Auckland wine and spirit distributor, Hancock’s, has begun harvesting fruit, vegetables, and honey on its warehouse forecourt to help its workers manage the cost of living.
The initiative has seen 20 planter boxes, seven beehives, and 30 fruit trees moved on to the site to help feed the 200 staff.
Finance manager, and garden volunteer, Dave Gollop estimated the initiative saved him at least $20 to $30 a week on groceries.
“It is more than just a garden, it is bringing everyone together and saving us lots of money along the way,” Gollop said
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The garden was available to to all Hancock’s South Auckland staff, and provided them with an estimated 150kg of fresh produce a year.
But Gollop said the garden was also changing the way the business operated.
“It’s been a real educational piece regarding employee wellbeing. The ability to be able to take a break and go out and have a bit of a garden, or taking our meetings while weeding the vegetables, have just been amazing,” he said.
Hancock’s managing director Joe Jakicevich said the initiative was created to provide staff with additional support during the cost-of-living crisis.
Stats NZ data showed the prices of fruit and vegetables increased 17% in the September quarter, and were up 6% over the past year.
Jakicevich said he hoped the program would inspire other organizations to offset inflationary pressure faced in their workforces.
“It’s wonderful to see how proud the teams are of these pods, we call it our community garden and often staff will bring their kids and extended families in to have a look and show them what they’ve been doing,” he said.
Initially the company brought in gardening experts to explain the basics of planting and harvesting to staff, but many had become “green-fingered” throughout the process, he said.
It took three days to set the garden up, and each pod could to produce up to 50 lettuce heads every six weeks, a total of three tons of food a year, he said.
Jakicevich said he hoped to expand the program to the firm’s Christchurch and Wellington sites.
“Pandemic driven food shortages, the rising cost of produce, inflation, petrol and heating is having an impact on all Kiwis. We wanted to do something tangible for our staff, that also gives them a sense of pride and teaches them new skills,” he said.
The garden was part of a $250,000 program including employee health and wellness checks implemented after the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, he said.
Lisa Lowe, owner of Vegepod NZ, said other businesses and households were looking to offset their grocery spending with homegrown produce.
Vegepod NZ had experienced a 55% increase in sales in the past 12 months as the cost of food continued to rise.
Initially sales climbed during the Covid-19 lockdowns, but sales continued to rise as costs, and lack of competition led to fruit and vegetables becoming increasingly increased.
The highest demand for the Vegepods was in central and South Auckland, and the South Island, she said.
There was also a trend among millennials to grow their own produce to lower their food bills, she said.