"Healthy Eating Starts at Firm's Garden" - Tallahassee Democrat Thurs., Nov 17th, 2011

[Garden installed by Tallahassee Food Gardens featured in Democrat.]

By Elizabeth M. Mack
Democrat staff writer

Turnips, cabbage and radishes are all fall vegetables that can be found in any home or community garden.

But what about at work?

The employees at FBMC Benefits Management started an urban garden of their own in the spring, said Glenda Atkinson, FBMC wellness coordinator.

The garden is part of the company's many wellness programs, Atkinson said. FBMC has had a wellness program for than 20 years offering employees yoga classes, a workout area on site and cooking classes.

Wednesday afternoon the company received recognition from the American Heart Association as one of its Fit-Friendly Companies — an honor FBMC received for the third consecutive year. It also received the Workforce Innovation Award for implementing the garden in its wellness program.

"You guys have done a wonderful job," said Kellie Thigpen, American Heart Association regional director. "You're the only company in Tallahassee that is doing anything like this."

Atkinson said that she got the idea to do the garden after realizing how the concept had been picked up around the community. When it started, there were only four 4-by-4-foot plant beds. It has now doubled, with hopes of even more expansion, Atkinson added. The garden's upkeep — planting, watering and harvesting — is done entirely by employees.

"This garden has gotten a lot of love," she said. "Everyone helps out in taking care of it. And it allows us to get outside, be active, and it relaxes you."

FBMC, which manages health plans and other employee benefits for its various clients, has a staff of 130 in Tallahassee.

Once the spring vegetables were harvested, FBMC held a healthy cooking demonstration, using the vegetables from the garden. Some employees have even started their own gardens at home.

"Everyone has been really happy about it," she said. "It's been really worthwhile."

And now that the garden is nearing another harvest, the employees decided they wanted to "share the wealth."

On Saturday, a full plant bed of turnips will be donated to the "Man in Overalls" food bank, Atkinson added.

"So now, not only will they feel good health wise, but they can feel good knowing they are helping out others in the community," Akinson said.