Gardening competition is heating up

0 Comments 📅June 22nd, 2011, 15:36

We have a great team at the Knoxville Convention Center. It is a small team – only 42 full-time employees – but we have a big job to do. We hosted nearly 250,000 guests at more than 200 events last year and brought a significant amount of new business to Knoxville.

254181_2170075094872_1336570894_2649040_6448537_n-300x225Of course, we did not do that alone. We have many dedicated part-time employees who make sure our guests are well taken care of at the center. But it is the full-time staff members that have to work together to make sure it all happens. Teamwork is critical.

That’s why we turned our latest environmental initiative into a team-building exercise.

Last winter we grew our own micro-greens in a closet we converted into a mini greenhouse. Our very first crop netted a cost savings and provided us with some delicious fresh greens. It was such a success we decided to expand our gardening program and turned the idea into a friendly competition among colleagues. Very competitive colleagues.

There was a small patch of soil available in the outside planters that we had recently begun to replant. Several patches of soil, in fact. So we divided the staff into six different teams and gave each a planter to use and nine weeks to help our sustainability efforts by growing a usable garden. They would be judged on team spirit, unity, aesthetics of the planter and yield. And of course we want the crops to be usable in our menu.

We are about halfway through the competition now, and have already seen some tasty results. We have harvested basil, tomatoes, swiss chard and edible flowers. And we are seeing some progress on our other produce as well.

I guess it is unfair to ask you to cheer for my team, the Black-eyed Peas. You may prefer the Salsa Gals who planted a salsa garden with some horse manure from team member Rebecca Williams’ horse farm. Is that cheating? Or perhaps you like what’s growing in one of the other four planters. If you drive around the Cumberland Avenue turnaround at the Convention Center you can check out our new gardens for yourself.

The final results will be determined by an independent panel of judges. But no matter which team wins, Executive Chef Chris Moore says it’s our guests that are the real winners. According to him, there is nothing that makes a dish more delicious than fresh ingredients.

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