“Growing Community Through Gardening” is a 2016 REME Award-winning
health and wellness initiative started by
Astar/Cardinal Capital Management. Initially visualized as an opportunity for residents to participate in growing and sharing garden vegetables with each other, this
program has evolved into much more. By
utilizing corporate donations and volunteer manpower, residents are able to plan,
tend, harvest, cook, compost and socialize
in an effort to build healthier lives, while
enjoying fresh produce grown in their own
A SEED OF AN IDEA…
Judy Leiterman, CPM, Carol Keen, CPM
and Chris Geiger, CPM, were the Astar/
Cardinal employees who first initiated
the gardening program. Ownership challenged them to find a way to fund the program outside of existing operating budgets.
So, calls were made to the corporate office
to pitch vegetable gardening at their apartment communities. Amazingly, enough
capital was provided in the first year to
create 21 garden beds. Materials were acquired with a discount provided through
a community donation agreement with
Home Depot. Geiger and his wife, Karla,
built the beds at each apartment site and
invited other office staff to fill them with
topsoil and plant vegetables. Once planted,
they were turned over to the residents for
the remainder of the growing season.
At the end of that first season, group
meetings were held with the residents who
participated in growing and harvesting to
gauge successes and needed improvements
for the following year. Fresh salsa made
with vegetables harvested from the site gardens was enjoyed at each meeting. In each
successive year since, a minimum of 19 new beds have been added to sites throughout
…GROWS BEYOND EXPECTATIONS
The program was envisioned as an amenity to allow residents to interact in a new activity,
but staff highly underestimated the enthusiasm by which the program would be received!
• Journals were kept by the residents showing watering, weeding and fertilizing schedules.
• Residents started sharing meals together before and after each gardening session, which
led to the creation of a garden-grown cookbook that was shared with corporate donors
who then increased their subsequent donations.
• Composting and birdwatching activities grew from initial interest in the gardening program.
• Year-end pot luck gatherings are held that utilize ingredients from the garden.
• Cooking classes are being taught in community kitchens, again utilizing garden produce.
• Residents follow @gardeningwhpc on Twitter to stay current with gardening initiatives.
The program continues to improve and grow with each year. Over its first four seasons,
almost $50,000 has been raised through donations. Last year, the program was enhanced
through the addition of volunteer hours provided by corporate partners. Approximately
250 hours of volunteer time are given each year to maintain and grow the gardening program!
In five years, the “Growing Community Through Gardening” program has provided
106 garden beds at 56 apartment sites, increased social interaction, facilitated physical
activity, improved psychological well-being and promoted healthier food options among
residents. Astar/Cardinal’s goal is to reach all 153 project sites and provide this same opportunity to each resident. With over 8,500 units of residential housing, almost 12,000
individual residents have the opportunity to be affected by this program!
CORPORATE AND SOCIAL
West Allis, Wis.
< Karla Geiger
(center left) and
Chris Geiger, CPM
accept the REME
Award for Astar/
IREM’s 2016 Fall
Conference in San