I have to tread carefully here because I cannot allow my blogging life to overlap into my work life. I won’t be saying who my company is or what city it’s in. Please respect that, m’kay?
So. While I live in Ann Arbor, one of the most liberal communities in Michigan, I work in one of the most conservative parts of the state. And I am surrounded at work by some of the most conservative folks you can imagine.
Our company is having a milestone anniversary this year and in celebration, we decided to create a community garden. A TRUE community garden that got people from around the community to chip in and ALL the food donated to the local food pantry. Just over a week ago we took our last harvest of the year in and the grand total of donated fresh produce was…
TWO TONS + 5 pounds
Most of the volunteers in the garden were employees. We also had some family members involved. Local businesses donated plowing services, gave us discounts on equipment, fencing and plants & seeds. Some donated cases of water. The city has helped us by moving compost and leaves into the site for us. It was truly a community project.
We got a very late start due to a very rainy spring combined with the need to break ground in a fallow, empty field, install fencing (buried 16 inches to deter woodchucks), put up deer netting and fortify the horrid clay soil we were planting in. It wasn’t until mid-June before we finally planted. We did use a bit of fertilizer before the first planting but, since then, we’ve gone organic. No pesticides or herbicides were used at all. The garden was about 4,500 square feet though we only planted about 4,000 of it with a wide aisle down the middle. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, kale, cabbage, zucchini, beans, onions, cucumber and oh-so-much more were grown and donated
As of the first week in November, we donated 4,005 pounds of fresh produce to the County Food Bank. The response has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Last plant harvested + Eclectafeet.
We even got 3rd and 5th graders from a local elementary school to make and donate signs. Each handmade sign had the kids’ pictures on the back along with their names. Because the kids didn’t know what some of the vegetables look like (“Kale? What the heck is that?!”), they had to do some research to look them up — a terrific teachable moment. The girl in the pictures below is going for her “Junior Gardener” certification and earned some public service credits for her efforts.
Eclectadork and junior gardener
Close-up of kid-made sign
Because of our success this year, we are eager to continue next year (and beyond.) Since we’ll have a head start compared with this year and we’ll have a better sense of what things do well in our soil, we anticipate even more impressive results next year.
The second best part of the project for me (I was the coordinator being the only hippy in the place and the only one with the gardening skills willing to take it on) was the overwhelming response I received from our volunteers. Most of them were middle-aged women. Most had very little gardening expertise. But they all had a tremendous sense of doing something good for others. Every one of them. Republicans. Democrats. Libertarians. Tea Partiers. Everyone. We worked side by side with smiles and laughter and pride that we were doing Something Good. Nearly every person has said it’s been the best team-building experience they’ve ever had at our company (and we have LOTS of team-building projects.)
Without trying to be too sentimental or philosophical about it, I think this garden is a perfect example of what John Stewart was communicating at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear: every day of our lives we work with people we don’t agree with politically to “get along”. In this case I worked side-by-side with people I wouldn’t have the time of day for in a political discussion. We all know that hunger is a big issue, particularly in Michigan where the downturn in the economy has resulted in many people losing their jobs and homes. We all want to do something though we disagree on the government’s role in it. But, in this case, we all worked toward a common goal and we DID SOMETHING. Something quite effective, as a matter of fact. And we all emerged as friends ready and eager to repeat it next year.
Anyway, I couldn’t be more proud. Now if I could just figure out how to spread this type of approach to a wider arena like politics. Hmmmm…
I’m just sayin’…