Farm & Ranch
I’m getting into the gardening game, and I’m a little nervous. I’ve signed up for a 10x10 garden plot in our American Family Insurance community garden.
It’s a little intimidating because we’ve got some very talented home gardeners around here. They’re talking about straw bale gardens and raised bed gardens. Josh Feyen on our social media team even has a blog about urban gardening – and he just planted an orchard in his small, urban front yard!
Me? I’ve had a few tomato plants around the yard. A few herbs. Some ailing blueberry bushes. But this is the first time I’m plotting out a garden.
My family loves the farm-fresh produce we can get in the summer, and we bike each summer Saturday up to the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison, Wis. So it’s natural for us to expand our own gardening effort.
Having our own garden is also going to be a way for us to give back to the community. Local food pantries want donations of fresh produce, and we’ll share some of our garden’s bounty with them.
Over the next several weeks, American Family Insurance is working to raise awareness of the opportunity to donate produce through our Pledge to Plant a Row effort on Facebook. We’re asking people to take that pledge, set aside a row of produce and donate it to a local food bank. For every pledge made between now and June 20, we’ll donate $1 to Feeding America, up to $5,000.
This is part of our ongoing effort to help fight hunger in our communities and help raise awareness of this important issue. It builds on last fall’s effort to support the National FFA Organization’s Rally to Fight Hunger, which was backed by more than 20,000 of our Facebook fans and funded 50,000 prepackaged meals.
Whether you’re a veteran gardener or just getting started, I hope you’ll join us in this pledge, and connect with us on Facebook, where we’ll be sharing information about supporting local food pantries, statistics on the impact hunger has in our communities, and ways for you to help.
Celebrating fall in the Midwest means getting outside as much as possible before the snow and cold arrive. Picking apples, choosing just the right pumpkin and visiting corn mazes are part of the celebrations.
This year, our social media team decided to create a Corny Corn Maze Survival Tips video to celebrate this great fall tradition. This is kind of out there for us: traditionally, we’re not really funny. But we decided to have some fun and with the help of the fabulous team at Treinen Farms in Lodi, Wis., we created the video with practical tips.
Take a look, and let me know what you think!
It was July when we started working on this video, right in the middle of the devastating drought. Looking ahead to the harvest and reading about the impact it would have on grocery prices, we started thinking about the issue of hunger.
We decided we wanted to do something, and fortunately were able to expand on an existing partnership with the National FFA Organization and support their Rally to Fight Hunger. We could have just given them money, but decided to take this on as a social cause, using our Facebook community to help raise the money and spread the word about the impact hunger has on American families.
The support has been impressive. Our customers and other Facebook fans have left many positive comments thanking us for our support, and to them I say “thank YOU!”
They’ve put the social in this social cause, helping us to spread the word about the FFA’s great work.
Celebrating with a little bit of humor, addressing a serious national issue and watching people rally around a common cause. It’s been a good few weeks.
I like to garden, put vegetable plants and seeds in the ground and see what happens. I like to tend the plants, watch them grow, flower and start to fruit. I wait impatiently for a tomato to turn just the right shade of red before picking it.
So it comes as no surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to ask for one of the 56 10x10-foot plots in American Family's new community garden on the company’s National Headquarters grounds.
What did surprise me is what happened next.
I talk about the garden with anyone who has five minutes to listen. I explain how proud I am what we've built in just two years. I describe how the community garden is much bigger than a 10x10-foot plot. I show off photos of the garden, gardeners and the produce we harvest. I talk about the 377 pounds of fresh produce we donated to food pantries in the Madison, Wis., area this year.
We call it a "community garden" for a reason. Our community garden has 118 plots, but many more people are involved. I've seen husband-wife teams, entire families and small groups of coworkers work garden plots together.
I'm always meeting new people in the garden. We share seeds, gardening tips and recipes. Together, we celebrate that great big onion (a one-pound onion) and mourn together the loss of a plant or an entire patch of sweet corn (darn raccoons!). And I've met children who wouldn't touch a green bean but after growing them, can't get enough.
My involvement with the community garden is an incredibly engaging and educational process. Not only do I go to work each day, I visit my plot before or after work. I joined the garden committee. Then I volunteered to be a garden monitor. Now in our second year, I volunteered to co-chair the garden's leadership team.
The community garden is also part of American Family's overall sustainability efforts. The garden sits on previously unused land, making it productive. In addition to 118 individual plots, we planted six fruit trees that will eventually be harvested by community members. And being right here on the company's national headquarters campus, people don't have to drive far or out of their way to get to it because most of us tend our gardens before or after work.
The garden has also sparked my interest in writing about it, so I started a personal blog about urban gardening, where I encourage people to comment, share their perspectives and have gardening fun.
Josh Feyen is a social media specialist at American Family Insurance, where he also grows vegetables in a community garden plot. Josh writes about his gardening adventures in The Urbane Farmer blog.
My mom always told me – it’s better to give than to receive. She’s right. But it’s even better to support something you know will make a difference.
American Family recently began its support of the National FFA Organization’s Rally to Fight Hunger. This “social cause” lives on our company’s Facebook page and requires some action from you. For every new person who “likes” the page from now through Oct. 31, our company will donate $1 toward fighting hunger in the U.S. (up to $20,000). You can monitor this progress on Facebook or our website.
In working with the dedicated people of the National FFA Organization, I learned about the widening scope of hunger. In the coming year, nearly one in five U.S. children will face the risk of hunger.
That’s too many.
We can’t eliminate hunger with money alone. But by partnering with organizations like FFA – that understand hunger and food insecurity – American Family can make a bigger impact with our donation. It will fund as many as 50,000 prepackaged meals being assembled at the FFA’s Rally to Fight Hunger, part of the organization’s national convention in Indianapolis in October.
I’d encourage you to connect with us on Facebook where we’ve been sharing some of this information, to help educate our community about the prevalence and impact of hunger. We want to help feed more hungry families, but we also want to shine a stronger light on this issue.
You can help, too. Talk with your friends and family about this important cause. Share the information from our Facebook and Twitter pages. Watch and share our YouTube video, which goes into more detail about FFA’s program. Help us reach our goal – and in the process, educate more people on the issue of hunger.
As Oprah Winfrey once said, “I think [giving is] an ongoing process. And it's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life.”
Thanks for your willingness to give and touch lives in simple ways.