Within The Home Depot, there is a large contingency of eco-conscious associates. They call themselves the Sustainability Squad, and they are living proof that Eco Actions make a difference. They are living a DIY sustainability lifestyle.

Each month, we sit down with members of the Sustainability Squad to learn more about their inspiration and motivation and the individual Eco Actions. Join us for this month’s conversation with Michael Parent from store #3801 in Toledo, OH.

Michael Parent is based in Toledo, OH, where he is the Department Supervisor for five departments at store #3801: D23, D59, D70, D30 and D29. Michael and his family have turned their backyard into an urban farm, where they grow food and teach neighborhood children about native plants and wildlife.

EA: Welcome to Eco Actions, Mike, and congratulations on being featured. Your family’s urban farm is impressive. Can you tell us a bit about your family and your farm?

MP: My wife Tonya and I have five children: three boys and two girls. They range in age from 10 all the way up to 23. We live in the suburbs of Toledo, and we have an urban farm in our backyard. It’s been really fun to explore what can be done on a half-acre in a suburb!

Our farm is a group effort for my family, but my wife is the brains of the operation. She’s a very smart woman who loves research. So, our farm is a decade in the making – between her research into the different plants that work well together, and us learning which plants offer the best output for our space. We have tried to optimize our yard so that every inch brings something to the table.  

Our vision is to have what is called a food forest, where you essentially make a small forest out of various perennial foods and supporting plants. And if it isn’t food, or it doesn’t help the food grow, it isn’t in there. We like the idea of our kids being able to walk through the backyard and grab an apple off the tree or being able to pick asparagus for dinner. We want our kids and their friends to be able to sit out under our gazebo and snack on whatever is around them.

EA: Where did the idea for an urban farm originate, and how has it evolved?

MP: You know, urban farming is nothing new. People have been doing it for a long time, but we really got the idea for this from our church, which is in an urban area and has a huge community garden. And I mean huge! And the network that created it included local farmers, other community gardens nearby and neighbors. We were part of it and learned so much. We thought, ‘We can do this at home.’ And not only can we do it at home, but we can also support our family and maybe even create enough abundance where we can start giving back to the community as well. So, that’s our long-term goal.

But it’s been years and years of reading people’s books, their stories, and their experiments and methods. Then we began implementing it and doing things in our own way. But mostly we started just like everybody else does – experimenting with little backyard gardens. We planted a lot to see what would grow. And then it just starts to grow itself, and before you know it, you’re just covered in plants everywhere.

We got serious when COVID hit. Because there’s a lot of us, we knew we needed to come up with more sustainable ways to live and supplement our grocery budget. It was then that we put in a makeshift greenhouse with a little garden around it. Now we have two greenhouses. We’re kind of upgrading as we go and growing just like any other entity would.

We are very entrepreneurial about our farm. For example, we brought on chickens during COVID, but now we are phasing them out. When you consider the amount of room they require, and what you get from them, the return on investment for chickens isn’t as high as fruit trees. Plus, the little flock we have are more pets than food. So, we’re just letting them live their best life.

EA: Are there any parallels between your work at home and your work at The Home Depot? Has working for The Home Depot influenced your urban garden in any way or vice versa?  

MP: Sure, it’s all about our Value Wheel: I take it home with me every day. I really believe in The Home Depot, and what we do. And I bring these values home to my children every day: Doing the Right Thing, Taking Care of Your People, Respect for All People, Giving Back, Creating Shareholder Value and Entrepreneurial Spirit.

Our family has owned a few small businesses, and we’ve raised our kids to be very business savvy. Plus, we believe in caring about others, building community and giving back. We welcome everyone in our home and help others in need. Here at The Home Depot, we know what shareholder value looks like. But it’s also something we practice at home, where our home has value along with the food we eat. Those values are all there in different representations that we carry out in our lives at home.

EA: Is there anything you’d like to say to other associates or homeowners who are curious about what it means to embrace sustainability?

MP: Yes, and it is the same advice that I give to my associates as a supervisor and the same advice I give to my kids: If you can, then do. It doesn’t have to be your job, doesn’t have to be anything. If you can do it, then just do it.