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Have you heard of “locavores?” These folks are interested in eating food that is produced within a 100-mile radius of their home. The idea is to minimize fossil fuels from shipping and nutrition lost from farm to table.

We like to consider ourselves a small part of the locavore movement. We started three years back with a few tomato plants, and our garden has grown gradually each year.

Produce now includes cantaloupe, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and more. We keep a box of these fresh vegetables on the kitchen table so folks can take what they need for their families.

It only seemed natural that our next step should be fruit.

Last week, we planted peach, plum, pear, apple and fig trees along our drive, just above our woodworking barn. As they mature, the trees will make our entry a little nicer and provide additional fresh treats for our team, our neighbors and visitors.

As for being local, the origin on these trees is just that. We were glad to team with Maple Valley Nursery, a Birmingham original with values similar to our own, to source our trees.

What are you doing to make your life more localized? Do you partner with local businesses like your own? We’ve found the benefits ripe for our picking.


Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email

Sp-tomWorking in the construction industry, I am constantly torn about what to wear to work. Should I be in our office wearing a suit, or out in the field in jeans? While most businesses are content to be removed in their office towers where the work environment consists of copiers, printers and conference calls, I like to see our projects in person and solve problems hands-on. More than any other industry I know, construction is a unique business tied to the field, to the jobsite and to the earth. I’m fortunate that my role gives me access to both business worlds.

Every one of my employees feels some similar pull outside, even those whose duties don’t require trips to the field. The office setting is merely a means to an end out on the jobsite. This is why when project manager Robbie Cather decided to build a tomato and vegetable garden he enlisted his green-thumbed administrative assistant Pamm Horton to help him work. Initially the garden was small enough where Robbie could handle it on his own, but as it grew and people got more ideas for what else to plant, it required the work of two people. Pamm stepped up.

She loves her work in the office, but everyone could use a change of scenery every now and then. Pamm brings a change of clothes and spends a couple hours every week weeding, and tending to the plot and her flowers. This garden is one little way our people are able to accomplish work in each of the environs where they are comfortable: inside the office and outside working the earth with their hands. It’s a nice change of pace for Pamm.

While it doesn’t have to be on such a grand scale, I encourage you to find avenues for your team to take the occasional mental break by working on something physical. After using another part of their brains, they’ll come back to routine work focused and all-around happier.


Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.