When the Saints Come Mulching In

by | Mar 20, 2018

Saint-Gobain is putting down new roots and reaching new heights at its North American headquarters in Malvern. In the spring of 2017, the company partnered with Triskeles in an effort to address food insecurity in our region. As the newest member of the Food For All program, Saint-Gobain worked with Triskeles to establish a large raised bed garden with the intention of donating at least 50 percent of the harvest to local pantries, taking their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility to new levels. We welcome their partnership!

We recently had an opportunity to sit down with a few of the gardeners from Saint-Gobain who worked to establish the garden in 2017 and asked them a few questions about themselves and their efforts.

Colleen Sgarra is a Payroll Specialist who has been with Saint-Gobain since 2016. She has fond memories of helping her parents in the garden as a child. Now, as a mother herself, Colleen is carrying on that legacy by sharing her gardening experience with her five children.

In 2017, her participation in the garden added 576 lbs. to the final harvest and impacted more than 2,200 meals.

What motivated you to participate in the garden?

CS: It was my first year working for Saint-Gobain, and I didn’t know a lot of people. When I saw that there was going to be this beautiful garden space, I couldn’t believe I had this opportunity. I thought it would be better than sitting at my desk or in the Café and that it might give me a chance to meet people in different departments, which it did. That was huge. I never would have met half of these people if I didn’t participate in the garden. That’s just me. The fact that I am helping other people, other families, that felt really hands-on and made me feel like this is something truly special.

You found that connection between your gardening and the recipient pantries to be meaningful?

CS: Absolutely. I have a big family myself and I know how much it costs to go grocery shopping, especially if you want to buy healthy things, which can be tough. You want to buy healthy food and that’s even more expensive. So for me, I’m at work and I’m able to give some time that can help another family in need, a family that is local, that’s just amazing.

Was there anything that surprised you about the 2017 garden season?

CS: How much we grew, and how well the crops did! It was such a positive experience, and I learned a lot, which was neat, too, because I can take that knowledge and use it to benefit my own family. I really appreciate learning new things that I will be able to use and pass along to others.

What are you looking forward to for the future of the garden?

CS: Getting more people involved! Maybe we could grow some new crops, or fruit trees, but getting a chance to continue learning and doing some good.

Miles Miner is a Lead Accountant in the Shared Service Accountant Department who has been with Saint-Gobain for three years. Miles has been growing as a gardener for seven years, with memories of his grandfather’s garden helping him to envision his own personal sustainability in the years to come.

Miles played an instrumental part in establishing the garden, and his leadership both in and out of the soil added 720 lbs. to the final harvest and impacted more than 2,700 meals.

Tell us a little about your garden at home.

MM: Right now I am spawning mushrooms, and I have a couple of fruit trees that we’re getting started. We are currently laying out the footprint for our permanent garden to determine how we want it to be in the years to come.

You played a big role in the push to get the garden established here, along with Karen Steele and many other dedicated people. This was a significant investment for your company and its employees. Why do you think Saint-Gobain did it?

MM: I believe Saint-Gobain saw an opportunity to make an impact on our community in Chester County; that we could stand out in our area and show the different ways we are helping our local community. I think it shows that Saint-Gobain is a caring community partner. They want what’s best for our neighbors.

Was there anything that surprised you about the 2017 garden season?

MM: There was a moment in the beginning when there was a lot of stress with getting the garden established. During a conversation, someone was venting their frustration and I was able to point out that in the midst of the chaos we had harvested more than 300 lbs. of fresh organic produce for donation to community members in need, and it completely changed the nature of the conversation. The response was, “This is the best thing I have ever been involved in.” To see it go from frustration to joy so quickly made a big impression on me.

What are you looking forward to for the future of the garden?

MM: I’m really excited for the ways that we can expand our footprint and work to make it look nicer and also increase our production.

Lynne Watt is a Manager with Risk Management who has been with Saint-Gobain since 2005. She grew up helping her mother with beautiful flower gardens and English cottage style gardens, and as an adult she became interested in vegetable gardening. Her participation in the garden at Saint-Gobain encouraged her to install two small raised beds at her home, and she is planning on adding more this year.

Through her participation in the Saint-Gobain garden in 2017, Lynne added 432 lbs. of produce to the final yield and impacted more than 1,600 meals.

Can you tell us what motivated you to participate in the garden at Saint-Gobain?

LW: Well, I’ve always had an interest in gardening, and the year prior I was part of a smaller effort to do a garden here. When the initiative began to partner with Triskeles and Food For All, I was really excited. It was something that interested me and gave me a chance to be more engaged with my coworkers. It just makes the time that we spend together here better.

Was there anything that surprised you about the garden?

LW: When the program was introduced, it coincided with the time my youngest daughter was a senior in high school. She had to do a senior project and started to volunteer at our local pantry. Hearing her stories of what she saw there, how we live in a fairly comfortable community but she didn’t realize that right here there are people, her peers in school and families in our area who don’t have enough food, it was startling. Hearing about this made the Food For All program all the more significant for me. Being able to do this work in the garden while also helping other people, it’s very much a win-win situation.

Has working in the garden enhanced your work experience at Saint-Gobain?

LW: Absolutely, in multiple ways. Meeting people I never would have met before on this campus and getting to know them while we’re all on equal footing in the garden. Learning things that I can take away from the garden and apply in different areas. Being outdoors and engaged with nature has been a great stress reliever. I also believe it has helped me develop leadership skills and speaking skills as I have led my own team of gardeners and while interacting with the pantry.

As someone who assesses risk, can you apply your expertise to the impact of a garden on the campus?

LW: I think you could look at it a couple different ways. From a health insurance perspective, anything that the employees are doing that is more active, or eating healthier, or helping decrease their stress is going to have a positive impact on our health insurance. Many times employees become more prone to injury in the workplace because they’re distracted, they’re stressed, they’re not in the best physical condition, or they’re not eating healthy. The garden provides an opportunity to avoid some of those pitfalls, and it also helps people feel connected to their work family.

What are you looking forward to for the future of the garden?

LW: I’m really interested in helping more people get involved in the garden, and I’m excited to see what we’re going to grow this year.

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