Crops for the Community: On-site Garden Promotes Charitable Giving and Sustainability

April 13, 2015

“Growing Sustainability & Togetherness.” 

That’s the theme of the gardening activities undertaken by employees at the Parts Distribution facility in Tullamarine, Victoria, Australia. Since late November, more than 50 employees have participated in growing fresh vegetables in their facility garden, selling the fruits of their labor to their fellow employees and then donating that money to local charities. 

The teams, comprised of people from various divisions, will grow different crops depending on the season. This past summer (December-February), they grew tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, fennel, zucchini, peppers, herbs and much more. And to help shelter the garden from the wind, they’ve also planted a variety of fruit trees, including olive, peach, nectarine, plum and lemon.

Participants spend about 30 minutes per week working in the garden, which is 10 meters by 8 meters (about 33 feet by 26 feet) and contains nine plots of varying sizes. The seeds and tools are provided by facility leadership, and the garden is watered in a sustainable fashion through an irrigation system fed by captured rainwater. 

“I’ve never been involved in gardening before this,” said Steve Cousland, a system application representative in the Global Construction & Infrastructure Division. “So, there’s an element of adventure (learning new things) and an element of community and common action. We’re actually engaged in doing something together—an opportunity that doesn't arise in our separate functional areas. It feels good to be asked to join an activity that has so many positives!”

Other employees echoed these sentiments and have found other reasons to get involved. “It’s a fun way to meet the people I work with,” said Melody Sorentino, a distribution research consultant in the Customer Services Support Division (CSS). “It feels great to come closer together as a team while also putting Caterpillar’s commitment to sustainability and the local community into action,” remarked Ivan Banadinovich, a business support consultant in CSS.

“Australia CARE, the facility committee that coordinates our charitable efforts, leads this initiative,” said Paul Kouvelis, a sales manager in OEM Solutions (a business unit within the Diversified Products Division) and chairperson of the community garden. “This committee focuses on four core areas: health/well-being, local community engagement, volunteer efforts and social participation through sustainable initiatives. This garden program impacts all of these areas.

“While this project couldn’t have been accomplished without the hard work of many people, I would like to recognize Demi Stefanova of CSS,” Paul added. “She developed the idea for this initiative and was the driving force behind it from day one. When you combine someone’s passion with the support of a fantastic team, great things are possible, and this is a prime example of that.”

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