OGDEN -- While many businesses have perks like free coffee, Fresenius Medical Care has come up with something a little different -- an employee garden.
Mary Foss, utilities manager, said after hearing about different community gardens she had the idea to turn some unused property behind the Fresenius building, 475 W. 13th St., into a company version.
"I just thought why not?" she said.
The company brought in some topsoil, laid pathways and ran water pipes to the area. The employees had to bring whatever they wanted to plant and a hose to water their plot.
Foss said they got a great response when the program was announced, and only two of the 72 plots are empty right now.
For an experienced gardener like John Oliver, the plot gives him something to do on breaks and is a place for him to experiment.
Oliver said he has a garden at home and one his neighbor lets him use. But in this garden, he tries new things to see what else he can do at home.
The garden also is a way for him to see results for a project more quickly than he does in his job at Fresenius, where his work in research and development can take a few years.
Some people took a couple of plots, others banded together with coworkers to share one, but overall everyone seems to be enjoying it, Foss said. There are three rules for the garden: don't take other people's stuff, harvest your food and weed your plot.
Oliver said one of his employees even won second place in the Weber County Fair for a tomato and a pepper grown in the garden.
"There's a lot of people involved, a lot of interest from people, which I think is really cool," he said.
For Efrain Mejia, the garden is a chance to bring really fresh food into his cooking. Mejia is the executive chef and manager at Fresenius for Bon Appetit, a catering company.
He said the company already challenges chefs to try to prepare locally grown food. When he and his employees got a chance to grow some food on site, they jumped right in.
Bon Appetit is all about good food and good flavor, so being able to pick peppers, zucchini and tomatoes right outside the building helps them achieve that, he said. And the customers are noticing.
"Definitely our customers can tell the difference between (a tomato) picked up a week ago and the one picked this morning," Mejia said. "They definitely can taste the difference in flavor. This was our very first time gardening, so some plants didn't grow, but it has been a great experience, and we're committed to getting better results."
Harvesting food, even though it's in small amounts, also has given them a greater respect for the farmers they work with, he said.
Mike Henrie said it's not only good to get out during the day sometimes, but the Fresenius garden gives him room to plant things he couldn't in his home garden. And the fence running around Fresenius property is nice to keep out wildlife that may want to nibble on the produce, he said.
Seeing land that was previously just weeds turn into something useful has been exciting, Henrie said.
Foss said because the response has been so good, they plan to do the garden again. The garden didn't get started until the end of May, and the weather was cold and rainy into June. Foss said she hopes with advance warning and better weather the crops will do even better next year.
"My secret goal is to have other businesses think, 'We should do this,' " she said.
Being able to share a plot with her co-workers has been fun, said Shirly Hart, and the chocolate zucchini bread a fellow gardener brought in to share doesn't hurt either.