Gardening: A Big Idea at Our Big Fan Company

 Gardening at Lexington's Big Fan Company

Gardening at Lexington's Big Fan Company

Farm2Lex founder and local food accelerator Shawn Burns recently arranged for the Local Food Percolator (you're invited) to visit the productive vegetable gardens at Lexington's famously cheeky (yes, I said it) "engineering company that makes big fans." Google maps calls the company "Big Fans," so we'll do that, too. If you have not heard of this iconic, successful, proud, funny Lexington-based company, visit their website.

In addition to making excellent, huge fans, this company excels at public relations. (Yes, I'm helping with that right now, I know. Happy to do it.) Recently they got "earned media" for a video sendup of the complaints they receive about their company name. And during a tour of the manufacturing plant that followed our group's idyll among the garden plants, a skilled tour guide mentioned the "Can it be destroyed" videos showcasing the Yellow Jacket, a particularly tough free-standing fan.

I'm really here to talk about this company's garden, though. Rogelio Carbajal, the company's maintenance supervisor, planted and maintains a garden that has more than doubled in size in two years. Even after a drought and even late in the season, Rogelio's plants hung full of sweet and hot peppers, tomatillos, okra, and multi-colored tomatoes. Ripening watermelons and different types of cantaloupes and other melons punctuated vines on the ground.

Rogelio told us that Carey Smith, the company's president and a gardener himself, came up with the idea of the garden as a way to enrich employees' experience and contribute to their health. Rogelio said he hadn't harvested fruit and vegetables in a few days because he wanted our group to see the productivity of the space, even with this year's challenging weather. The garden offers Big Fans an opportunity to be generous with its people and its visitors alike. I left with a hot pepper and super-sweet cantaloupe myself.

The garden surrounds the company's outdoor lunch spot, and it offers that lively, healthy feeling all well-tended gardens give us. The newest section of the garden is easy to see from Leestown Road. A stretch of grass still separates the garden from the busy highway. I will be surprised if that grassy area does not keep giving way to more food-bearing plants.

I look for more companies to grow gardens and make it possible for their employees to grow and enjoy fresh produce. I look for more grass to yield to edible plants, all over town, in front of businesses, beside homes, all around schools, hospitals, prisons. I appreciate Big Fans showing the way.

 Company garden harvest at Big Fans, Lexington, Kentucky

Company garden harvest at Big Fans, Lexington, Kentucky

Big Fans' Creative Design Manager Ericka Strecker, who had arranged our tour, sent a photo the day after the Percolator tour. Rogelio completed the postponed harvest, and wanted to show us the results. I say the results are beautiful:

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