Whole Foods Market Plants a Garden
West Broad Village now has a community garden that’s growing vegetables, some of which could eventually be sold in the nearby Whole Foods Market.
The garden is 37 thousand square feet.
Smallwood: What we have become acutely aware of is the fact that growing your own food has become a lost part of our culture. And, we'd like to assist people with bringing that back and making it a part of their everyday life.
Whole Food’s Mark Smallwood:
Smallwood: Anybody that wants to learn how to garden, we're going to help out. The five most important things about whole grown are teaching you how to grow; teaching you how to prepare it; preserve it when things are in excess, so, we're going to can, freeze, dehydrate, ferment. We want to teach you how to celebrate it. OK, so, with this garden here in Short Pump, for example, we have a Community Table and the specific purpose for that is to celebrate the food.
Smallwood is a regional Green Mission Specialist--everybody calls him Coach.
Smallwood: This is just Phase One of what is going to be a multi-year project here. And, really, the focus of this space is, beds here for production purposes, we have 16 separate community garden spaces, we have some fruit and berries, so a small orchard, and a lot of educational opportunities. So, that would be the big focus here, is education.
The store is working with Backyard Farmer, a Richmond company that designs, builds, and maintains organic fruit and vegetable gardens, and also does the teaching.
Smallwood: Well, Backyard Farmers are taking care of this all right now. The community beds are up for rental, as we speak, to rent the four foot by twelve foot bed and, if you are a real novice and you're really not sure of what you're doing, the Backyard Farmers will supply you with all of the lessons that you need to grow food in that space, but, they'll also supply you with compost and the bedding plants; they'll help you with the fertilization and so on. Anything at all that you need help with.
Smallwood pointed out that there is a fee for the educational programs. The Village Garden, built entirely of recycled materials, is on land provided by Markel Eagle Partners LLC of Richmond, a major part of the development of West Broad Village.
Manoogian: We just saw that as a natural extension of Live, Work, Play and that sort of quality of life component at West Broad Village that we wanted to be active in trying to support creating that.
Stan Manoogian is President of Markel- Eagle.
Manoogian: I think this is the first time that Whole Foods has had a village garden located coincident with its store on a site in the nation. We're very proud of that.
Coach Smallwood explained that the field-to-store idea is an outgrowth of input from shoppers. As people become more and more aware of where vegetables and other produce and products come from, distance from the farm or garden becomes a consideration.
Smallwood: We started a real push for local a year ago, and part of our commitment to the local producers was to actually make a full-time hire. So, I transitioned from Green Mission into local foraging as a commitment to our producers.
In fact, inside the Whole Foods Market, labels tell you how many miles what you’re looking at traveled.
Smallwood: In terms of local foraging, I visit producers of not just produce--it's in all categories, so, grocery items, as well as meat and fish. ANd, then I do the initial due diligence on those producers to make sure that they are what they say they are.