kplace CSA Tipsheet
SECTION 2: Workplace CSA for Farmers
The second section of this toolkit contains basic guidelines and tools to help farmers effectively understand, set-up and maintain a Workplace CSA in New York City. The topics are arranged in the order in which you will most likely use the information throughout the season, beginning with an introduction to how Workplace CSAs are different from community based CSAs, how to start a Workplace CSA and including the logistics involved in working with organizers starting a Workplace CSA.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Workplace CSA logistics vary from company to company. Just Food can help a company with initial support and evaluation of the possibility of starting a CSA.
After helping a company decide if there is enough interest and organizational support to start a CSA, Just Food will work to match the company with a farmer before the growing season (January – March). Our goal is to create matches that work equally well for the farmers and city groups.
We consider the following factors when matching farmers:
This is one of the biggest factors we take into account in matching farmers with CSA city groups. We try to make farmer’s trips into New York City as easy as possible. Part of this is making sure the geographic location of the CSA drop-off site is easily accessible from the farms. We look at farmer’s current routes into NYC and match them with distribution locations that fit into that route.
Convenient Day and Time
This is based on the farmer’s schedule and the availability of the workplace distribution site. We make matches that will logistically work for both parties. If the farmer is already coming into the city on certain days of the week, we will match them with a group that would like to distribute on that same day, unless the farmer would like to add an extra distribution day.
Shares and Share Price
The share price is set by each farmer when matched with a CSA city group. We try to take the share prices into account when matching farmers with city groups. We also consider the size of the share and shares, other than vegetables, offered.
Cultural Needs of Farmer or Community
Some CSAs have unique requests for specific, specialty vegetables. If possible, we will match the CSA with a farmer who is already growing these specialty crops or is willing to add these to their current crop plans.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Farmers may already be familiar with Just Food’s Community CSA model. Workplace CSAs operate a bit differently. The differences listed below will be discussed in depth throughout this Toolkit. While each company is distinctive, Workplace CSAs share many common elements. In Just Food’s Community CSA model, the farmer and the CSA members share responsibilities. The members support the CSA by taking charge of administration, outreach and distribution, enabling the farmer to focus on growing and delivering weekly shares. Because of the setting of a Workplace CSA there may be some differences in this shared management.
The CSA organizers for a Workplace CSA are also employees of the company. They will be responsible for gauging interest from other employees and proposing the Workplace CSA concept to the company’s management for approval on starting the CSA. The CSA organizers must take time out of their work schedule to handle the administrative tasks involved with running a CSA, such as coordinating and running the distribution, responding to CSA member inquiries and making a food donation connection for left over produce. In addition, CSA organizers will promote and carry out outreach for recruiting members and volunteers. Depending on the CSA and farm, maintaining CSA member records and handling treasury may be necessary. Organizing in house events such as a member cooking contest or other promotional events are optional.
Because most Workplace CSAs are located in large office buildings, drop-offs may take place curbside, at a service entrance, through a loading dock or freight elevator. A workplace setting is not as flexible as a Community CSA, therefore consistency, timing of delivery and communication are key on distribution day. The farmer will call a designated CSA organizer upon arrival and organizers will meet the farmer and handle moving pre-packed shares to the designated distribution site.
The distribution site will be located within the company building. The distribution of shares will take place within a workplace setting. Due to policies, rules and restrictions, CSA organizers will work together to obtain clearance from management, the building manager, security and facility departments as well as loading dock staff. For more information, See Section 2, Drop off and
Distribution, page 55.
Distribution / Storage Space
Workplace CSA distribution can take place in the staff cafeteria, lunchroom or lounge,
conference room, mail room, common hallway or within a department’s area. Companies tend to have more space and storage restrictions. Just Food helps CSA organizers find an appropriate distribution site based on the logistics of their workplace setting. Storage for share boxes, re-usable bags and supplies needed for distribution between deliveries may be difficult for some
Workplace CSAs. The farmer should take this into consideration when deciding on packing the share.
