Thursday, August 03, 2017

How does your garden grow?

For nearly 10 years, I worked for a company with offices in the Alewife section of Cambridge. There wasn’t a ton out there. The most notable and largest structure was the Alewife T-station, the terminus of one of Boston’s rapid transit lines. If you wanted to go out to lunch, there were a couple of places in walking distance. For the life of me, I don’t recall whether there was even a caf in the building – there must have been… I’m pretty sure there was one in the building across the street, which was sort of a sister building where we sometimes held meetings.

Anyway, being on a T-line and having parking lots were pretty much it for amenities. I guess back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, those who owned office buildings weren’t all that concerned with making things great for their tenants.

I’ve been out to Alewife plenty of times over the nearly twenty years since I worked there – it’s a convenient place to meet suburban friends for lunch or dinner, and there are a couple more restaurant options than there were back in the day. But it hadn’t really sunk in how built up the area is. There are all kinds of apartment buildings up and going up. New office buildings (some replacing the really crappy old buildings that were on the street when I worked there). I “discovered” this yesterday, when I went out there to meet with a new client which has its offices across the street from my old haunt. (The sister building.)

I have enough local clients to realize that office layouts and style – more open, standup desks, nifty collab spaces - are a lot different than they were back in my day – a lot more attention being paid to look and feel. Sure, we had a couple of video games in the kitchen, but my new client has a lot going on, including Waffle Wednesday (I was offered but declined) and very artful photos taken by employees gracing the walls. And a lot of other things that hollered hip and happening. (There were pillows in the waiting area that had the company logo on them. Sounds stupid, but it looks kind of cool.)

There was no caf in my client’s building, but it does host a different pop-up restaurant each day, so I was able to get a nice Vietnamese bowl for lunch. And there are food trucks outside if the bowl wasn’t to my liking.

I saw a sign for the bi-weekly cocktail party that the buildings’ owner hosts.

And lots of other goodies.

But as far as I could tell, there weren’t any gardens where employees can till the earth, which is the latest on-trend corporate thing.Netscout is one company that’s letting its workforce get their hands dirty.

The garden for Netscout employees is part of a growing trend in employee wellness. In many instances, community garden groups provide the knowledge, infrastructure, and oversight, and companies provide enthusiastic workers. The produce that is grown is often donated to local food banks, sent home with employees, or prepared and served in corporate cafeterias. “There’s something really, really special about it — when people come together and do something as tangible and real as growing food, ” said Christine Berthold, president of Fresh Start Food Gardens, a company that installs and manages corporate gardens, including at Netscout. “You want employees who are happy, who are fulfilled, who are connected, who feel a part of something, and you want to keep them healthy, ” Berthold said. “The garden does all of those things.” (Source: Boston Globe)

Ah, I remember back in the day when people came together to do something as tangible and real as application software. Admittedly, it wasn’t as tangible and real as, say, building a car. But in olden days, what you did at work was, well, work.

While I have seen articles where an instance of one is dubbed a trend, but, in this case, Netscout is not alone. Boston Medical Center has a rooftop “farm” the produces food used a their food pantry, and for their patient food service. They’re aiming at producing 15,000 pounds of food this year.

I’m not so certain that, if I’d had an opportunity to plow, seed, weed, or pick on the job, I would have availed myself of it. Nonetheless, I like the idea of it. Not enough to want to go back to work full time, of course.But being able to head to the company garden and pick a nice ripe tomato. That might be nice.


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