Wellness & Sustainability in the Workplace
story by Annamaria Leon • photographs provided by Ebonee Williams
Business owner Christy Webber of Christy Webber Landscapes recently challenged her staff with this question. The company offers a full-service edible landscapes and gardens department to institutions, corporations and communities to help transform urban spaces into food-producing landscapes, but Webber wanted to incorporate it into her own practice.
After collaboration among staff, here are some initiatives on how Christy Webber Landscapes provides good food and wellness at the workplace:
Transformed parts of the front and backyard at the campus headquarters into an edible food forest by mixing perennials and annual vegetables with an abundance of fruit trees. In the coming years, employees will be able to pick a variety of peaches, plums, cherries, apples, raspberries, blackberries, aronia, persimmons, pawpaws, honeyberries and currants.
On their rooftop meeting and eating space, a walking path was created with carved-out meditative niches nestled under willow trees. Ornamental plants were removed and replaced with fragrant roses and edibles—a scented herb garden and brown turkey fig plants.
Local Food Partnership
Partnered with a local urban community garden to provide community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription shares for employees. Growing Solutions Farm, founded by the Julie Michael Tracy Foundation ( JMTF) and located in the Illinois Medical District, is a nonprofit with a mission to train adults with autism in urban agriculture.
Vegetables from the CSA box from Growing Solutions Farm inspired coworkers to share recipes. Small cooking classes are set up for staff to learn how to create seasonal meals such as kale salads, applesauce, pesto and sautéed Swiss chard from freshly grown herbs.
The inspiration to give back flourished as several staff members became volunteer advisory board members for nonprofits that support urban agriculture, such as Chicago’s Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Growing Home and NeighborSpace.
Growing More Good in 2017
Plans to transform sections of their 12.5 acre west side corporate headquarters into a learning lab on food foresting and edible landscaping. Also in the works is a curriculum to set up local job training programs to focus on landscape maintenance and food gardening.
More information on Growing Solutions CSA Urban Farm: jmtf.org.
Annamaria Leon is a certified permaculture designer and instructor. She is also the Edible Landscapes manager for Christy Webber Landscapes.