The headquarters of online retailer Overstock.com sits just miles away from Salt Lake City, in a dry valley ringed by mountains and bluffs. The campus simultaneously is compact and yet feels open, with two buildings that immediately capture one’s attention. The Peace Coliseum main building was covered by Bravo when it opened, but there’s another, quite distinctive structure off to the side: a gleaming 9,000-square-foot glass greenhouse that juts into the visible horizon of building facades, light-rail tracks, and dark peaks that extend far into the distance.
That a greenhouse would occupy such a prominent place on a corporate campus may seem unlikely, but its presence is thanks to Overstock.com CEO and President Patrick Byrne. During the planning of the campus, he decided that a multi-use space was needed at Overstock.com for overall employee wellness, as well as for the production of fresh, healthy food for the community.
The food most Americans eat every day generally travels via long and anonymous supply chains, with a disconnect between where food is grown and where it is eaten. The Overstock.com greenhouse seeks to collapse the distance between the sites of production and consumption by encouraging employees to bring their laptops and meetings into the greenhouse, attend meditation or yoga classes amid the plants, or take a break from work within the bright, airy space to seek clarity or creativity. Employees who take the path from the Peace Coliseum to the greenhouse venture into a space distinct from both work and home, one that provides the necessary quiet and stillness that innovative thinking requires.
Beyond benefiting Overstock.com’s workforce in many intangible ways, the greenhouse is stunningly productive. It’s staffed by Tobi Werkhausen and Carly Gillispie, both trained horticulturists who maintain the planters and neatly organized raised beds that run the length of the greenhouse. They grow year-round, tending and harvesting a wide variety of crops: cucurbits and tropical passion fruit, brassicas and bright bouquets of flowers. Last year they produced an impressive 11,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables!
The main way the harvest is brought to the Overstock.com community is through Bon Appétit Chef/Manager Tate Barfuss and his team, who feature greenhouse-grown ingredients on the salad bar daily. Choosing this hyperlocal produce at lunch is just the tip of the iceberg of ways employees and the broader community benefit from the greenhouse, though. The Bon Appétiters host cooking classes, teaching employees how to make salsa using greenhouse-grown ingredients. Pop-up farmers’ markets are also held regularly, where Overstock.com employees can purchase produce directly from the greenhouse. And while great effort is made to utilize every part of the harvest, any leftover produce is donated to a nearby senior center.