JOLIET –Will County Health Department employees with a green thumb can soon till the soil at work. Approximately 20 plots are planned for the current growing season and the project will likely expand next year.
At least 35 employees have signed up for an innovative program spearheaded by the agency’s employee wellness committee and the University of Illinois Extension. Participants will try their hand at growing vegetables and herbs in raised garden plots located at the Health Department’s 501 Ella Avenue facility in Joliet.
Employees need only to supply seedlings, gardening tools and a nominal plot rental to help support garden upkeep. The Illinois Extension (Joliet office), is donating fresh soil, wood to support the raised plots, mulch, composting bins and master gardening expertise.
Weather permitting, Health Department volunteers and Extension master gardeners will build the plots May 31. Planting can begin June 2.
“Employees will be able to work on their plots during lunch, on break time, and before or after work,” according to Health Department Executive Director John Cicero, who is teaming with three other employees on a plot. “We believe this project is a good way to help employees get a little exercise during the workday, connect with nature and build relationships with co-workers. It’s an excellent opportunity to promote worksite wellness.”
Because the gardens are organic, no synthetic or chemical pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides can be used. Each plot will be approximately five feet long and five feet wide.
The Health Department was a 2013 recipient of the WeWill Work Healthy Award, a worksite wellness recognition project sponsored by Will County’s Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships Collaborative. The agency also earned American Heart Association Fit-Friendly Worksite recognition in 2013 and 2014. The Health Department’s 15-person Wellness Committee sponsors numerous projects designed to help co-workers wishing to experience wellness opportunities on the job.