From Desk to Dirt: Vt. Encourages Gardening at Work

Grant program helped launch workplace gardens at nine Vermont offices

A grant program helped launch new gardens this summer at nine Vermont workplaces. Green Thumbs at Work aims to promote physical activity, good nutrition, and camaraderie on the job, the Vermont Community Garden Network said.

"We're really hoping that workplaces look at the whole person and all of the things they need to be healthy," said Sue Kamp of the Vermont Department of Health, one of the partners in the grant program. "It's really important for work sites to think about their workers' health, because we do spend most of our waking hours at work."

Trudell Consulting Engineers, a civil engineering firm in Williston, Vermont, is one of the workplaces that received money for materials and technical assistance. "This has been kind of like my baby," employee Nate Collins said of the garden outside his office. "People have gotten pretty excited about gardening, that's for sure."

Collins showed New England Cable News the rows of lettuce, carrots, beets, zucchini, cucumbers, and other plants growing in the garden behind Trudell. He explained how the yard had a high clay content, so it took a lot of work to make the land a successful place to grow produce and flowers.

"Usually people think it's harder than it really is," master gardener Charlie Nardozzi said of gardening.

Nardozzi has been helping the non-profit Vermont Community Garden Network advise the companies that won the grants. VCGN ( supports community and school gardens across the state. Nardozzi predicted the concept of workplace gardens will introduce more people to healthy foods like kohlrabi, fennel, or celeriac, and maybe even encourage them to garden at home, too.

"You're getting big employers like Pepsi or Google or Hewlett Packard creating gardens for their employees in their workplaces, so I think they all kind of see the same message," Nardozzi told NECN. "The better [employees] eat, the healthier they are, the more exercise they get. A lot of them are instituting wellness programs and this is just one piece of it."

Nardozzi said urban offices could go with container gardens or rooftop gardens if they don't have much land. Four of the Green Thumbs at Work grant recipients developed container gardens, and five developed traditional beds or raised beds in the ground, Nardozzi noted.

Back at the engineering firm, Nate Collins said his coworkers have enjoyed swapping recipes using what they grow. He added the employees are looking forward to planting hearty fall veggies in a few weeks. "You get closer to your coworkers; you get to know them a little bit more," Collins noted. "And they're much more aware of eating healthier."

The Vermont Department of Health has a section of its website dedicated to promoting worksite wellness. Click here to access that information:

In addition to Trudell Consulting Engineers, Heartbeet Lifesharing in Hardwick, Mad River Valley Ambulance Service in Waitsfield, Orange County Parent Child Center in Chelsea, and Vermont Soap in Middlebury all received full food garden grants. Those grants included $500 for materials, a $250 gift certificate to the retailer Gardener's Supply, and technical assistance valued at $1,000.

The container garden grant recipients were the ACT 1 / Bridge Program in Burlington, Black River Good Neighbor Services in Ludlow, Sunderland School in Sunderland, and TJ Mold and Tool in St. Johnsbury. Those workplaces received $300 each for materials, a $150 gift certificate to Gardener's Supply, and $200 in technical help.

"Workplace gardens are an excellent example of how people can come together to grow their own food and learn new skills right where they spend the majority of their time," Jess Hyman, the executive director of the Vermont Community Garden Network, said in a news release earlier this year announcing the grant recipients. "We look forward to working with the grantees to develop models that can be replicated at other sites."

The grant program is a partnership of the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Community Garden Network, Charlie Nardozzi, and Gardener's Supply, the release said.

"We believe all workplaces should have a garden—it’s a great way to provide healthy snacks for the lunchroom that you can't get from a vending machine and what better way for employees to come together outside their regular jobs," Maree Gaetani of Gardener's Supply said in the release. "Not everyone has the space to garden at home and we're pleased to support VCGN and the Vermont Department of Health with this new workplace initiative."

Contact Us