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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Gardening is work, for sure.  But what about gardening AT work?

Sound interesting?  It is!  And it’s just another way many businesses are both keeping employees engaged and doing something good for the environment (and the community)!

What kind of garden?  ANY kind of garden — flowers, vegetables, perhaps both?  The contents of the content are up to you.  What matters most is just taking the leap, or should I say picking up the shovel?

Let me say up front that I realize this idea isn’t one that every small-to-mid-sized business can adopt.  You definitely need to have some space to create a garden.  But that space doesn’t have to be massive.  In fact, it can actually come in many forms — an actual patch of land, raised beds or even containers.  Yes, a “garden” CAN be made up of a series of planters.  It’s whatever works for you, your business and the space you have available.

Now that we’ve cleared that mental hurdle, lets get back to why a garden for a moment.  In addition to being a fun way to engage employees who want to spend a little time doing something different, gardens are a terrific way to give people a little zen downtime, they encourage healthful eating, they teach people about the natural world, they produce beautiful and tasty items, and they are just lovely to look at every day.  I could go on, but you get the drift.

Creating a garden at work is a terrific team project.  There are so many decisions to be made — from the form the garden will take (containers, raised beds or on a patch of land), the design, what plants to cultivate (flowers, vegetables, plants that create a certain scent, and so on), and how employees can opt in to help out.  Many preschools know the vital importance of having a class plant a garden together.  The same togetherness — and love of the natural world — can be cultivated with your employees.

If your company is one where people sit at desks all day, like mine, then getting outside in the sunshine can provide a much-needed break.  It’s good for wellness, as is the produce you grow.  (The company where I work has had a garden off and on over the years, completely managed by employees.  We have grown vegetables that we donated to a local nonprofit.)  If your business is a storefront, then having flowers or seasonal plants out front can become a point of pride, a way you show the community that you care.

And you know what?  Beginning a garden doesn’t have to be difficult.  You can start small, with a minimal investment of time and money.  And you can grow your initiative the way it makes sense to you.  Think about it.  Ask your people.  Is this a way to build unity and have a little fun?  If it isn’t, that’s ok.  There are plenty of other ways to accomplish similar goals.  But many of them aren’t as pretty as having spring flowers welcome you in the morning as you open up your doors. 


Rachel Hutchisson (@RachelHutchssn) is VP, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy at Blackbaud, Inc., a 2,700-person technology company that works exclusively with nonprofit organizations. She built the company’s “give back” function from the ground up, relying on expertise she gained in over two decades of working at the intersection of the business world and the nonprofit sector. Rachel is a member of the #GivingTuesday core advisory team, leads her company’s involvement in the Billion+Change pro-bono initiative, and serves on the boards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals International, The Giving Institute, and the Coastal Community Foundation. She is also a member of the core team that launched TEDxCharleston in 2013. She is a graduate of Dickinson College and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.


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