Building on a successful pilot project launched in three Vermont counties, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross today announced the statewide expansion of the Workplace Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program, which enables Vermont state employees to conveniently purchase locally grown food and produce at numerous sites around Vermont. More than 30 employees participated in the pilot project in 2012, nearly 75 percent of whom had never previously participated in a CSA. Of those, almost all plan to reenroll.
"Community Supported Agriculture programs are a way for Vermonters to support their local farmers, and eat healthier," Gov. Shumlin said. He said other employers across the state are serving as CSA delivery sites for their employees -- a win-win for their staff, their local farmers and the overall health of their workplace.
"Participating in the delivery program enabled our farm to easily expand our membership by 20 percent and offer our vegetables and pasture-raised meats to a new market," said Laura Olsen of Green Mountain Girls Farm in Northfield. Her farm, now in its fourth season, participated in the state's pilot CSA program, delivering produce to seven employees in Montpelier, Barre and Berlin last year.
"We applaud the State for its leadership in connecting employees and farmers," Olsen said. "By making a small investment in logistics, the state's employees and farms are benefiting."
Through a CSA, consumers can sign up for a seasonal share of a farm's produce; terms vary among farms, but typically the consumer pays a set fee for regular deliveries of fresh produce. The CSA concept -- which gives farmers budget predictability, while providing consumers with seasonally fresh food -- is growing in popularity. Based on Census data, Vermont boasts the most farmers' markets and CSAs per capita, earning this state the honor of being the most "localvore' state in the nation.
"I am pleased to offer new market opportunities to our CSA farms and see more local food consumed in our state," said Secretary Ross. "We see this program growing consumer awareness around the diversity and quality of food available in our state."
Last year the state implemented the pilot project in four state office buildings in Washington, Windsor and Addison Counties, with four local CSA farms participating. Ross said 44 farmers are interested in participating in the expansion, at least one in nearly every county in Vermont. The number of state building delivery sites will depend on the level of state employee interest in those areas, Ross said. But based on the interest in the pilot counties, Ross said he is optimistic that the expanded program will be successful.
The Governor said roughly 15 state buildings statewide have been identified as potential drop-off sites. In addition, the state will sponsor "Meet Your Farmer" meetings across the state to allow employees joining the CSA to get to know their food producers and ask any questions.