The Indoors vs Outdoors Struggle for Productivity

Guest article by Sarah Green, Farmscape

Victory gardens were a huge trend in the 1940’s, and roared back with the hippies in the 1960’s, offering great produce and regular stress relief simply by bonding with neighbors and nature. Life was simpler, and pressures could be eliminated by digging and weeding in backyards and shaking carrots out the earth. Then came technology, which assured people that as long as they had a handheld device in their palm, they’d succeed in corporate life. What transpired was a tremendous pressure to perform while the outdoors was sadly given a back seat. The irony was that while iPad and smartphones were supposed to be bettering our lives, they started to cause technopathic stress that generated higher anxiety levels. But there is an easier way to relieve stress than getting a fidget spinner and more tech support: gardens give all visitors and users a sense of calm, serenity, usefulness and joy. Indeed, there are even reports that touching soil literally grounds you, with microbes in the earth easing depression and anxiety.
 
Supporting Local Farmers & Corporate Breath of Fresh Air
Multiple global corporations saw that their employees needed a breather from technology. Aside from offering staff basketball courts, gyms and video games to play in during downtime, many California companies have gone a different route. Take for example, VF Outdoors, the parent company of The North Face, Timberland, JanSport, and Smartwool. Their five-building west coast campus on Alameda offered many amenities to their eco-conscious staff, including a café and employee fitness center. In 2013, they had architect April Philips design a bay-friendly landscape that included a pollinator and vegetable garden, which has been maintained by Farmscape.  The juxtaposition of the garden and pollinator space provide habitat for Farmscape's other clients: birds, bees, and butterflies. 
 
Epicurean Group operates the cafe on campus, and Chef Sarrah Ponce de Leon has plenty of produce to work with as she designs her menus. Buckets of eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis, melons and fresh herbs arrive weekly courtesy of her own personal farmer.  Sara Gilligan of Farmscape. She’s on a mission to destroy cucumber beetles while maintaining the strawberries and blueberries, handing these over to Chef Sarah so employees can enjoy the full range of seasonal produce for lunch.
 
Says Farmer Sara, “It’s incredibly easy to work hard for a company that also shares our values of producing great, fresh produce right on their doorstep.”
 
Farmscape helps VF Outdoor maintain their sustainability goals through a variety of techniques. They reduce water consumption by 70 percent versus typical spray head sprinklers by exclusively using drip irrigation. Each pound of produce from the garden reduces the cafe's carbon footprint by eliminating the need for shipping. The organic practices lead to a healthy environment for the campus humans and wildlife. And the perennial borders and pollinator garden sequester carbon back into the soil, acting like a sink for atmospheric pollution. 
 
Chef Sarrah points out “I walk to the gardens every morning to pick my herbs and it’s like my happy-place playground” while she confirms the employees’ gratitude “it’s awesome because they know where the vegetables come from.”

Naturally Eliminating Anxiety
Once staff meals are finished, many will wander outdoors to the Adirondack chairs in the gardens, or mosey to the oversized picnic tables. An impressive number will head over to farmer Sara to see what she’s working on, or ask for gardening tips. Usually, a gardener will be left undisturbed while they yank out weeds, but in Farmscape’s case, employees are encouraged to ask questions, get their hands dirty and plant radish seeds with the team. It’s not only an organic way to mentally separate themselves from work pressures, but gives them an unbridled opportunity to chat and dream up ideas with co-workers they’d usually never interact with.  Possibly they’ll collectively solve a currently pressing issue while pulling lettuce heads or discuss alternative options for future marketing campaign initiatives that a conference room atmosphere will not achieve. Regardless of the topic, they’re bantering in a natural, heart-healthy setting. Hunched, anxious shoulders have now dropped and the sun is beaming down on their faces while they work together in a calmer and soul-enriching environment.

Guest article by Sarah Green, Farmscape
Farmscape is the largest urban farming company in the country. Since 2008, they’ve designed and installed over 700 projects with a talented team of landscape architects, contractors and urban farmers including Levi’s Stadium rooftop (Faithful Farm), Adobe, AT&T Park, VF Outdoors (North Face) and Clif Bar’s HQ. They grow food for Fortune 500 companies, Michelin-starred chefs, and World Series champions. Their expertise on urban agriculture design and operations has resulted in today’s most innovative and sustainable agrihood developments.