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Monday, June 23,2014

Corporate gardening for a sustainable world

Making a difference on your lunch break with CorpCROP

By Andrea Neville
Courtesy of CorpCROP

CorpCROP is on a mission to get you off your chair and out into the sunlight. With the rise in health issues due to sitting behind a desk all day, people like Jennifer Klafin, founder and managing director of CorpCROP, are figuring out ways to help keep office workers happier and healthier.

Born from a dedication to living a life of sustainability, CorpCROP builds gardens at companies that employees can work on as a team. While tending to the garden gets employees active, they’re also helping provide food for their co-workers and their community.

“We encourage businesses to donate 50 percent of their produce so we coordinate with each business and find a local philanthropic organization so that the program through that company actually gives back to their local community,” says Klafin.

“The younger generations are looking for companies that are giving back to the community,” says Klafin. “Even if their job isn’t directly related to that, they can still participate in a program at their company that has that meaningful ‘giving back’ aspect.”

While she was working for a large corporation, Klafin got stuck behind a desk and started wondering if there was a healthier way to live, both physically and mentally. She realized that employees could be happier at work if they were able to get outside, even if only for a few minutes a day.

“There was an urban permaculture farm right down where I lived in San Francisco and I got really inspired to learn about urban gardening and it just dawned on me one day there is this huge wave of urban gardening and community gardening, but there is nothing that I know of on a large scale being done at businesses,” Klafin says.

Klafin’s team members at CorpCROP are all concentrated on helping employees become more excited about being part of a gardening team.

“As time went on, I wanted to become more involved with a company that was more focused on things like nutrition and philanthropic aspects,” says Michael Brooke, CorpCROP’s independent sales representative for the company’s Southwest Region.

Brooke has been focused on Arizona, where they have the opposite growing season of Colorado.

CorpCROP has expanded there with the hopes of providing year-round gardening opportunities for corporate employees.

“Organic gardening is something that was very interesting to me. I eat organic and try to focus my nutrition on natural and organic foods,” says Brooke, “All that together and trying to get people to eat better and having a green and sustainable product was very intriguing to me.”

While each garden must be tailormade for the specific needs of the company, every corporation will follow a certain format, including having weekly challenges.

“We do everything end to end, so everything from securing the garden, getting the property manager to agree on the structure, and providing all the gardening materials that they need,” Klafin says.

Each member of the gardening team is assigned a task. By fulfilling the task, each employee is bettering the group. If employees run into any issues or have any gardening questions, they can contact CorpCROP’s “garden genius.” There is a big incentive for employees to help out with the garden — they get to eat the food.

“We have both gardening and social activities,” Klafin says. “The people who are working on the garden go out there with social activities then come back and post it so that other organizations can see what they’re doing. We add that element of fun in addition to the wellness.”

CorpCROP even monitors how well the program is working for the business.

“From the business side we do metrics; we do employee surveys so we can gauge the benefits they’re getting from it,” says Klafin.

Founded last year, CorpCROP formed its first partnership with Boulder restaurant The Riverside. Even though they aren’t using the standard garden schematic, they are still reaping the benefits of growing their own food.

“We did one garden installation last fall at The Riverside in downtown Boulder,” says Klafin. “It’s not our traditional model — their chef is actually taking care of the garden and using the food in the café.”

“What [CorpCROP is] doing for the community is just fantastic,” says David Nestler, general manager of food at The Riverside. “They try to keep everything local and fresh and organic. Then they volunteer their time to help people get started. I think it’s an amazing group.”

When asked about the chef’s thoughts on his CorpCROP experience, Nestler says it gives him “a little bit of peace of mind each day to go out and tend to the herbs and plants.”

“It gives me a real joy to be involved with other like-minded people,” says Nestler. “I look forward to a future together with [Corp- CROP].”

Their newest partnership is with Elevations Credit Union, where they just put in a garden earlier this month at the local credit union’s headquarters on 55th Street in Boulder.

“CorpCROP reached out to Elevations last year and we were able to invite them to our annual health fair,” says Dennis Paul, assistant vice president of Elevations. “The goal was to gauge interest from the staff and clearly there was plenty. From there we decided to pursue an onsite garden.”

Elevations Credit Union has a strong focus on providing cooperative activities for their employees while keeping them active. For this company, bringing in CorpCROP just made sense.

“Team building and employee engagement is really the root to this, which is why we thought CorpCROP would be a great partner: active employees partnering with each other on great initiatives,” says Paul. “We are very optimistic that it’s going to be a fun initiative for the summer for our group.”

While they have only signed two clients so far, CorpCROP has big aspirations to go worldwide.

“Right now we’re starting here in Colorado and Arizona and we’re trying to get in California,” says Klafin, “Our vision is to have this go first nationally and then globally.”

Keeping money local is a big part of CorpCROP’s mission. “The goal is to find local companies and philanthropic organizations to partner with for each garden installation,” says Klafin.

“We totally focus on utilizing local resources,” says Klafin. “Sustainable in every way. That’s our grand vision.”

Respond: info@boulderganic.com

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