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Supporting employee wellness through gardening

The Employee Community Garden brings staff and faculty together to release stress and connect with nature. 

  • The Employee Community Garden, a pilot project by Employee Wellness in Human Resources, is located behind Jeffery Hall. (University Communications)
    The Employee Community Garden, a pilot project by Employee Wellness in Human Resources, is located behind Jeffery Hall. (University Communications)
  • A variety of tomato plants are currently growing in the Employee Community Garden. (University Communications)
    A variety of tomato plants are currently growing in the Employee Community Garden. (University Communications)
  • As part of the project's plan, extra produce will be donated to local community organizations to help address food insecurity outside of Queen’s. (University Communications)
    As part of the project's plan, extra produce will be donated to local community organizations to help address food insecurity outside of Queen’s. (University Communications)
  • Employee Wellness Services in partnership with Facilities and Sustainable Queen’s launched an Employee Community Garden as a pilot project. (University Communications)
    Employee Wellness Services in partnership with Facilities and Sustainable Queen’s launched an Employee Community Garden as a pilot project. (University Communications)
  • The pilot initiative was created to promote sustainable gardening practices, provide employees with a way to connect with nature and relieve stress. (University Communications)
    The pilot initiative was created to promote sustainable gardening practices, provide employees with a way to connect with nature and relieve stress. (University Communications)

There is something deeply rewarding about digging your hands into soil, planting a seed, and watching it grow. Gardening has also been shown to actively lower stress levels and improve wellness.

With these benefits in mind, Employee Wellness Services in partnership with Facilities and Sustainable Queen’s launched an Employee Community Garden as a pilot project. The garden consists of two plots located behind Jeffery Hall, where 30 employees routinely gather to water, remove weeds, and maintain vegetables and flowers that were planted in early June.  

Among the plants in the garden are tomatoes, beans, kale, and squash, while there are plans for a third plot in hopes of growing pumpkins in time for Thrive week in October. As a community garden, all employees are encouraged to take what they need, even if they are not involved in the planting process.  

The pilot initiative was created to promote sustainable gardening practices, provide employees with a way to connect with nature and relieve stress. Extra produce will be donated to local community organizations to help address food insecurity outside of Queen’s in the future.

“What started as an initiative focused on employee wellness quickly grew into much more,” says Linda Henderson, Coordinator, Wellness and Engagement, Human Resources. “Following the pandemic, staff and faculty were eager to get involved in a communal activity which could have a positive impact on the wellbeing of those on campus, as well as increasing social connectedness.”

Sharing knowledge and skills

To fund the initiative, Employee Wellness Services obtained a small grant for gardening tools, signage, and supplies. The organizers consulted with the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, and the Sustainability Office to ensure that the project was inclusive and fostered a sense of belonging in the community.

Employee Wellness Services connected with a local association, the Rideau 1000 Islands Master Gardeners to learn best-practices for community gardening and share knowledge on the fundamentals of planting. The expert group recently hosted a workshop on campus to give employees hands-on experience, with another session scheduled for Aug. 3. 

“In addition to getting involved in a stress releasing activity, the skills being taught can be used outside of life on campus,” says Greg Simmons, Coordinator, Wellness and Engagement, Human Resources. “Before getting involved, I didn’t even know tomato plants could get that size, or the benefits sustainable growing practices could have for the community and the environment”  

Sustainability and social impact

The Employee Garden also helps advance social impact at the university by addressing two of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 2: Zero Hunger and SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, in connecting with local gardeners and supplying free, accessible, nutritious food to those who need it.

Employee Wellness Services plans on continuing to promote sustainable agriculture by collecting seeds from this year’s garden for future use.

Employees and faculty looking to get involved can register on the HR Intranet for free.