Farm share benefits can be a boon for both employers and employees, but the advantages are often overlooked. Offering a farm share/community-supported agriculture (CSA) package to employees is definitely thinking outside-the-box, and it can provide unexpected health and dental benefits. Here is how these packages work, and reasons you should consider them.
What Is a Farm Share/CSA Package?
A farm share is a simple way to access delicious, locally grown fruits and vegetables, often at prices that are less expensive than the grocery store. As noted by Oregon Live, customers typically pay a lump sum at the beginning of the planting season, which helps local farms pay for seeds, labor and other costs. Once the vegetables start to grow, farmers group the harvest into individual boxes each week.
The contents of the packages will vary depending on the time of year and where you are located. For example, you might get onions, beets, squash and root vegetables in the fall. Then, in the summer, packages may have so many fruits and vegetables that you can’t eat them all. And although this article is focusing on fruits and vegetables, you can also find farm shares that include cuts of meat, eggs or dairy for discounted, up-front prices.
How to Implement a Farm Share Program
More and more employers are implementing farm share programs. Some partially subsidize employees’ costs to encourage participation. It’s also possible to pay the price up front as a company and then make a monthly payroll deduction to cover employees’ shares, so employees are only paying a few dollars every month instead of hundreds all at once. Some health insurance companies even reduce monthly premiums as an incentive. Additionally, some farms give discounts if employees work a few hours at the farm.
Many farms will help you market the program to your staff. They may provide print material and newsletter content for promotions. Some even host “Lunch and Learn” information sessions and other wellness events.
Another good way to sell a program to employees is by showing how much they’ll save. Show the value of the vegetables they’re getting compared to their cost. Then compare that to how much it would cost at a grocery store, which is likely even more.
Once you’ve started the program, continue to share regular email updates with staff. This way, employees who aren’t participating can learn more and develop an interest over time. You might even suggest recipes for each box’s contents, or educate participants about the more exotic items in their boxes.
The Health and Dental Benefits From a Farm Share
Eating healthier can make a big difference in an individual’s overall quality of life. Naturally, when employees are healthier, this helps business. Healthy employees are happier, take fewer sick days and tend to be more productive. And if they know that you care for their health, they’re more likely to be loyal, too.
But just how can farm shares improve employees’ health? Poor diet and inactivity has been proven to lead to obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, repeated infections and even mental health issues. The Community Healthcare Network found that when it brought a 22-week farm share program to staff and patients at two Brooklyn health centers, participants were motivated to cook at home more, and they started planning their meals around their vegetables rather than an unhealthy entree. Getting produce every week also helped participants develop the habit of eating vegetables consistently.
You might be surprised to learn that vegetables are good for your dental health. Leafy greens have vitamins and minerals that help fortify your teeth and bones. Crunchy carrots and apples can stimulate your gums and work a bit like a natural toothbrush. Fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, like cranberries, can reduce bacteria buildup and help fight cavities. Fruits and vegetables can also promote saliva production, which provides defense against cavities.
Farm share benefits not only include physical benefits but mental, as well. By participating in a farm share package, you will be creating a culture of health in the workplace. It’s a good idea to keep healthy snacks and drinks on hand, making it less tempting to eat unhealthy during a more stressful time in the office.
And sometimes, simply eating healthier has a way of encouraging you to exercise and be more active, too. There really aren’t any negatives to joining a farm share program—but countless benefits to enjoy.