So many of us suffer from nature deficit: we spend lots of time indoors, staring at screens both large and small. This is tiring to our brains and our eyeballs, and keeps us from enjoying a connection with trees, plants, and open space.
With the understanding that taking a break in nature is good for our brains and our productivity, an innovative California-based company called Farmscape is working to bring greenery and farming into corporate and urban landscapes.
Image of STEM Kitchen and Garden SF
Farmscape installs and maintains raised vegetable beds and other farming solutions in residential and commercial gardens. The gardens offer a space for employees (or residents) to unplug and unwind, and sometimes, depending on the company, actually engage in the process of growing their food.
Founder Lara Hermanson explains that different companies have different greenery needs and they are able to work with a range of options, but the goal is to get people to unplug from their devices.
For example, at the Clif Bar headquarters in Emeryville, California, employees stroll through the garden all day long on their way from the front door to their in-house coffeeshop. Other companies have monthly programs to get employees working. Classes can include harvesting techniques, planning for spring, pest control, and more.
Benefits of Farming at Work
One of their big projects is AT&T park in San Francisco, which they took over in 2015. There are beautiful towers and gardens, which then created more interest from other big clients. Their current portfolio includes Oracle, North Face, and Levi’s Stadium, where they did a redesign and installation and now do ongoing maintenance.
The North Face’s headquarters use a solar system shading in the parking lot, walking trails on the estuary, and drought tolerant, native plant landscaping. The HQ’s campus landscaping was designed by April Philips of April Philips Design Works. “The vision is for a highly sustainable, LEED Platinum campus integrated within the company’s global environmental goals that include exploration and stewardship of the earth,” April states.
Depending on the size available for growing, the gardens can range from small beds to larger plots with vineyards and orchards. The larger the space, the more produce is available for employees and residents to handpick fruit and vegetables for dinner, while also spending stress-free time outdoors digging and weeding with Farmscape’s hands-on, local farmers.
To date, the company has spearheaded over 700 gardens. These are 25% more cost effective to run than traditional landscape setups — excellent farm-focused landscaping can bring in up to 28% ROI on property values, with homes that have ample plants and shrubs selling 15% faster when listed on the market.
Founder Hermanson works with all types of gardens (hydroponic, aeroponic, and soil-based) depending on clients’ needs and the local climate. Indoor solutions might be good in cities like Seattle, but if there is California sunshine available, she prefers to work with real gardens in real soil.
Many of these tech-forward solutions are truly innovative ways to include greenery and vegetables in soil-limited environments, but nothing competes with getting your hands in the soil (as a former farmer, I would definitely agree). About these new technologies, she says it’s definitely important to keep innovating in the plant and vegetable space. But really, the lowest-tech solutions are the best to connect with the plants and with Nature.
Sustainability Measures of Farmscape:
◊ Farmscape uses water-wise drip irrigation to reduce water usage in the garden by up to 70% from traditional sprinkler systems.
◊ Natural soil additives like biochar is used to amend soil and help water and nutrition retention, enrich good bacterial communities, and sequester carbon in the soil.
◊ Farmscape has 10 large commercial projects using recycled water in drought-ridden California.