Size of Share
Typically, Workplace CSA farms offer one size share only because multiple share options increase the amount of work for the farmer and the CSA organizers. Workplace CSAs often request a smaller share size than that of a Community CSA due to distribution site limitations since the employees will be carrying their shares home. For more information see Section 2, Share
Size and Variety, page 39.
Workplace CSA farmers usually individually pre-pack the shares into share boxes or re-usable bags inside of share boxes. Each CSA member receives the same quantity and variety. Often, Community CSA shares are delivered in bulk and packed by the CSA members themselves using their own bags. For more information see Section 2, Packaging Your CSA Shares, page 47.
Importance of Communication
In general farm – member communication is very important but for Workplace CSAs it’s crucial. CSA organizers are using time within their work schedule to facilitate distribution. It is important to communicate when a delivery will be late or early on distribution day or when significant changes occur that will affect the shares. For more information, see Section 4, Communication,
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Does a Workplace CSA fit your marketing strategy and capabilities? The most important consideration before deciding to work with a company on a CSA is whether or not adding CSA shares from a workplace program makes sense for your farm operation.
• Evaluate the potential number of shares you can provide
• How many shares would be necessary to warrant adding a new drop-site to your farm’s existing delivery plan (especially if it is a long distance from the farm)?
• Do you have the organizational capacity to manage a CSA in a workplace setting?
• Are you able to devote the time required to partner successfully with a Workplace CSA? Farms must maintain a good relationship not only with the CSA members, but also with the company that hosts the CSA. Building an effective and long lasting partnership requires time, flexibility, and willingness to compromise.
Interested in a Workplace CSA?
Let Just Food know and we’ll try to connect you with a group.
Has a workplace asked you to do a CSA for them?
Let Just Food know and we will speak to the company group about the logistics of starting a CSA at the workplace.
Not Interested in a Workplace CSA right now?
If you’ve been approached by a company group but are not
interested in a Workplace CSA, pass them onto Just Food and we will connect them a farmer in the Just Food Farmer network.
Is a Workplace CSA Right for You?
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Why Work with a Workplace CSA
Workplace CSAs provide a reliable and reasonably priced source of diverse, fresh, high
quality, local organic produce to people who often don’t have schedule flexibility to belong to a community CSA near their home. It offers the convenience of distribution at their place of work, allowing more people to join the CSA movement and opening up new markets for farmers.
Benefits For the Farm
• It creates an alternative direct market and guarantees a way to sell their products at a fair price.
• Provides payment for the entire season upfront; financial support for the farm and an alternative to bank loans.
• It develops a direct relationship with the CSA members and gives you the ability to build a returning customer base, year after year.
• There is a potential opportunity to deliver to multiple companies within the same building or neighborhood, creating a larger number of members within in a smaller geographical area.
• It builds awareness and helps strengthen agriculture, preserve farmland, supports the local economy and reduces energy consumption.
• It wastes less time, manpower and food than selling wholesale or at farmers markets.
Benefits for the Company and its Employees
• Because of demanding work schedules, it is difficult for many New Yorkers to join their Community CSA. The convenience of having the farmer deliver locally fresh organic vegetables delivered to their workplace makes it easy and saves time.
• It is a way to support small, diversified, family run, local farmers who are growing food sustainably.
• It is a way to support health, job satisfaction, and morale for employees.
• It gives employees the opportunity to explore healthier eating options and enjoy a wider variety of vegetables they wouldn’t normally purchase from a store.
• Eating more vegetables contributes to the health and well-being of employees. • Many companies have started health initiatives within the workplace through their
Corporate Social Responsibility, Wellness, or Greening programs, or through their Human Resource departments.
