This week, I had the privilege of speaking at the unveiling of our TELUS House Toronto corporate urban garden on the 5th floor at 25 York Street. This garden is near and dear to my heart and bloomed from a vision I had in 2012 after discovering the magnificent green space on our fourth floor that had been planted with ornamental flora that no one was really using.
I thought this green space would be a beautiful place to build connections between teams, and increase employee health and wellness by getting outside to connect with the environment. And by growing vegetables and herbs there were benefits beyond the harvest: we would also create a foundation for better understanding of our food, where it comes from, and the important role it plays in our lives and communities.
Even though the infrastructure was already in place, to make the vision a reality, we quickly realized we needed a leader, people hours, materials, and a lot of calculations.
We hired an urban farmer to consult with us and oversee the project. Then we built a team of urban gardeners: members of the TELUS Green Team volunteered their time to get their hands dirty and learn firsthand what needed to happen to transition the space and our curator held workshops to educate the team on the maintenance required over the long term for a project of this size to be successful.
Together, we changed the garden beds from an ornamental plant environment to a nutrient-rich soil for a vegetable producing garden. We removed all the pebbles that had been used for walkways; took out root-bound earth, and distributed our special soil mix that would retain moisture. It was tough work, but we were committed.
And here we are today – watching all the beautiful seeds blossoming into healthy plants and envisioning the fruits of our labour. It truly has all been worthwhile!
The harvest from our garden will not only be the vegetables. Engaging our TELUS team members who come to the garden during busy workdays to participate in weeding and other maintenance is a key success factor. We can already visualize filling baskets with produce for our colleagues to buy in our weekly mini market and helping charities in Toronto by donating the proceeds. Continuing our inherent philosophy to give where we live, it’s also exciting that we’ll donate some of the beautiful, local, nutritious produce itself to feed those in need around the city.
I hope you’ll continue to join us here as we post about our urban garden journey at TELUS House and see how it blossoms into an important part of our culture. We’ll also share learnings and tips from workshops we have planned with our onsite nutritionist who will teach us how to prepare and preserve our harvest. We hope our efforts will inspire other companies and individuals to participate in food security initiatives in their communities and increase the amount of green space for the good of all Canadians.