How Helping Local Gardens Helps Your Business

Build your business by supporting a garden

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Gardens have a way of connecting with people who perform all sorts of job functions and work in a wide variety of industries, including accounting, law, medicine, manufacturing, retail, advertising, technology, and every other type of business under the sun. Associating your business with local school and community gardens not only helps your employees access the joy of gardening but can also bring some surprising benefits to your company's bottom line. 

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Eat + Run -- Farmer D
Your company's support of local gardens, either through financial support or employee volunteers, can help your business accomplish a number of key goals, including:

• Enhancing your image.

Gardens are notoriously underfunded and always seem to need money for something. That $500 that your business donates can make an enormous difference for a school or community garden, so you really get a lot of bang for the buck. Usually, you can see exactly what you're funding, such as cover crops to protect vegetable beds in the winter, a spinning compost bin, child-sized tools, or a raised bed that enables those with disabilities to garden. These are wonderful contributions to highlight in your company newsletter to show employees how you give back to the community. You may also have your business name highlighted on a sponsor plaque or other signage at the garden, which underscores your positive image. 

No money to spare? No problem. There are many ways for businesses to donate to gardens. Many gardens establish relationships with local restaurants to make compost from their green waste. Garden centers often have plants they can't sell or last year's seeds, both of which may be greatly appreciated by local school and community gardens. Builders with excess materials or usable waste such as bricks, cinder blocks, and untreated wood scraps may find that these items can be put to creative use at local gardens. These kinds of arrangements enable you to "partner" with a local garden, while you benefit from repurposing your waste stream and living your company's environmental principles more fully. You can also donate gift certificates for your company's products or services to aid in fundraising efforts for the garden. Whether you give money or in-kind services, the media loves stories about business partnerships with local gardens, and garden leaders are usually very good about publicly thanking their partners and sponsors, helping to enhance your reputation.

Building bonds.

Gardens are always looking for volunteers and often make it easy for your employees to sign up as a team. These community outreach opportunities serve to help your employees bond and create further goodwill in the community. Plus, employee gardening programs enable staff to showcase their skills and build new ones. This can expand their reputations with their bosses and colleagues and lead to positive career growth. Your company may also build bonds with other companies that are supporting local gardens and could lead to unexpected business opportunities.

• Showcasing expertise.

Gardens are always looking for people with gardening expertise, and perhaps some of your employees have that to share. However, they also need a wide range of business skills, including legal and accounting services, project management, website design, fundraising, and grant writing expertise. These may be skills your business can offer, and showcasing them in this way can attract new business for your company.

Make it your business to connect with local gardens (or consider starting one right at your company headquarters, just like we did), and see how your business grows as a result.

Tap in next week and I'll share some tips for planting a juice garden.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Daron Joffe is a 30-something eco-entrepreneur who lives to make a difference in the world one homegrown organic fruit and vegetable at a time. Known as "Farmer D," Joffe has grown food for celebrities, private communities, and elementary schools in his "town-by-town mission to re-energize the food culture." His products are sold at select Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma stores. Born in South Africa and based in Atlanta, Farmer D is online at www.farmerD.com.