• Workplace CSAs creates a feeling of community and camaraderie among co-workers. • Some companies have even chosen to subsidize the share cost to lower the cost of their
shares making it even more affordable and appealing for CSA members.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Size and Variety of Shares
The size and variety of vegetables in a share should be determined by the farmer’s expertise, equipment and soil as well as by the members’ interests. At the beginning of a CSA’s first season, Just Food facilitates an introductory meeting with the farmers and their core group members. It is helpful for the farmer to come to these meetings with a basic idea of what the share variety and size will be for CSA. The organizers may have some requests specific to size and variety. While it can be difficult to change the size of the share (see Share Variations p 41), especially for established farms, consider being flexible about variety. For example, try growing a new crop that the CSA is excited about.
Remember that CSA share size and content will vary for every farm. CSA share sizes in New York City are usually smaller than shares for rural and suburban CSAs. CSA members eat out often and have very limited storage and refrigerator space. They also typically tend to have smaller households. And especially with workplace CSAs, members will have to carry their shares home with them.
When describing the size of your share to new CSA groups, farmers may want to consider talking about it in terms of:
• Number of items per week
• The number of people the share could feed • The weekly value in dollars of the share
• A guideline for a standard share is 7 – 12 types of veggies, enough to feed 3 to 4 non-vegetarians for a week.
• Some farmers describe their shares based on the number of people the share will feed. In 2012, this is how price, number of items, and the number of people the share could feed averaged across the Just Food CSAs:
$400 – $490 feeds 2 to 3 non vegetarians (6–8 items per week) $500 – $590 feeds 2 to 4 non vegetarians (8–10 items per week) $600 – $650 feeds 3 to 5 non vegetarians (9–11 items per week)
• Another way to calculate share size is by value: a weekly share typically contains $20–$28 worth of farm products. Members should feel they are getting what they paid for, but there is danger in offering too much. Members who regularly experience vegetables rotting in their refrigerator are not likely to return a following season. Surveying members helps to determine the best share size for your farm and your CSA members. Remember that members should get slightly more than they pay for compared with farmer’s market prices. In order to retain members, it is beneficial to reward them for paying upfront and committing to the farm for the entire season.
• Each of the items should be a usable amount of food that could be used to cook a dish. • The size of the share will of course relate to the price of the share.
CSA farms often offer around 40 to over 200 different crops (including different varieties) over the course of the season. This number includes vegetables and herbs. Of these, most customers are interested in receiving the staples, such as lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, and onions, supplemented with smaller quantities of seasonal and specialty items, depending on your CSA members’ preferences and your growing expertise. In general CSA members like to receive greens each week whether those are cooking or salad greens.
Shares typically contain 7–12 different crops a week, depending on the time of the season. When including unusual varieties, it is helpful for members if you include an explanation of the crop and some suggestions for preparing it. An end-of-year survey can help determine what items members liked and did not like.
The size and variety of shares change throughout the growing season according to what will be ready on the farm. The weight of the share changes with the seasons, so spring shares with salad greens will be quite light, while summer shares with tomatoes, squash, eggplant and other vegetables can weigh significantly more.
In an effort to give a nice variety of produce to members, typically farmers give one crop weekly from each of the following categories. Being able to fill each category depends on the season, but it can be a nice guideline for choosing what to include each week:
• Cucurbits • Nightshades • Corn/legumes • Root Crops
• Herbs – basil, parsley, cilantro, dill • Greens/salad
• Alliums – onions, garlic, scallions, leeks • Other: broccoli, cauliflower, specialty crops.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
For a variety of reasons, CSA members in New York City typically want smaller amounts of produce. There are a number of strategies to create smaller shares and farms can work with the CSA organizers to decide how to accommodate their members in a way that also works for the farm.
Some CSA members want the option to purchase half shares. Half shares can be organized by the city organizers or by the farmers.
Organizers are Responsible for Half Shares
Here are some methods in which the farmer delivers full shares that the organizers coordinate members splitting the shares.
