In the summer of 2009, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) piloted a workplace farm share delivery program to 65 employees at the Rutland Regional Medical Center (RRMC) and the Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice. Initially, RRMC wanted to establish a farmers’ market at the hospital, but area farmers were disinclined to start another market day. Instead, the traditional CSA model brought to the workplace proved to be a popular alternative. The program was so well received that the project now includes 115 employees at five area businesses with winter shares available. “We weren’t planning on expanding this program,” said Tara Kelly, executive director of RAFFL, “but the idea had legs behind it in terms of popularity, and there was so much demand from other area businesses.”
Although most businesses provide some coordination and act as the host site for deliveries to individual employees enrolled in the program, some employers offer farm shares as a benefit for employee wellness. The owner of Foley Services, for example, purchases five farm shares that are available for employees to share.
The workplace farm share delivery program expanded the market for local farm foods beyond the typical localvore consumer. Most participants had never been part of a CSA before and a high percentage rarely go to farmers’ markets. Through surveys and observations, RAFFL found that people receiving farm shares at their workplace liked the convenience and helping local farms succeed, and are increasingly invested in the mission behind the local food movement.
“There is tremendous room for growth,” Kelly observed. “Farmers in the area have plenty of capacity to expand to this market, and more farms are looking to replace other income streams with this type of direct-purchase arrangement. In two short years of running the program, we’ve had really enthusiastic responses, yet we’re only serving around 6% of the total employee base in Rutland.”