By Joseph Robertia
The long and sunny days of summer make for ideal conditions for growing a garden, but for many, excuses such as, “I don’t have time to garden,” or, “When I get home from work I’m too tired to garden,” keep them from sowing seeds. For these folks, Veggies At Work may be the solution.
“Our goal is to improve health and nutrition, but there are a lot of other benefits to the program as well,” said Nancy Schrag of People Promoting Wellness, a group of local agencies and individuals devoted to improving public health.
The program began as the brainchild of Marion Owen, a gardening writer and organic green thumb from Kodiak, who decided to start growing vegetables at work for all those who spend a good chunk of their waking hours in the workplace. Depending on the nature of the workplace, staff, clientele and volunteers tend to these gardens throughout the growing season, during lunch hours or while on breaks, and when the crops are ready to be harvested the food is shared or can be donated to the local food bank.
Owen approached several business owners with the idea, and in the first season — 2006 — a half-dozen businesses signed up. Schrag said she is hoping for even better support on the central peninsula, and already one of the largest employers in the area has pledged their participation.
“We here at Peninsula Community Health Services are looking forward to participating in this exciting new program geared toward local businesses. We plan on being active with it. We have identified staff and volunteers who are eager to participate,” said Bob Grenier, Peninsula Community Health Services facilities manager.
PCHS’s plan is to construct nine garden beds, six at ground level and three raised for those who are not able to care for ground beds, Grenier said.
Schrag said that the program is looking for other area workplaces to participate in the program, as well as businesses and individuals to donate seeds and building materials to construct beds and raised boxes.
“We’re also looking for master gardeners from the community who would like to serve as mentors to facilities with no one on hand with gardening experience,” she said.
In addition to improving nutrition, Schrag said that the act of growing vegetables at work also promotes mental health and improves workplace morale.
“Veggies At Work is a team effort. Individuals can be responsible for weeding or watering, but they’re growing this garden together, and it’s good for employees’ well-being to go to the garden and be in the fresh air or digging in the dirt for a 10- to 20-minute break during the day,” she said.
The more food that is grown locally, the less that needs to be imported, Schrag said. Also, growing additional vegetables can aid organizations such as the food bank, which is always in need of nutritious items for its clientele.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a community where all local business grew vegetables to beautify their landscape and provide food for their staff or to donate?” she said.
To learn more about the Veggies At Work program or the People Promoting Wellness group, contact Schrag at 335-3422.