Monday, July 9, 2012

Office Garden

Can your workplace be your foodie destination? It can if you work for Catalyst Partners in Grand Rapids. Their LEED Platinum Certified building is flanked by several beautiful food gardens and a bee hive. The history of this near-west side site confirms that food was meant to be here. The building, built in 1917, was originally adjacent to Watson-Higgins Milling Company (maker of New Perfection Flour) and a Schlitz brewery.

The landscaping next to the building is over 40% rescued plants. There are native prairie zones that include wild strawberries, raspberry bushes, and a honey crisp apple tree. The flower boxes on the building house edible plants such as pansies and Johnny jump ups. And, the staff has built six 10 foot by 10 foot vegetable plots on the side of the building. On site is a 1,000 gallon rain water cistern that will be used in the future for watering the gardens.

Recently, I visited the gardens and took a tour of the building. Growing there are popcorn, bok choy, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, pole beans, tomatillos, kale, lettuce, arugula, brussel sprouts, summer and winter squashes, fennel, sunflowers, and herbs. The plants are all grown without herbicides and pesticides; the staff rotates their gardening responsibilities annually. They do some seed saving. Their future plans include a rooftop herb garden.

If you stop by you will often see a basket of produce set out for neighbors to come by and take home for their use. Food gardens add community to a commercial site in ways that other landscaping cannot.

Click on the 502 Second Street slideshow link on this webpage for photographs of the development of the gardens that are adjacent to the building.

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