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Growing Our Own Produce

Plants in large garden boxes

When a group of individuals at our McLeod facility in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan wanted to convert the empty land surrounding the plant into a community garden, they had no funds or people power to make that happen.

So, they approached our Sustainability team and shared their vision. “We have wanted to create a community garden like this one for years to enhance the sense of family within the McLeod plant,” said Linette Fetter, health, safety, security and environment (HSSE) manager. “We recognize the high cost of produce for today’s families, therefore by enabling our people to grow their own food, we are empowering them to make healthy food choices.”

Community garden at Maple Leaf Foods' McLeod facility located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Employee community garden at the McLeod facility.

The community garden at McLeod is now in its second year. It’s 185 feet long by 80 feet wide and has a series of sprinklers throughout.  There are 20 plots that take up approximately half  the garden and the other half is managed through volunteers where all proceeds are donated to the Saskatoon Food Bank. Staff are encouraged to bring their family and friends to help them with their harvest and may donate any excess produce to the Saskatoon Food Bank.

“The garden is a very exciting project that I am grateful to be part of,” said Brooke Kindel, environment and sustainability specialist who helped spearhead the project. “I am excited to see what a project of this scale can grow into, especially when you consider that our plant is located in a ‘food desert’.”

Calling all green thumbs

What started off as a dream at McLeod has inspired other facilities to call on their own green thumbs and start their own community gardens. That same year, a community garden sprung in our Brandon facility located in Brandon, Manitoba offering 50 plots to employees that are 10 feet long by 12 feet wide, so they too can grow their own vegetables.

Community Garden at the Brandon facility located in Brandon, Manitoba.
Volunteers working at the “Volunteer Garden” at our Brandon facility.

In 2019, the Brandon facility added a Volunteer Garden where all produce grown is donated to the Samaritan House. “The Samaritan House distributes roughly 20,000 hampers per year and requires more than 147,000 pounds of food to meet the basic food needs for struggling individuals and families in our communities,” said Nikolene Day, senior HR manager at Brandon facility. “We’ve planted potatoes, corn, carrots, onions, radishes and beans all for the benefit of Samaritan House and their programs. So far, we have dropped off 5 bags of radishes, 2 huge boxes of peas and 2 boxes of green beans.”

Meanwhile, the staff at our Lagimodiere facility located in Winnipeg, Manitoba decided to stop looking at the concrete jungle surrounding the plant and called on Kindel to help start a garden. Together with Emma Booth, HR training coordinator, and Sean Buchanan, materials manufacturing manager, they formed the Green Thumb team and officially opened the Lagimodiere Community Garden this spring.

The garden has 20 plots and each plot is assigned to a Lagimodiere staff member who is responsible for planting, weeding and harvesting. Kelly Simpson, the Lagimodiere site leader said, “The staff have had some fun with their plots and have harnessed their creativity to build an inviting garden space. The Lagimodiere team is known for our engagement and the garden was no exception as the plots filled up immediately! We are already planning for future growth and have the ability to make a larger impact on our community.”

Growing a sense of community

Community garden at our Lagimodiere facility
Community garden at our Lagimodiere facility.

We’re in peak harvest time and staff at McLeod, Brandon and Lagimodiere are rolling up their sleeves, getting dirty, and harvesting in their gardens.

What these gardens offer our people is access to fresh, quality produce at a reasonable cost. We see a lot of our people growing potatoes, corn, carrots, onions, radishes, zucchinis, lettuce and beans. Some even have chosen to beautify their plots with flowers.

For many, this is the first time they’ve grown their own produce. Those with green thumbs have taken the time to share their knowledge with those who have never gardened before creating new relationships and improving the site culture. And when a plot needs weeding, everyone steps in to help.

“We’ve found the staff highly engaged taking great pride in their gardens and we’re being asked for more plots at Lagimodiere,” said Kindel. “The future is green at our plants because of projects like this one. Through hard work and dedication of everyone at our facilities, we are creating our workplace a great place to be.”