You had a longtime career as a CEO in the hospitality business, as well as a consultancy in the space, but you made a major pivot in your 60’s. Tell us what precipitated what we call the “rewire.”
My “rewiring” has been a two-step process. In 2001, I led a hospitality organization in lower Manhattan and witnessed 9/11 firsthand. This life-changing event caused my initial shift to leave the corporate world and relocate my wife and children to our upstate home in Woodstock NY. My vision was for a simpler and well-balanced life for us all. During the next 10 years, we built and created a successful Bed and Breakfast. My creative energy moved me toward my love of vegetable gardening, and I became a certified organic master gardener.
Fast forward to 2019… As our children moved into their own adult lives, I reentered the NYC hospitality industry and began a thriving consulting company. My hospitality background expanded into projects such as the SHED in Hudson Yards, The Javits Center Expansion Project, and The Glasshouse. COVID-19 arrived, and my consulting retainerships were dissolved. Entering my 60th year, I faced another professional challenge. Fortunately, I was an active yoga practitioner and accessed the philosophies of the practice to stay present.
As vegetable gardening was my primary passion, I realized this may be an exceptional opportunity to share this skill set with the corporate community.
Companies were exploring enhancing the corporate culture and employee engagement during this tumultuous time.
I worked to create the Pike Lane Gardens brand; A vegetable gardening platform to provide company wellness and teach the foundations of organic gardening. Using an impactful, lighthearted teaching approach, individuals would learn to grow fresh and nutritious vegetables in their homes, whether in an urban, suburban, or rural environment. I designed seasonal gardening kits, monthly webinar programs, and garden-to-kitchen classes to generate excitement. A positive experience and personalized attention would support successful programs.
Accessing my existing corporate relationships was instrumental in introducing my programs to human resource and wellness leaders.
Pike Lane Gardens was born!
Pike Lane Gardens Wellness and Sustainability Programs are a unique way for companies to engage their employees in a unique group effort in organic gardening. What are some of the most popular programs?
Vegetable gardening is a 12-month adventure! Starting in January, team members learn the difference between what they WANT to grow, versus what they CAN grow. You can’t have a pumpkin patch on your urban balcony! Students learn to start seeds indoors during the cold months with a curated Indoor Seed Starting Kit. They experience firsthand that caring for a small seed will develop into a thriving tomato plant providing 10 pounds of cherry tomatoes.
All participants learn to grow several vegetables within a limited growing space. The Spring Kit features pickling cucumbers and lettuce seeds with a collapsible canvas growing container. Gardeners will grow their own cucumbers and can produce their own garlic and dill pickles with the Summer Kit. Garlic is the last vegetable to be planted into the ground in late October. Members receive the Fall Kit with 3 varieties of Hard-neck garlic, a peeler, and a press. People follow along, learning how to create a selection of roasted garlic and herb crostinis!
The webinar section of the program teaches you how to care for your garden with proven planting and harvesting techniques, how to deal with challenging critters that damage your garden, and how to use compost in your rural or urban home.
The workshops occur virtually from Pike Lane Gardens in Woodstock and include live demonstrations, Q&A, and hands-on learning. Each workshop is recorded and sent to those participants who cannot attend a specific workshop.
Some organizations create a dedicated social media platform where Pike Lane Gardens can answer questions and provide tips to gain confidence for these new gardeners.
Tell us about a great example of a successful program. How can people learn more about Pike Lane Gardens and get involved?
I have been fortunate to work with several forward-thinking companies within the United States. These firms desire programs that contribute to the environmental, social, and governance Impact and provide employee education supporting sustainability initiatives.
Tiffany and Company requested the creation of a program to support their LEED status and provide a wellness program for employees. Partnering with Pike Lane Gardens, we developed an annual program including seasonal activation kits, webinars, garden-to-kitchen classes, and onsite planting workshops.
One hundred and seventy-five garden club members from eight states, including NY, NJ, PA, GA, MD, IN, CT, and RI, received a branded welcome gift in December and a syllabus of the adventure that awaited!
Once employees began returning to the offices, we created 3 onsite presentation gardens in their NYC corporate headquarters and NJ production facilities.
We then developed a champion program where three members from each location cared for the onsite gardens and received weekly tips and tools to advance their home gardens. The vegetables grown at the onsite locations mirrored the ones that people grew in their homes. This allowed an opportunity for team members to bond, raise overall employee awareness, and stimulate conversation.
We enjoyed a harvest bounty celebration in August with a rooftop luncheon featuring menu items from our garden. Early wonder beets, rocket arugula, sugar snap peas, sun gold cherry tomatoes, red Russian kale, pickling cucumbers, and Genovese basil and green beans were all part of this delightful meal creatively prepared by their in-house food service company, Restaurant Associates.
Now, at 63, I have happily “re-imagined” a new professional direction. I share my passion, positively impact the corporate community, and manage my own company.
People can learn about the selection of programs at www.pikelanegardens.com or enjoy stories and gardening tips at @pike_lane_gardens on Instagram.
Let’s get Growin!