Employees focus on bulbs for Earth Day – but not the kind you are thinking

By Jeff Norwood

If there are any tears in Jake Kailey’s eyes, it is hard to say if they are from planting onions at Waltham Fields Community Farms (WFCF) in Waltham, or from being on one of the winning teams of the National Grid Onion Cup.

Jake, in Technical Sales and Engineering Support NE; and Michele Roche, in Main and Service Replacement NE, led two of the five National Grid teams on an Earth Day volunteer initiative at WFCF.  The five teams, comprising nearly 75 employees, planted onion bulbs at the farm from mid-April through mid-May.

The teams are part of a friendly competition for the National Grid Onion Cup, which is awarded to the group that plants the most onions, according to Michelle Park in Investment Planning and the coordinator of the Earth Day project.  WFCF determined that Jake’s and Michele’s teams tied for having planted the most onions.

Jake and Michele’s teams planted more than 9,600 bulbs each.  The bulbs have to be planted along biodegradable plastic sheet, six-inches apart from each other.  The task can be tedious.  Jake said, “We did four beds, ran out of seedlings, and hauled more material to ensure a lead over our competition.  All in all, it was an awesome, albeit muddy, day!”

WFCF promotes local agriculture and food access through their farm operations and educational programs, using practices that are socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable.  According to their website, the farm provides 20 percent of its total harvests to low-income populations through a variety of food access channels.  This is National Grid’s seventh year volunteering at the farm.

Brian Gemmell, vice president of FERC Strategy and Performance, was part of one of the teams. “While hard work, the whole experience was extremely rewarding, knowing we were contributing as a team to a really worthwhile local cause. The team spirit and relationship building opportunity was also wonderful,” Brian said.

Despite the rain on the day FERC team member Gideon Katsh’s team planted onions, he joked, “We were happy to report that there were no ‘leeks.’”

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