I know a lot of companies are looking for interesting way to improve employee morale and health but I would not have thought as gardening as way to do that.
When machinist Glen Davis wants fresh tomatoes, he doesn’t have to buy them — he just picks them off the vine at his workplace, Quantum Controls, a small design and manufacturing firm in a Chanhassen office park. Last spring, owners Pete Pemrick and Wendy Eggers decided to till a grassy area behind their building, haul in black dirt and turn it into a vegetable garden for their employees.
“We enjoy gardening at home, but some of our employees live in apartments,” Eggers said. “We thought the garden would help promote healthy eating.”
Davis, who also grows watermelons, celery and cauliflower, likes sampling his co-workers’ surplus crops, and getting outdoors during breaks to pull weeds or “just watch the garden grow,” he said. “I get the satisfaction of growing my own food, and the camaraderie with other employees.”
Quantum Controls has lots of company this growing season. Business-sponsored edible gardens are sprouting all around the Twin Cities and nationwide — at mom-and-pop operations and corporate headquarters alike.
Company veggie plots were virtually unheard of a few years ago, but a perfect storm of factors have combined to spark a trend. The local-food movement and concerns about food safety and the environment have fueled a resurgence in edible gardening.
And in a faltering economy, with wages frozen or reduced for many, saving money on grocery bills is a bonus for both workers and bosses.
“It’s an innovative, inexpensive way to provide a benefit for employees when times are tough,” said Fred Haberman, co-founder of Haberman & Associates, a Minneapolis public relations firm that sponsors a garden on farmland owned by one of its partners in Delano. Haberman’s “Dude Ranch,” started last year, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and recently was named one of the top benefits ideas of the year by Human Resources Executive magazine.