Macadam Gardens is a young start-up out of Toulouse, France that started out selling organic gardening products online and later decided to create vegetable gardens for companies. “By taking over unused surfaces, like an unoccupied terrace, we can create green spaces and involve employees,” explained co-founder Cédric Jules. “Gardening is an easy activity. It allows employees to get out of the usual routine and it is good for team building.” Macadam Gardens designs, plants and helps run gardens that are designed to require little maintenance since employees must be able to take care of them, usually during their breaks. “We show that it is possible,” said Jules.
In the spring of 2014, Macadam Gardens got involved in its biggest project to date at the Pasteur Clinic in downtown Toulouse in the South of France. The clinic is known as a sustainable development and corporate social responsibility pioneer and wanted to create a garden for the staff. On a 5,000 square-foot terrace, Macadam Gardens set up 150 geotextile planters to grow tomatoes, green beans, strawberries and more. A gardening club was started with about 30 employees who get a hand from an ESAT, an entity that provides work opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.
This summer, Macadam Gardens designed a garden for oncology patients who had expressed an interest in having their own outdoor space to sit with visitors and forget about their illness. “We used a patio, but it was not getting enough light. We had greenery, but the flowers did not do well,” said Jules. “We have a meeting planned to find another solution for next year. A garden is such a nice place to escape from an hospital room.” Macadam Gardens had a young agronomist work on a study. “He showed that the garden worked as a team building activity and a convivial place. There were still barriers such as internal communication about the garden and the lack of time for nurses after their 12-hour shifts.”
In its first year, the garden produced a crop of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, green beans, herbs and edible flowers like nasturtiums and chrysanthemums which were used in the clinic cafeteria to make “hyper local” meals for the staff. At the moment, a massive crop of lettuce is awaiting the beginning of the COP21 climate conference that will take place in France at the end of the month. The lettuce will end up in a “low carbon” salad. This unusual garden has become a magnet: schools and day care centers have visited to taste the difference between homegrown and store-bought strawberries. Recently, neighbors were invited for a tour. “We want our gardens to promote biodiversity and we have several projects with other companies, though none in the medical field. We will be adding beehives, birdhouses and insect-attracting constructions,” explained Jules.