Debi Tysdale, left, of El Dorado Hills learns about chicken keeping from Forest Hill resident Cyndi Richmond, as part of the inaugural Blue Shield Crop Swap last week at the company's El Dorado HIlls office. Village Life photo by Pat Dollins

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Blue Shield Crop Swap showcases sustainability

By From page B2 | August 29, 2012

Blue Shield employees put on the inaugural Crop Swap in the lobby of their El Dorado Hills headquarters on Aug. 20, showcasing employee skills and accomplishments in sustainable lifestyles.

Nancy Shaw is Blue Shield’s corporate social responsibility manager, based at the insurance giant’s San Francisco headquarters. She was in El Dorado Hills for the day to oversee the first-time event and said the purpose of the Crop Swap is to encourage green and healthy behaviors. Blue Shield has an internal website that hosts employee discussion groups on a variety of topics, including sustainable living.

“We noticed that a lot of our employees are into healthy lifestyles, including cooking, growing and eating food, sustainable gardening, that kind of stuff,” Shaw said.

The Crop Swap consisted of about a dozen intermittently staffed advice tables where employees shared their experiences raising chickens, bee keeping, worm composting, canning and gardening. Pesticide-free gardening was the most popular topic, with several tables bearing the fruits and vegetables of Blue Shield employee gardens.

Wellness Program Manager Ritu Riyat was on hand to explain “wellvolution” — Blue Shield’s corporate wellness program. Employees can earn an annual “health” day (as opposed to a sick day) off and a discount on their company medical plan based on healthy living goals in weight reduction, smoking cessation, cholesterol level, blood pressure and blood sugar.

A biometric screening is required. If they don’t measure up they can still qualify for rewards by demonstrating progress in healthy-living programs.

Systems analyst and rose gardener Kae Sable was up to her elbows is what she indelicately described as “worm poop.” Unlike other types, she insisted the worm stuff was “clean, fresh and rich.”

Sable mixed some of her “super dirt” in a bucket of water and stirred the slurry vigorously one way, then the other “super-charging the colloidal particles,” she said, “a great way to stretch your compost.”

Case Manager Cydi Richmond commutes to Blue Shield from Forest Hill, where she keeps hens in a converted barn stall on her property. She fielded questions about backyard clucker keeping, egg production and, importantly, predator prevention for her bosses Kim Demas and Tina Ladwig, who said they found the exhibits fascinating.

Ladwig said she especially like Amy Leonard’s canning demonstration, which evoked memories of canning jam and pickles with her grandmother.

Shaw called the Crop Swap “a great demonstration of our employees’ expertise in sustainable, healthy lifestyles,” which she said she hopes to replicate annually in several Blue Shield offices.

Mike Roberts


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