I’ve recently been working on a project out at Intel in Hillsboro. This is my first experience with a long daily commute, and I’m spending a lot more time surrounded by concrete than I’m used to. Long drives, big parking lots, big buildings.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Intel does a great job with their cafeterias. Fruits and veggies are easy to come by. There are always multiple options for healthy meals, even for people with special diet requirements. You can find fresh cooked greens and colorful veggies on the menu every day.
There’s space to eat on a big outdoor patio surrounded by plants. The landscaping is sort of what you’d expect at a big company, no inspired botanical gardens or anything like that. However, there is a stretch of raised beds just beyond the patio. I assumed they were supplying some of the cafeteria’s fresh veggies, until I recognized folks from the office pulling weeds and emerging with armloads of garden spoils on their lunch hour. Time for closer inspection.
It turns out, Intel employees banded together about 5 years ago to put some of that big open lawn to good use, and created garden plots for employees to rent and tend. Intel had the sod removed, raised beds built, plumbing and tool sheds installed, compost delivered, and employees did the rest.
Each year, there’s a waiting list to rent a plot for tens of dollars, and the people with a plot can step out to weed and water during breaks. I find weeding very soothing, People harvest their own veggies. Extras are donated to a food bank and to the occasional lucky admiring bystander. I can’t really imagine a better break time activity. Okay, snuggling puppies would be better, but absent baby animals, this is the nicest perk I can think of. Imagine stopping by your office plot instead of the supermarket on the way home.
Because rental plots can rotate to other employees next year, people are encouraged to stick to annuals. If I had one, I don’t think I could resist sticking an artichoke in there for a little more visual interest. They’re not that hard to dig out if you must. Some people had some perennial herbs, so the rule must not be strictly enforced. Still, people have managed a fairly impressive variety.
What a great idea for big companies with big campuses. Now I’m hoping they carve out even more of that lawn and give a few more plots out to the unlucky folks who don’t make it past the waiting list each year. If I were working somewhere long term, having a garden at work would definitely make a difference.