Sunday, May 16, 2010


Urban gardening is often suggested as a possible solution to some of the ills that afflict this planet. In many places in the US, vegetable gardens were raised in vacant areas near the human settlements and the produce harvested were claimed to be superior to commercially grown ones in terms of quality and safety. In big metropolitan areas like New York, terrace gardens were touted as a possible alternative to procuring fresh produce from distant places with high food mileage incurred by the latter. How far these local movements would solve the food problem or environmental degradation is a matter of conjecture. But even if it contributes to some extent in solving the food and environmental problems, such initiatives deserve to be encouraged and supported. Whether such efforts will be fruitful in a water starved country like India is another issue requiring in-depth consideration. Translating a hobby into a practical and world-wide movement is fraught with enormous logical and human constraints.

"But a five-minute walk away is the organic corporate vegetable garden, where spreadsheets and performance reviews give way to basil starts and black peppermint plants. Employees can sneak out for a quick lunchtime weeding session and cart home the harvest. As companies have less to spend on raises, health benefits and passes to the water park, a fashionable new perk is emerging: all the carrots and zucchini employees can grow. Carved from rolling green office park turf or tucked into containers on rooftops and converted smoking areas, these corporate plots of dirt spring from growing attention to sustainability and a rising interest in gardening. But they also reflect an economy that calls for creative ways to build workers' morale and health."It's almost as if they are saying, 'Yeah, we couldn't give you a pay increase and yeah, times are tough, but this is something we can do to help improve the quality of your life,' " said Bruce Butterfield, the research director for the nonprofit National Gardening Association. In corporate language, there is very little benchmarking on the numbers of gardens. But dozens of companies in several parts of the country have recently installed them or are digging them this spring. That Google, Yahoo and Sunset magazine have started organic gardens is not a surprise. They are, after all, based in Silicon Valley, where the work force is almost as comfortable composting as it is programming".

The reported waning of interest amongst people in terrace top gardens is to be expected, especially in a society where time is a limiting constraint. But one cannot take the credit away from this noble and novel concept and corporate organizations must continue to support such initiatives, at least for the sake of refreshing the minds of their employees during their hard and strenuous office work. Probably keeping the employees occupied mentally and physically may reduce the health care expenses at least, though it may not solve the food problem.


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