Employees growing work gardens at eBay

August 25, 2009 12:47:55 PM PDT
Bay Area-based eBay has found a way to provide employees with a host of benefits at a very low cost. It's giving workers a chance to raise their pay and raise workplace morale while raising crops at its San Jose campus.

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It's an idea that is now just taking root at the eBay facility in San Jose, but it actually began back in Nebraska at eBay's PayPal facility in Omaha. The company offered plots of land, about 100 square feet, to employees so they could grow their own tomatoes, squash and sugar baby watermelons.

"It gives us an opportunity that we wouldn't have otherwise. Some people may live in an apartment or don't have the ability in their own yard to invest in something like this, so PayPal is giving their employees the opportunity to allow us the time to learn something and at the same time help the environment," said PayPal employee Ashley Dickes.

The program is the brainchild of Kasey Hesse who says giving employees crops to raise is like a raise in pay.

"For our employees a $50 investment in seed yields can reap $1,200 worth of organic produce; which of course is a healthy option, if you're eating vegetables that are locally grown you know what went into them," said Hesse.

Hesse says she got the idea from community gardens. They bring a sense of unity to a neighborhood. These corporate community gardens bring that same sense of togetherness to the workplace. The plots are available to individuals or to workgroups.

"They're able to discuss the ongoings that they are having, and instead of waiting every six months to have some kind of offsite team building activity, they're able to do it on a weekly basis in the garden," said Hesse.

The small garden at this eBay campus in San Jose was planted this past April and belongs to all workers right now; its peppers and tomatoes are served to employees in the company dining area. That may soon change. eBay says it has plans to greatly expand this gardening operation and it does own a lot of open space in the South Bay. It also owns lots of buildings and every one of them has a rooftop.

"We have solar panels on one, but we have open roof space all over San Jose. With our corporate community gardens, I don't know see why we can't use the roof," said Hesse.

eBay believes it is the only big company to have such a program right now. But company officials point to the mental, physical and even spiritual benefits many people experience in the garden and say with a little nurturing this concept is guaranteed to grow.

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