“All the food grown in our garden is organic—a perfect match for our company café, which features fresh-prepared organic meals made with ingredients sourced from regional farms. The organic garden also aligns with who we are as a company. Three-fourths of all the ingredients we use in Clif Bar foods are organic—and we continue to strive to increase that percentage. We believe organic is key to creating a healthier, more just and sustainable food system.”
– Kate Cunniff, Office Manager, Clif Bar HQ
Clif Bar headquarters in Emeryville, California, has added an organic corporate garden to their campus in recent years to promote employee wellness. They turned to Farmscape’s, Sara Gilligan, a seasoned head farmer, and Nick Smith, installation foreman for Bay area to lead this project. Nick did the construction and installed the irrigation for Clif Bar’s corporate garden, and Sara plants and maintains the crops year around. Together (shown above) they’ve brought Chef Scott Erickson’s truly fresh ingredients supply to life. Being a short 150-step stroll to clip what he needs to cook up delicious organic items for Kali’s Kafe menu, it doesn’t get any fresher than this.
Finding space for a corporate garden isn’t always easy. Especially when your business location is in a densely built urban area. Still, having one at the heart of Clif Bar was important to the company and employees. An old bocce ball court on the premises offered the perfect spot for growing fruits, veggies, and herbs. Sitting in full sun all day, a fence to keep critters and bypassers out, and an oyster shell surface.
It’s not an expansive corporate garden like you see in other parts of the country. But sitting just blocks off the ocean, every square foot of real estate is precious. You can still produce quite a bit of food in smaller gardens today. And with the weather in the Bay area, the garden continues pumping out harvests all year. Which is good, because it’s a Clif Bar employee hot spot for healthy meals.
The corporate garden has 7 raised beds for annual crop rotations. Six measuring 4’x8′ and one that’s 2’x12′. They are all 18″ deep for good rooting space – plenty deep enough for most root vegetables too. They’ve also got 3 recycled wine barrels for planting. Sara’s crew forks in compost and chicken manure to amend the growth media during crop rotation. They also fertilize every month with Farmscape’s signature liquid blend of fish emulsion, kelp, and molasses for an instant boost. To ensure all month crop fertility, they also add a balanced granular feed.
These planters occupy the center of the corporate garden space with access paths on all sides. Nick assembles raised Farmscape planters by securing pre-milled, pre-cut premium redwood boards together with rebar pins that also anchor them to the ground.
Farmscape ran automatic irrigation lines to both garden beds and orchard from a hose bib. Not the simplest task when it calls for trenching through compacted crushed oyster shell! The planters and orchard have separate RainBird timers to ensure appropriate moisture supply. Naturally, it’s drip irrigation to keep water use and waste at a minimum without stressing out plants.
Clif Bar’s corporate garden was just completed in August 2017. The apple, plum, mandarin orange, Meyer lemon, and Eureka lemon trees are all in the beginning stages of espalier training. Give them 2 or 3 years, and they’ll pump out piles of fresh fruit.
The garden is currently growing foods that love the cooler winter weather. So, the cafe menu is making the most of in-season vegetables: peas, 3 different radishes, beets, onions, and turnips. They have leafy greens selection features: mizuna, arugula, Swiss chard, and 2 types of kale. Of course, there are important herbs too: fennel, chives, oregano, mint, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and lemon thyme. The chef likes a colorful garnish with flavor. At the moment he’s taking advantage of edible calendula, nasturtium, and viola flowers.
Some of his harvests go straight to the salad bar, and the smoothies always have dark leafy greens. The herbs wind up in everything from salad dressings to soups. He also makes kimchee with the root veggies and chard.
“It’s been really great for us to have the freshest possible herbs and produce at our fingertips. I love having anything, no matter how small the garden, that close by. Being able to taste and use produce right out of the garden has been fantastic.”
If you’ve followed current urban farming practices, you know that pairing intense planting with solid plant nutrition and wise crop rotation optimizes small space abundance. Farmscape takes full advantage of these practices in Clif Bar’s corporate garden. Sara reports that they’re getting about 3-5 pounds of harvest per square foot. Over an entire year, this garden’s square footage should supply Kali’s Kafe with around 1000 pounds of locally grown goodness. All without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. And while true to the sustainability focus at Clif Bar, the surplus goes home with employees. Nothing goes to waste.
You’ll find more details about the project in this blog post written by Farmscape principal, Lara Hermanson. She worked closely with Chef Erickson and Clif Bar throughout the planning and design process.
Images courtesy of Farmscape.
If you don't find her at the desk - check the gardens. When not writing and weeding, she enjoys a good book, painting junk furniture, and blending the harvest of heirloom tomatoes and chiles into salsas.