Members pick up their share every other week
With this method, the farm sends the same amount of full shares every week. Half share members are assigned either an “A” week or a “B” week. Then members pick up their share every other week. The organizers keep track of A and B week members making sure that the two groups are the same size. The farmer should take into account that some members are only getting items every other week. They should keep track of which items they are giving to both “A” and “B” groups to keep shares consistent and fair.
Member Splits with a Partner
Co-workers can partner together on their own to share one full share or the organizers can help to facilitate partnerships between co-workers. Partners decide on their own how to split the share- half each share, alternate weeks or choose items in the share.
Farmer Is Responsible for Half Shares
Here are some methods in which the farmer tracks and facilitates a system for half shares.
The Farm Establishes a System Where Members Pick Up Every Other Week
The farm offers to sell half shares to members who would like to pick up every other week. Members are assigned either an “A” week or a “B” week and pick up according to what week it is. The farmer can charge slightly more than half the share cost for administrative fees. If the farmer is helping facilitate this, they should keep track of which items they are to both “A” and “B” groups to keep shares consistent and fair
The Farm Creates a Half Share
Some farms decide to make a separate half share and full share each week. There will be smaller quantities of the same produce available for the half share. The cost of the share is
usually slightly more than half the cost of the full share. The farmer could grow smaller varieties of crops so that they are easier to give to a half share (e.g. smaller heads of cabbage or smaller melons). A half share could receive one item and a full share receives two.
Some Workplace CSAs have requested flexibility on the number of weeks that they receive produce—either a shorter season or alternating weeks. This often helps them to convince management to support the CSA. This minimizes the amount of time staff has to commit to the CSA and is often helpful in convincing management to allow the CSA, particularly in the first year. It is up to the farm to decide if this level of flexibility will work for them. To make this flexibility work, the farm could try to find different CSAs to deliver on different weeks so that they end up delivering shares every week of the season.
A shorter number of weeks could be a fall share only (September–November), a summer share only (July- September) or divided weeks (4 weeks in July, 4 weeks in September, 4 weeks in November)
Shares are delivered throughout the whole season but delivered every other week.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
One reason members decide to join a CSA is to get fresh produce straight from the farm. CSA members have a high appreciation for quality produce. CSA customers are the most dedicated customers buying a season’s worth of produce upfront. Farmers should honor this commitment by bringing high quality, delicious produce for their members. However, farmers can be more flexible with the produce given to CSAs. While the flavor and freshness should never be compromised, the produce does not have to be picture perfect.
Farmers will have to take the time to educate their members through newsletters and conversations with the workplace CSA organizers about the quality of the produce being delivered.
Examples of how the produce delivered to a Workplace CSA may differ from
wholesale or community CSAs
For some products, leaving the dirt on the produce can extend its shelf life. For many Workplace CSAs, leaving the dirt on the produce is not an option. Farmers can leave some dirt on products such as root vegetables, if that works well with their post-harvest handling systems.
Size of products
When wholesaling, it is usually essential that products be uniform in size. With CSA, this type of grading is not necessary, and it is okay to send produce that may range in sizes, within reason.
While some pest damage can ruin produce, some damage is purely cosmetic. Within reason, if there are holes in the greens due to insect damage, farmers can consider including them in the CSA share. Farmers should explain the damage to customers and that the product is still edible. Farmers can also include products such as forked carrots in their CSA shares.
Some things that farmers should not include in their share because they
Do not send greens that have turned bitter from bolting.
Overly large produce
Do not send produce that is past its peak to the CSA such as large woody beets or squash.
Heavily damaged produce
If pest damage compromises the flavor and ease of using the product in the kitchen, do not send it to your CSA. For example, if the greens have insect damage to the point of being lacey, do not include them in the share.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Additional Shares and Products
What are Additional Products/Shares?
