising that large green-minded corporations like Google, Yahoo, and Aveda have employee gardens. But the
New York Times reports the trend has caught on at headquarters for Kohl’s, Best Buy, Intel, PepsiCo, Target and many others.
Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, associates the corporate garden trend with the popularity of backyard gardening. A National Gardening Association survey shows that 41 million Americans grew fruits and vegetables in 2009. That’s about 13 percent more than the year before.
The 10-person wellness committee formed two years ago and has organized wellness initiatives including a walking challenge, a team for the Corporate Four-Miler, and nutrition and fitness counseling for staff. As a result of the wellness committee’s focus, KBS was honored with an Active RVA certification from the Sports Backers in 2013 and 2014.
Now, with the addition of the garden, KBS employees have no excuse not to eat their veggies.