Feb 01, 2013 • By

The giving trees of Irapuato keep on growing

Planting and taking care of trees requires some practice, and a little patience and perseverance. But when you learn how to do it, it becomes a lot easier – and very satisfying.

At our General Mills facility in Irapuato, Mexico, we’ve been germinating tree seedlings at our Green Giant greenhouse and then planting them throughout south central Mexico for more than 15 years.

The project started small with two employees, Mike McCully, who has since retired, and Carlos Llamas, our agronomist who oversees the greenhouses for Green Giant. Both were interested in native trees and plants and the long-term effects of deforestation.

So we started germinating ash, huisache, jacaranda, mesquite, pine and pirule seedlings and then encouraging General Mills colleagues, friends and their families to help plant the trees once they grew to be about 5-feet high.

It’s been a lot of fun for families to get outside and share their love of nature, and we’ve also learned a lot about how trees can help prevent soil erosion and preserve soil moisture. But the really exciting thing is how many other people and organizations that are now planting trees with us.

Elementary schools, local communities, area farmers, non-governmental organizations and other companies – including General Motors – are among the many companies, groups and organizations that have joined us in this effort.

In 2011-2012, we grew and planted (with help from many of our friends and organizations) more than 11,000 trees – more than in all of the earlier years combined. Once word got out about our tree-planting program, everyone wanted to get involved.

We recently set a goal to plant a total of 500,000 trees. That’s our best estimate of the number of trees it would take to make our Irapuato facility “carbon neutral,” meaning the trees we plant will absorb enough carbon dioxide into the air to offset the carbon dioxide we create in making our products.

That’s a lot of trees. But it’s also a lot of fun to get together with friends and family to bring new life to our communities.

Visitors to our Irapuato facility are asked to plant a tree, and their names are written on a stake.

Now, whenever someone visits our plant, we ask them to plant a tree – as my colleague Bridget Christenson did last fall.

Maybe you could plant some trees in your community?