Corporate Green: The Rise of Company Gardens

At April's PHS Compost Matters Seminar, Will Allen talked about the booming business Growing Power was doing installing corporate gardens. This article in today's New York Times parsed that trend:

As companies have less to spend on raises, health benefits and passes to the water park, a fashionable new perk is emerging: all the carrots and zucchini employees can grow.

Carved from rolling green office park turf or tucked into containers on rooftops and converted smoking areas, these corporate plots of dirt spring from growing attention to sustainability and a rising interest in gardening. But they also reflect an economy that calls for creative ways to build workers’ morale and health.

Sounds peachy keen, but there is worry—at least at some companies—that interest might prove to be a bit fleeting, once people realize the work involved in maintaining the gardens:

Still, what seems like a good idea in the conference room doesn’t always translate to the field. People don’t always follow through. It’s the same dynamic that fills the office refrigerator with old yogurt containers and moldy lunches.

At PepsiCo, most of the plots are still weedy and empty. The weather has been cool and so, gardeners say, has enthusiasm. Last year when the company first turned over a plot the size of two tennis courts to peppers and tomatoes, 200 of the 1,450 employees here signed up, mailroom workers and midlevel administrators alike. This year, the volunteers dwindled to about 75, and many of them have yet to ready their plots.

There is also some inherent irony in the fact that the "masterminds behind $60 billion worth of Mountain Dew, Cheetos and Rice-A-Roni" take time out of their schedules to tend an organic vegetable garden.

Cynicism aside, this is a good thing—especially if it puts money in the pockets of urban ag entrepreneurs like Will Allen.