St Gobain's Garden

I had the pleasure of attending St.-Gobain Corporation’s Open House and view their Community Organic Garden today. Chuck Ernst and Ron Miros joined me. Staffed by 68 volunteers, and only in its first season this array of 20 raised beds has already provided 2000 pounds of organic produce to go to organizations such as Chester County Food Bank (CCFB) and our own Food Closet.

While there we enjoyed talking with some of the volunteers---all wearing lime-green Volunteer shirts---who had taken a break from their office work to appreciate the outside as they harvested bushels of peppers and tomatoes; a newly-planted crop brussel sprouts, beets and turnips were just beginning to push through the soil. The cherry tomatoes were practically falling off the vine, so we were happy to sample those sweet little morsels. One of the volunteers told me they had supplied what they thought were regular peppers to an organization. A bite into the red cylindrical-shaped vegetable proved they were indeed very hot peppers. As a result, St.-Gobain will now deliver those particular peppers in red bags!

After a time of mingling with the volunteers and other guests we were welcomed by Carmen Ferrigno, VP, Communications who explained a little about the garden project. Once the idea was conceived, an Exton company, Triskeles, came to the St.-Gobain campus to get the ball rolling. David Ryle,Triskeles’ Food for All Program Director, explained the process: his company came in, built the 20 beds, each with its own watering system, showed the volunteers how, what and when to plant and the the best time to harvest each vegetable. This little life-giving oasis will produce its bounty over 3 seasons.

Though deer cannot access the garden, another nasty little predatory pest, which I had the opportunity to see on a tomato plant, is the Tobacco Hornworm, This garden gobbler would devastate a crop if not for the Parasitic Wasps who lay their eggs on the back of the caterpillar to render them harmless through paralysis---got to see that too! You can also watch nature at work here.

Having this opportunity was informative and inspiring. I learned so much about the hidden nature of hunger. Although Chester County is the wealthiest in the state, 1 out of 10 children goes hungry; while these families may have access to some food, it’s often a choice between buying food or paying bills----and the food generally is processsed, certainly not organic.

Community gardens like S-G are partnering with food-distribution organizations such as CCFB to deliver organic food to 140 organizations all over the county. Again, our Food Closet is a beneficiary of some of the 2.7million pounds of food CCFB provides each year.

I am grateful for the serendipitous experience of this little gem tucked away, just off Rte. 401...and for the unexpected invitation from Carmen Ferigno to come inside for lunch. There, we learned more than I can possibly explain about this fascinating company and how ecologically cutting-edge their buildings are: carefully designed for optimal working conditions with state of the art sound proofing, windows that change color depending on the light and temperature, a farm-to-table menu for its employees, and of course, a fitness center. I found this description here.

“At the new Saint-Gobain North American Headquarters, we’re not just surrounded by more than 50 products from our family of companies – we’re surrounded by nature at every desk, office, meeting room and common space. Our connection to the outdoors means improved health, comfort and productivity, and of course, it’s all sustainable.”

As a final point of interest, St.-Gobain, a 350-year-old French company provided the glass for Louis XIV’s Palace of Versaille. I encourage you to call to set up a tour of this remarkable facility.