Some Workplace CSA members want the convenience of getting additional products such as fruit, meat, milk, eggs, cheese, flowers, honey and value added products through their CSA. Each farmer can decide whether they have the capacity themselves to supply more products in addition to vegetables. These Additional Share prices and sizes depend on the product and what would be a reasonable amount for 1–3 people. Each farmer should think about the tradeoffs of offering an array of products and keeping the ordering and distribution of these products simple.
If the farmer is not interested in offering additional products, the CSA can source these from other farmers with the agreement of the vegetable farmer.
Where Do Additional Products Come From?
There are three ways that CSAs source these additional products.
1. Some CSA farms produce these items themselves and make them available to their members in the form of “Additional Shares”.
2. Farms that don’t produce these additional products themselves often connect with a
neighboring farm that produces them. Talk to your neighbors about collaborating.
Together, farmers can coordinate ordering, delivery, and profit sharing for the additional products.
3. If you are not interested in providing Additional Shares from your farm or a neighboring farm, CSA groups in NYC can contact Just Food. Just Food has contact information for farms in the NYC region interested in selling meat, fruit, dairy, and other products to CSAs. These products are delivered by that provider to the CSA distribution site for pick up at the same time as the vegetable share distribution.
Ordering Systems for Additional Products
Additional shares have been purchased in two ways:
As season-long shares (similar to regular CSA shares)
This is most typical for fruit or egg shares that last the entire growing season. CSA Members will pay the farmer up front for a pre-determined amount/share of the product. For some items such as eggs, the farmer will send a dozen or a half dozen each week to members. For items like fruit, the farmer will send a selection of fruit that matches the value that the customer paid for that week. Similar to a vegetable CSA, there is an element of risk-sharing with this system. If a predator attacks the chickens or hail damages a berry crop, the CSA members may receive less than a full share for a few weeks.
As weekly or monthly orders
This is most common for meat and dairy products. This allows the farmer to offer what he/she has on the farm, but it requires more administration on the part of the CSA organizers or the farmer in terms of taking and receiving orders and payments from all members. Some farmers have created online ordering systems so that CSA members can choose weekly what products they would like to order. The farm lists what is available on the website. The ordering systems will keep track of whether a product has sold out or not. Members pay for the products as they order them electronically.
How to Set up an Ordering System
The following are some steps that farmers and CSA members can take to set up Additional Product ordering systems:
1. The farmer and group discuss which potential products could be distributed to their CSA. At this meeting, the CSA should have an idea of the amount and types of products as well as the frequency with which they would like to order. The farmer should know which products are available, in what quantities, and also how frequently they are available. If the products will not be coming from the vegetable farm, they should have some information about the farm supplying the product. If creating a share, the farmer should come prepared with sample weekly shares. If creating an ordering system, the farmer should let the group know what products will be available.
2. After the initial discussion, the farm should follow up with the CSA group to let them know the price, size and availability of the share. If using an ordering system, the farm should send the CSA more details on how orders will be placed.
3. The CSA group and farm should come up with a system for keeping track of the members, (if using a share) or how to keep track of orders (if using a weekly ordering system). The group and farm should also come up with a payment system. Keep in mind that money cannot be exchanged at some distribution sites, such as Green Thumb Gardens and NYC Parks.
4. If needed, the CSA organizers should designate one or two people who will do the administrative work exclusively for the additional products. This way, CSA members will not need to call or email their farm directly.
5. The farm and CSA organizers should have a system in place for how to deal with mistakes made in shares/orders throughout the season.
6. Throughout the season, as products are being delivered, the farm should be in regular contact with the Workplace CSA to make sure these tracking and delivery systems have been working well.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Farmers have multiple options for packaging shares for a community CSA. The majority of Workplace CSAs need shares to be pre-sorted and pre-boxed or bagged.
This cuts down on the amount of space required for distribution, keeps the space clean and minimizes the time employees spend on CSA pick up and administration. There is the possibility that a workplace group would request the delivery in bulk crates if this works for their setting. The main objective is that it is easy for the employees to take their shares and for the farm to transport them.
