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GIVING GARDENS: Employers Work The Land

Gardens are growing around the metro, and people will soon get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. One metro plot of land won’t just benefit the people working the land, and you might be surprised where the produce is growing.

Pulling weeds is fun for Ann Michelson. She says, “I find it very therapeutic, to weed, to plant seeds, to watch them grow.”

She grows tomatoes, beets, beans and more on this plot of land, but it isn’t in her back yard. She works the land in an area behind her office at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines. She says, “In the spring, our lawn crew gets the plot ready for you, so they do the roto-tilling and we just have to come out and set the row.”

Michelson is an Assistant Vice President and lawyer for GuideOne. She’s also one of about 100 gardeners at the firm. Another Gardener, Melissa Allen says, “It is me and about five other ladies who have a little garden group together.”

Allen shares two plots with co-workers. They take turns tending to the garden after work and on weekends. Allen says, “It’s a good way to network and have fellowship, not only with our peers, but also you see a lot of families here.”

GuideOne started the corporate garden four years ago after an employee made the suggestion. Spokesperson Ellen Wade says, “If you can imagine, this was once all grass, so she thought we had all this land, maybe we could put gardens on it. So, different departments within the company got together to see if this is something we could consider doing.”

The company started with 45 plots in 2010. It blossomed into 72. The employees feed their families the fresh food and share it with co-workers. Last year, the corporate garden became a giving garden, allowing employees to donate extra produce to the Des Moines Area Religious Council’s food pantry.

Wade says, “Last year we gave 650 pounds of produce to them.”

Michelson says, “It’s fun to share your produce after all your hard work, as well as eat your own things too.”


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