May 30, 2012

Natural Foodie: Employee gardens encourage dirty hands, warm hearts

Employee-managed corporate gardens – such as those at Idexx and Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare – are in increasing numbers joining the army fighting the war on hunger.

By Avery Yale Kamila
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Idexx employee Jim Cortis tends a bed at the Westbrook facility.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Loni Brown checks on young pole bean plants.

Additional Photos Below


Employer Sponsored Gardens:

Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare:

Harvest for Hunger:

As part of Idexx's educational series for garden participants, Root was trained as a master composter. After the training, "I went right home and took my compost all apart," Root said. "I was doing it all wrong. If you do it right, there isn't any smell."

In contrast, Peter Dale has been an avid organic gardener for more than 25 years. He is one of the Idexx employees who logs onto an online company bulletin board to answer gardening questions.

"Every year is different," Dale said. "The bugs are different. The weather is different. This year, everything is early."

The team of which Root and Cook are part is growing basil, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes and hot peppers.

"Hot peppers were a big hit last year," Cook said. "The Sagamore Food Pantry gave us a list of what people liked, and that's what we're growing."

The team plans to do multiple plantings this season, ensuring a steady harvest through the fall.

"It's fun to get together and come out here and mess around," Cook said. "It broke down barriers among co-workers."

According to Amy Witt, a Cooperative Extension horticulturist who helped Idexx start the Harvest for Hunger gardens, the company has reaped numerous benefits.

"Not only are they filling a need, but at Idexx they've developed some really good relationships," Witt said. "It's really helped with the Idexx employees. It's really strengthened them as employees and work teams. The employees find themselves to be more productive.

"It's been a win-win for a the business and a win-win for the people who need the food."

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


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Additional Photos

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Jim Cortis and Peter Dale are working several beds in the Idexx garden this summer, raising peppers, onions and squash.

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A rooftop garden outside of Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare’s Portland offices overflows with vegetables last summer. This year’s planting has been delayed by nesting seagulls.

Contributed photo


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