Garden Keeps on Giving

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Cummins Power Generation employees and residents of an affordable housing complex near the plant tend to one of the straw bale gardens established in developments outside the complex. Employees expanded the gardens to locations outside the plant in 2011 to help meet the need for healthy vegetables in the community.


Where one seed is planted, the harvest can be plentiful.

One year after a Community Giving Garden was installed next to the Cummins Power Generation Plant in Fridley, Minn., the initiative using straw bale gardening has spread to other Cummins sites and several community partner locations as well.

That’s why the Giving Garden – which was a 2010 Environmental Challenge winner – was awarded Best Continuation of a Project as part of the 2011 Environmental Challenge.


“The impacts of the Giving Garden are many, and they keep growing,” said Project Management Analyst Melissa King. Her 2010 Community Impact Six Sigma Project identified a need in the community for fresh produce – especially among low income residents. That led to the Fridley Giving Garden.

“From the straw-bale concept itself– which is a more sustainable alternative to traditional gardening – to the impact on employees and the recipients of the produce, it truly is a partnership that benefits the local community on so many levels,” she added. “We’re proud to watch it grow.”

Straw bales can be placed virtually anywhere as they do not require soil like a traditional in-ground garden. Employees volunteer their time to plant, harvest and donate the produce to local nonprofit organizations. Other benefits include:

  • Soil and water conservation;
  • No pesticides and low fertilizer use, resulting in little or no water contamination;
  • Composting of garden waste; and
  • A greatly reduced carbon footprint.

The first year was a tremendous success and attracted a lot of attention throughout the Company. The strong interest in community gardening led to another Six Sigma project, this time led by Global Brand & Internal Communications Analyst Elena Grimm. She explored creating a standardized process and “garden toolkit.”

The resulting project guide is already being distributed and used by Cummins locations around the world.

In addition, Cummins inspired and helped support  gardens at several housing sites for low-income residents in the Fridley area, empowering others to take a direct role in community gardening that will lead to healthier, more sustainable communities.


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