The Book People
Selling books and growing root vegetables may not seem like natural bedfellows, but staff at The Book People have been growing their own produce for several years, courtesy of a popular workplace garden scheme set up in 2009 by company founders Ted Smart and Seni Glaister.
There are 31 garden plots available for use over three sites and all are free of charge for staff to use. The largest is at the head office in Godalming, a Victorian manor house with extensive grounds. An old kitchen garden has been converted into a series of 1 x 2 metre plots, small enough for staff to look after in their lunch breaks.
The other two are on industrial sites at Bangor and Haydock, next to book warehouses. These are particularly appreciated as there is little green space locally.
Book designer Ann Childs, who has been gardening at the Godalming site since the scheme launched, said it has been a great opportunity to learn about growing: "I had a small garden at home but it was stuffed full of flowers with no room for vegetables.
"I hadn't done any veg gardening before so it was a bit of a baptism of fire, but my husband was able to steer me in the right direction and I've learned by trial and error over the past four years. So really I started from scratch and now I’m seen as a bit of an authority!"
Unlike many allotment sites, staff have few restrictions on what they can plant and grow, so there is a mix of vegetable, flower and ornamental plots.
"If you want a gnome in your garden, you can have one!” said Ann.
There has been plenty of drive and enthusiasm behind the workplace allotments scheme. Volunteers and keen gardeners among the staff prepared the original site at Godalming and erected fences to keep out pests, and the company supplies tools, a shed and manure. At Bangor and Haydock, where there is no proper garden, the staff grow on small patches of earth or in large grow bags.
In its first year, the Godalming site went from bare ground to a productive group of plots rich in rainbow chard, beetroot, kale and a glut of yellow courgettes grown.
The benefits of workplace allotments or gardens go far beyond producing free food, according to Ann: "For me the nicest thing is having somewhere lovely to go at lunchtime that’s a complete break from work, away from the computer and with the birds singing in the sunshine.
"It's sociable and beautiful and you go back to work feeling refreshed. I like to grow flowers on my plot as well and I cut them and put them on my desk." She added: "We're very lucky at Godalming because we have eight acres of land. That is very unusual, but you don't actually need a garden as such. No matter how big or small the space at your workplace, you could find a way to set up an allotment."
One of the staff members at Godalming kept an online diary about the site's first year for the Royal Horticultural Society Website, which you can read at: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardening/Grow-Your-Own/Allotments/All-content/All...