Six years ago, Merit Medical Systems founder and CEO, Fred Lampropoulos, looked out his office window and watched as throngs of employees from the medical device company’s South Jordan campus walked across the street to a 3-acre farm to pick tomatoes and peppers thanks to an invitation from a local farmer. He saw the enthusiasm from his employees and an idea formed.
In 2016, Merit Medical launched its employee garden program on one-acre of previously unused land, creating 80 100-square-foot garden beds for employees to adopt. Over the last five years, the garden has grown to include a small orchard, a commercial greenhouse, a U-Pick garden, and enough fruits and vegetables to supplement the produce at Merit’s two on-site cafeterias (where a dietician even helps guide the meal planning).
“As we evolved, I started thinking about how we can make the program accessible for everybody,” says Laura Flower, master gardener and Merit employee garden project coordinator. “Not all employees with their workload or life priorities have time to commit to a garden box. If people want to come out once a week and help us out with some basic tasks, then we can give them produce. Most people walk away with 10 pounds of produce.”
The gardens are just as diverse as they are prolific, producing everything from corn, spaghetti squash and anaheim peppers, to goji berries, peaches and watermelon. Inedible produce is donated to the farm animals at Roots Charter School, an alternative high school in Salt Lake City, while green waste is taken to the Trans-Jordan landfill for composting.
All of the plants for the garden are started from seeds in the greenhouse. Merit holds annual plant sales with funds going to the Candy Cane Program, which aids employees who may need financial help during the holidays. There are monthly newsletters and workshops available to employees on topics such as fruit tree pruning and canning preserves.
Corporate gardens offer employees (not to mention employers) numerous benefits: They’re mood-boosting, stress-busting, and connect people with their food and healthy eating.
In 2020, despite the pandemic and remote working, the Merit Employee Garden distributed 3,000 pounds of produce to nearly 150 U-Pick participants, grew roughly 9,000 plants (4,000 of which were purchased by employees), donated 300 pounds of produce to senior centers, and generated $12,000 for the Candy Cane Program. Around 160 employees tended their own beds in the community garden.
The cut-flower garden doubled the number of floral arrangements ordered by employees for friends, family and colleagues amid the pandemic as well.
“I think that giving people an opportunity to step away from their work and to engage in a different activity that is earth-based, tactile and aesthetic does a lot to mitigate stress and give people a bit of mental break,” says Flower. “Learning and sharing the excitement around growing things — whether people are vegetable gardening for the first time or growing flowers — the education is something that keeps our brains excited and interested in ways that are new and novel.”
1600 Merit Parkway, South Jordan
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