Google's campus garden in Mountain View. The company is one of the growing number planting employee vegetable gardens. Courtesy Google
There’s no excuse for employees at Pepsi’s headquarters in Purchase, NY, not to eat their daily serving of vegetables. An abundance of produce and herbs grow in the company’s organic garden that’s just a five-minute walk from workers’ cubicles. Depending on the season, they can plant, weed, or pick tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies.
Pepsi is just one of a growing number of businesses planting gardens on their premises to encourage a healthy workforce without spending a lot of money on the effort, Kim Severson reports in The New York Times today.
Edible flowers at Google's Mountain View garden. Courtesy Google
It’s not surprising that green-leaning companies like Google (who’s campus has solar panels in the parking lot and bans individual garbage cans at desks to encourage cutting down on trash), Yahoo, and Aveda have veggie patches. But the trend has caught on at HQ for Kohl’s department stores outside Milwaukee, and at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, KY, Severson reports. Best Buy, Intel, and Target have kitchen gardens.
The new corporate green thumb is not necessarily a sign that American business culture is becoming more agrarian-minded, said Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It’s more about the popularity of backyard gardening.
A National Gardening Association survey done in conjunction with Harris shows that 41 million Americans grew fruits and vegetables in 2009. That’s about 13 percent more than the year before.
There are challenges, of course, like getting enough consistent volunteer labor. But there are plenty of perks, too. Besides encouraging employees to eat better and offering healthier options in the cafeteria sourced from the garden, working together to maintain the crops means that everyone from the receptionist to the CEO might work side-by-side, helping to “erase office hierarchies.”
Another benefit the article didn’t touch on is a potential boost in mental health and the way employees interact. University of Essex researchers recently reported that just five minutes of outdoor activities a day—including gardening—can improve self-esteem and mood. Studies have also shown that exposure to nature can reduce anxiety and depression, and even make people nicer.
Unfortunately, Audubon doesn't have a garden. So perhaps I'll try the next best thing this afternoon: a walk through the park to the farmer's market.