Aug 16, 2011 • By

The garden that keeps on giving

We rely on farms around the world to bring General Mills products to people everywhere, but a small patch of land on the grounds of General Mills’ headquarters also has a reputation for producing high-quality, delicious food.

But those crops don’t end up in our manufacturing plants. Instead, the nearly 1,400 pounds of fresh organic vegetables grown in this garden are donated to food shelves and emergency meal programs in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Located along the southern border of our main campus in Golden Valley, Minn, the newly expanded 2,750 foot “Giving Garden” is overseen by employee Lori Gieselman. An accountant by profession, Lori is a certified Master Gardener who grew up participating in horticultural activities. She’s as passionate about plants and landscapes as she is about volunteerism.

Before spring planting, Lori and her team check in with food-shelf operators to determine what type of produce is in demand. Last year, in response to a request for more ethnic produce, the team planted bok choy and edamame, in addition to rows of tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, chard, beans, carrots, cauliflower and other vegetables.

Lori checks on the garden a couple times a week, eyeing its progress and needs, and leads employee volunteers in weekly activities that include cultivating, planting, weeding and fertilizing.

“Fortunately, the watering is being taken care of by General Mills’ satellite controlled sprinkler systems,” says Lori with a smile.

As the vegetables are harvested throughout the summer, Lori and other volunteers bag the produce and deliver it the food shelves themselves.

While the “Giving Garden” team is a committed group, Lori is always on lookout for more volunteers.

“We’re brainstorming ways to connect our employees and retirees with the cause itself,” she says. “General Mills employees are very volunteer-focused. I think when more of them in the area learn about the garden, and the mission behind it, we may need to expand it again.”

The garden is supported by the General Mills Foundation with assistance from the company’s Green Giant Research Center in LeSueur, Minnesota and Corporate Services department.