So what is a CSA? Believe it or not, it’s not accounting jargon. CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is essentially a produce subscription to a local farm. For Perkins & Co, it means affordable weekly deliveries of organic fresh fruits and vegetables straight to our office. Are you looking for ways to contribute to your organization’s wellness and sustainability goals, or even a convenient low- to-no cost perk to offer employees? A CSA may be just what you’re looking for.
So where do you begin? Here are 6 basic steps to get your CSA off the ground:
If you already have wellness or sustainability initiatives in place, this may not be a challenge, but if employee focused programming is new to your organization this may be a bit trickier. A great start is to learn more about the CSA programs in your area and present a list of benefits. In addition to making local organic produce more accessible, a CSA can help build camaraderie in the workplace and strengthen your relationship with the local community. There is little to no cost to the organization and you may even find that you have healthier, happier employees because of it.
While there are many benefits to starting a workplace CSA program, it will only be successful if it’s something people actually want. There are, of course, steps you can take to increase sign-ups, but, ultimately, you still need a base. When introducing the idea, it’s helpful to explain what a CSA is as well as provide a rough estimate of the cost. This does not need to be exact, but interest may vary if the cost is $15-$50 per week versus unknown. And gauging interest doesn’t have to be complicated. We kept it simple by sending out an email with a brief description of the program and then provided an information sign-up sheet with a line for names, number in the household, and if they would be interested in helping coordinate.
Recruit a Coordinator
We didn’t request that last little bit of information for nothing. As with any program or activity, there’s a bit of legwork to make it run smoothly. In our experience, it only took about 15-30 minutes a week but having a designated team or team-member definitely helped. This person, or team, will be responsible for creating awareness, coordinating the drop-off and pick-up of the produce shipments, as well as corresponding with the farm.
Find your Farm
This step can make or break your program. The goal is to find the farm and CSA that’s the best fit for your organization’s needs. For us, the majority of our interested employees were single and environmentally conscious, so finding a certified organic farm that had smaller share sizes was critical. A few other factors to consider are price, frequency of deliveries, minimum subscriptions needed for delivery, as well as payment options.
So how do you find a farm? We were fortunate enough to be a part of a pilot project put on by Zenger Farm which helps match workplaces with local CSA programs. If you’re unable to find a similar organization however, there are many online resources that can help you get started such as Local Harvest and the USDA’s CSA directory.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky to have the quantity and quality of local farms that we do, and we found our perfect match with Our Table Cooperative.
Coordinate the Details
This is your coordinator or coordination team’s time to shine. Determining where the deliveries will be made, what to do when someone forgets their box or is on vacation and all of the other details that come up are included in this step. Don’t worry though, the internet has your back; there are many resources available that provide insight into what you need to know to run a successful CSA program! This “Workplace CSA Tipsheet” from JustFood.org is a great start.
In our experience, once our weekly routine was set-up, the program became a breeze.
Have Fun with It
Your workplace will now have a program delivering healthy, fresh, local produce on a regular basis. This perk can be a great opportunity for ongoing wellness-based activities and to engage with your employees or coworkers. Expecting cilantro in next week’s delivery? Why not have a salsa cook-off?
We found that sending an email when the produce arrived not only served as a reminder but also encouraged everyone to come together at the same time. This resulted in produce swapping, recipe idea sharing, and a general sense of fun—not to mention the opportunity to learn more about coworker’s families. We discovered some of our employees are actually closet gourmet chefs and others are geniuses when it comes to efficient and healthy home cooking. Who would have known?
By following these six steps we successfully established a CSA program that complements our wellness and sustainability initiatives and encourages a health-focused camaraderie at Perkins & Co. Now that you know more, can a CSA program benefit your organization as well?
Author: Quillyn Brown, CPA