Distribution Center “Giving Garden” Serves Those in Need
At Tractor Supply, our Mission and Values are important to us and they drive many of our programs and initiatives. The company’s Stewardship Program is a good example of Team Members putting our Mission and Values to work. Another good example is our Team Members’ support of charitable organizations in the communities we serve. There is no better example of a program that supports both environmental sustainability and those in need than the Hagerstown, Maryland, Distribution Center’s Giving Garden.
In 2013, Hagerstown General Manager Gerry Walsh spearheaded the Green Team at the distribution center with Bonnie Kauffman in Operations Support. The team’s purpose was to “Do what is right for our Team Members, the environment and our communities.” The Green Team focused on several projects that improved the environmental sustainability of the Distribution Center, including new recycling programs. Several years later, Gerry had another idea that would help the team live out that mantra – he wanted to create a garden to supply food to local food banks.
Bonnie and many of the other Team Members at the Distribution Center have spent their lives in gardening and agriculture, so without a moment’s hesitation, the Hagerstown Giving Garden was born. Bonnie and Scott House, Operations Manager, led the charge in getting the program started. Before a garden could be planted, they needed to determine how to distribute the fresh produce from the garden to those most in need in the local community. Bonnie reached out to the Maryland Food Bank, which has a farm to table program. The Food Bank put her in touch with a few small food pantries, leading her to the Office of Consumer Advocacy, which houses Soul Haven – a food pantry that also provides mental and behavioral health services.
Once the community agency was in place, it was time for the Team Members to get their hands dirty. Bonnie reached out to the Hagerstown team for volunteers, and with the help of 15 Team Members, broke ground. They selected a 30 by 30 plot of land on the Distribution Center property that was far enough from trucks, traffic and people to avoid disturbance, but close enough to a water source. After some discussion, they settled on zucchini, squash and tomatoes because they grow so readily. They also planted beets and radishes.
Every Wednesday or Thursday afternoon during the growing season, the team of volunteers harvests the produce, and on Friday mornings, Bonnie delivers it directly to the Office of Consumer Advocacy. By early October, the Giving Garden had harvested 165 pounds of produce.
“Every week, I deliver unwashed produce in a brown box, and it’s like a box of gold,” Bonnie explained. “I can’t tell you how good it feels when I drop the food off and see how appreciative they all are.”
When the local newspaper wrote an article about the Giving Garden, Bonnie finally had the opportunity to meet the cooks at the food pantry, and she was overwhelmed by their gratitude. She saw first-hand how something as small as a fresh vegetable over a canned one could make such a difference for these people in need.
While the program has been great for the community, it has also been wonderful for the Distribution Center team.
“I’m so proud of our volunteers who get out there and weed and care for the garden, not just in their assigned sections, but also in other sections where they see a need,” said Bonnie. “It’s so collaborative and just a wonderful example of teamwork.”
“I would love to be able to supply multiple small pantries,” said Bonnie. “They don’t get big support. I would also really love to see other companies with access to a lot of open land do similar things.”
As Bonnie says, “This all comes back to the Green Team and the mantra of doing what’s right. We have land and knowledge, so we must do what’s right and give back. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have stores in these communities.”
The team of Hagerstown volunteers is an inspiration to the entire Tractor Supply family and is a great demonstration of what can be achieved by living our Mission and Values.