Green Thumbs at Work Grants: Growing employee gardens across Vermont

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Green Thumbs at Work Grants: Growing employee gardens across Vermont

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 11:27am -- tim

Horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi, left, with Abel’s Homestead Design employees. Vermont Community Garden Network photos.

by Libby Weiland, Vermont Community Garden Network Washington Electric Co-op (WEC) employees have been growing a garden at work since 2015. In conjunction with other employee wellness efforts, they use produce from the garden for shared lunches, at work tastings, and seminars on cooking and nutrition. Employees say the garden encourages healthy habits. For Susan Golden, Member Services Supervisor at WEC, gardening at work gave her the confidence to start her own gardens at home and has sparked a new, healthy passion. “I’m eating healthier, I’m getting out and getting some exercise I wouldn’t normally get, and it has brought something very positive to my life,” Susan said. “Without this program, I truly doubt I would have ever even thought about giving it a try, and now it is a major focus of my summer.”

Susan Golden and Patty Richards of WEC.

Over the past three years the Green Thumbs at Work grant program—a collaboration between the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Community Garden Network, in partnership with horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and Gardener’s Supply—has worked with 26 small Vermont-based businesses and organizations to establish workplace gardens for their employees. The opportunity to garden at work provides fresh, healthy food to employees and their families, increased opportunities for physical activity and time spent outdoors throughout the day, and incorporation of wellness, camaraderie, employee engagement and community-mindedness into workplace culture.

At a small family-owned business in Hyde Park, Abel’s Homestead Design employees applied for the Green Thumbs at Work grant in the hopes of sending employees home with fresh produce, but also saw the garden as a way to bring their often far-flung team together. Over the 2016 season employee Jessica Mulligan saw the gardens bring out the best in her team. “Watching the garden start as a little thing to a huge, over flowing, paradise of lush green vegetation was exciting for us all. We got excited, physically and mentally put ourselves into the creation of the garden, and I believe we used our specialties to make the garden a functional place.” With an abundance of produce, employees from Abel’s were also able to donate to the local food shelf and area youth programs.

The Green Thumbs at Work grant program has demonstrated that gardening at work is more than a passing trend for employees. Grantees have included manufacturing facilities, natural food cooperatives, social service organizations, engineering firms and more—and these diverse grantees, through their new garden programs, are seeing real changes in workplace culture, staff morale and employee health.

The Green Thumbs at Work grants are open to any Vermont business or organization with 100 or fewer employees. The grant award includes $500 for materials, a Gardener’s Supply gift certificate, and garden planning support and technical assistance from Charlie Nardozzi and the Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN).

The technical assistance provided through the grant program helps each business determine the type and size of garden that best meets its needs, and develop strategies to ensure the garden will be successful throughout the 2017 season and for years to come. Charlie Nardozzi and VCGN staff supports the sites through in-person visits and ongoing technical assistance. 

Aris Solutions employees learn how to thin veggies in White River Junction.

The application deadline for the 2017 Green Thumbs at Work grant program is Friday, February 10, 2017. For more program details and a link to the online application, go to, or call (802) 861-4769 for more information.