For seven years, Farm Bureau has cultivated one of the most consistent and successful Corporate Giving Garden in the central Iowa area. Involving around 70 employee volunteers, they create a space onsite not only for employees to give back to their community, but a chance for garden volunteers to connect with their colleagues.
The spirit of volunteering has been an important part of the culture at Farm Bureau Financial Services for years. Some of their events include donation drives, Habitat for Humanity builds, Special Olympic events, youth literacy kit construction, and Quilts of Valor donations for local veterans. Perhaps one of their larger initiatives is their Corporate Giving Garden, which is going on its eighth year in operation.
Corporate Giving Gardens were initiated by United Way of Central Iowa to provide companies an opportunity to build a garden and donate the freshly grown produce to those in need throughout the community. They also give employees a chance to work with their colleagues outside of the office while creating a positive impact in the community. Because Farm Bureau has such a large agricultural focus, this volunteer opportunity was a great chance for them to utilize their business superpower to create an impact.
While everyone helps with planting, employees are then divided up into five to seven smaller teams to work in the garden together. Each team consists of about 10 employees. Individuals can request partners or groups and can even create a team within their department to foster a team bonding opportunity. These teams then work in the garden for one to two weeks out of the summer on a rotation. This not only helps the garden thrive, but also divides the workload evenly across the 50-70 volunteers. When it comes time for harvesting, all of the volunteers come to help so they can see the results of their summer-long project. Employees consistently talk about how participating in the garden is a positive experience not only because they are giving back, but also because of the relationships built with their co-workers outside of their day-to-day tasks.
Because it has one of the oldest Corporate Giving Gardens, Farm Bureau had the opportunity to help other companies start Giving Gardens by acting as a mentor. Representatives from Farm Bureau meet with other company leaders to share their success, processes, and any helpful tips for getting started. When the Corporate Giving Garden at Farm Bureau first started, John Deere volunteers acted as their mentor, which made the process much less daunting and smoother overall. This also provided an additional networking opportunity among companies, as now they hold annual meetings to discuss highs and lows, share ideas, and collaborate on how to improve their Corporate Giving Gardens.
Over the past seven years, Farm Bureau has seen both growth in the size of the garden and also consistency in how much produce is donated year after year. Each year they donate about 2,000 pounds of produce. Their highest donation was in 2019, coming out to 2,832 pounds of produce. Their 2020 produce donation brought the total to 15,500 pounds of food donated since 2014.
Volunteering has the power to raise morale, create a sense of purpose, and of course, create positive, lasting change in our community. United Way of Central Iowa can help organize impactful events that best align with the initiatives and goals of your organization, company, or group. If you are interested in hosting your own volunteer event with United Way of Central Iowa, contact Anna Schaber, Volunteer Engagement Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org