Green Thumbs at Work: Transforming Concrete Landscapes


Lamoille Restorative Center, employee garden

By Libby Weiland
Statewide Network Coordinator

In a rural state like Vermont we don’t often think of gardening on concrete or in small spaces like our more urban counterparts.  But at workplaces across the state employees are looking for ways to grow vegetables and fruits around the edges of parking lots, along entrance ramps, in vacant lots, and even indoors!  Nearly half of the companies and organizations awarded this year’s Green Thumbs at Work grant are transforming their limited concrete landscapes into peaceful and productive gardens for their employees.

Lamoille Restorative Center, a community-based restorative justice agency located in Hyde Park, brought new life to their concrete backyard by building raised bed gardens.  The group is also experimenting with straw bale gardening, a cost-effective method that uses bound straw bales as garden containers.  At Upper Valley Food Co-op, a community-supported natural food market in White River Junction, employees are growing in elevated raised beds.  These roughly three-foot high raised beds lift the growing space off of the hot concrete, save employee backs from bending down to garden, and are wheelchair accessible.


Upper Valley Food Co-op, growing side-by-side


Community Restorative Justice Center, before and after

Employees at the Community Restorative Justice Center in St. Johnsbury designed their cedar elevated gardens around the handicap ramp at their building’s entrance.  Theses beds stand on legs, providing the height needed for accessibility, but requiring a much smaller amount of soil than a typical raised bed garden.  They’ve also added herb planters to the railings and ends of the raised beds.  All together the outcome is beautiful; an appropriate face-lift for this historic building—former jail turned restorative justice center!


ARIS Solutions, before and after

Downtown White River Junction just got more greenspace!  ARIS Solutions, a non-profit fiscal agent and financial services corporation in White River Junction, turned the vacant lot behind their office building into a gathering place and garden space for employees.  What was once a neglected and littered eyesore is now a thriving pocket park for employees, with raised bed gardens, benches, cedar split-rail fencing, and dreams of more plantings and art to come.  The beds are underlain with landscape barrier to avoid contact with any underlying contamination that might remain in the soil from former use.  The benches are growing too!  Designed by an employee’s carpenter husband, the benches have built-in containers for growing herbs.  With wide participation, the group plans to encourage employee use of the space for meetings, lunches, and breaks.

Rural Edge employee shows off their new indoor garden.

At Rural Edge, a regional housing non-profit organization, employees have even further narrowed the gap between where their food is grown and where it’s eaten.  They’ve installed indoor gardens in their conference room—using deep window sills and a grow light system for producing greens and other container varieties of vegetables.  Their harvest will be used for employee lunches.  This unique set-up puts conference room meetings in a whole new light!

Green Thumbs at Work is a partnership between the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Community Garden Network, in partnership with Charlie Nardozzi, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, and Gardener’s Supply.  The grant offer funding and technical assistance for small workplaces to establish food gardens for employees.  For more information and a full list of this year’s and past winners visit our Green Thumbs at Work page.

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