The Vetrazzo Victory Garden

Posted by Steven Schrenk
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This blog entry comes from Vetrazzo's Vice President of Marketing and resident gardener extraordinaire, Karen Righthand. She proves that if she can grow produce here, she can grow it anywhere:

One bright morning earlier this spring, I strolled out of the Vetrazzo plant after a production staff meeting and the sun hit me square in the eyes. As I squinted looking out the door of the plant at the parking lot, I imagined corn growing in between the parked cars. I don’t know how it came to me but contained in that very moment was the seed of inspiration for our current garden.

You see, I’m a gardener. I love to grow my own delicious fresh food, eat it and feed it to others. It’s so satisfying. And one thing is true of every gardener. No matter how great their garden is, or how much they grow, they always want more. For me, I live in a hilly, tree-laden landscape so finding open, flat, full-sun plots of land where corn could grow is rare. Why not turn a useless parking lot median into a food-producing oasis, I thought.

How fitting is it to have a Victory Garden at Ford Point? As many of you may know, during World War II the Ford Plant was converted to Tank and Jeep assembly. This is the birthplace of “Rosie the Riveter”. “Rosie” and the Victory Gardens so many Americans planted, were symbols of everyday Americans’ patriotism and support for the troops. All across the country, everyday people managed to grow 40% of the fruits and vegetables consumed on the homefront in Victory Gardens.

I ran my idea up the flagpole all the way to the developer of the Ford Point building and he approved it. As a matter of fact, they started putting in irrigation and landscaping around the entire back of the building shortly after I made my request. I met with the foreman and told them what area I’d like to plant and inquired how the irrigation would be done. Turns out they weren’t planning on irrigating the parking median, but only the plots closest to the building. The median was slated for rock mulch…

I met with the production staff to share the garden idea, and asked if anyone had anything in particular they wanted to grow. Alberto asked if we could grow lemons! Why not? So we decided to plant citrus trees in the median. We’d have to water by hand until the trees were established, but at least they would bear fruit, be evergreen and once established they’d be pretty carefree. They were planted mid-June and luckily they are still alive. I must admit, I didn’t count on the stiff breeze blowing off the bay on our little babies all day long. That’s gardening, you learn as you go.

After we decided to go for the garden, several things happened. Juli started some seeds at home in containers saved from our takeout lunches. I brought in some seeds and a growing tray one Friday and many fingers poked seeds into the soil. Even our CEO James’ mom sent some of her favorite seeds to cheer on our project.

Every big idea has its dark side and there were two things I didn’t really factor in. One, how much time it would take to till up the cement-hard clay of this former superfund site and two, I already had my own pretty demanding garden at home tugging at me. Oh and of course, we have a business to run. But the plan had already been set in motion; there was no backing out now.

We broke ground first in the median for the trees then later that week we mixed some compost into the area around each irrigation hose and planted our seed starts. We have a collection of squash, tomatoes and peppers. Also some beans and corn. Under our sign we planted dwarf sunflowers and the Cosmos that James’ mom sent. I was pretty shocked to see the bean, corn and sunflower seeds we direct seeded actually germinate. It’s always exciting when seeds sprout. It’s extra exciting when you weren’t sure the soil you were planting them in could sustain life.

I don’t think we’ll have much more than a token harvest this year, but each season we work the soil, it will get richer. This is where compost comes in! I compost at my own home. I bring the compost bucket from the office home and dump it in my backyard bin. The plan is to bring some of this rich amendment back to use in our Vetrazzo Victory Garden.

The plant staff have been terrific stewards, making sure the garden stays watered. I hope they enjoy watching it grow and I hope there will be some food for them to harvest and enjoy. It will really be a sweet day when we pick our first lemon. I think I’ll have to give it to Alberto.