To decide how best to package the shares, farmers should consider the needs of the workplace group as well as the farm. Taking this into account, farmers should think through how to pack the products, what packaging materials are needed, storage capacity for the materials, and how to organize the truck for a single or multiple CSA drop-offs. While each farm should use the system that makes the most sense for them, Just Food has found that these first two options work best for Workplace CSAs.
How To Distribute the Share
The following are three different methods that CSA farmers use to pack their produce for distribution:
Box each share individually
At the farm, the farmers pre-sort and pack a box of produce for each member. The members transfer the share from the box to their own bags during distribution. The set of boxes will be stored at the site and returned to the farm the following week.
Pros: Farmers have more control over the distribution of produce to each member. This
method is easy for members to understand. This system works well for transporting the shares and for distribution sites that have limited distribution and storage space.
Cons: Packing the individual boxes can be labor intensive. Ordering enough boxes to
accommodate the entire season can be costly.
Bag each share individually
At the farm, the farmers pre-sort and pack a reusable tote bag of produce for each member. The farmers place the bag into individual boxes. The members take the bag of produce out of the box. The workplace organizers return member bags collected from the prior week’s share to the farm during delivery. The boxes can be returned to the farmer during the delivery (if the farmer is able to wait for the group organizers to remove the bags from the boxes and fold the boxes) or the boxes can be stored at the workplace site and then returned to the farm the next week along with the bags.
Pros: Farmers have more control over the distribution of produce to each member. This
method is easy for members to understand. This system works well for transporting the
shares and for distribution sites that do not have very much distribution and storage space.
Cons: Packing the individual bags can be labor intensive. Ordering enough boxes and/or
bags for entire season can be costly.
Pack in bulk crates
The produce is delivered in bulk stackable plastic crates to the CSA. The members put their own shares together from the bulk crates. The farm will provide the organizers with a list of products in each share indicating the quantity of each item. The members will take the quantity out of the crate and place it into their own bags. The CSA members are responsible for remembering to bring their own bag(s) on distribution day. The workplace organizers will clean the crates and store them until the next delivery when the farmer will collect empty crates and return them to the farm.
Pros: Packing in bulk is less work for the farmer. Community building takes place as each
CSA member packs their own share. Members will interact and talk to each other during distribution.
Cons: The farmer will need to have multiple crates in stock since they will stay at the
distribution site every week. It is more work for the workplace to organize, manage and takes more space during distribution. This system also requires additional space to store the crates week to week for the entire season.
Whichever packing method you choose, heavier produce items should be packed first so they are on the bottom.
Rabobank Share Boxes
Katchkie / Kohn Pedersen Fox Pre-sorted Reusable Bags
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Most Just Food farmers deliver to Workplace CSAs in waxed boxes.
Waxed boxes are corrugated and easy for CSA members to fold up and store after distribution. Make sure to train your CSA organizers on the proper method to break down the boxes so that they do not tear them. See Just Food’s How to Open a Wax Box video tipsheet:
Bags are re-usable, tote style bags. These bags can be branded with the farm logo. Many Workplace CSAs purchase their own branded re-usable bags for members to use. The bags are soft and can be folded or stored easily in a plastic bin, cardboard box, or a cabinet, drawer or closet. Farmers will include extra costs for the bags in the share price.
Some farms will pack the shares in plastic bags first and then insert the pre-packed share into the re-usable tote bag. The bags retain any moisture that the vegetables may have inside the plastic bag. The re-usable tote remains dry and free of debris.
Though it is not a popular choice for most Workplace CSA settings, some farmers deliver produce in plastic crates.
Farmers use many different versions of crates for packing produce. Plastic crates that nest or collapse are easiest for CSA groups to store. CSA members will return these to the farmers the following week, so farmers should have enough crates for two weeks of deliveries.
It might work best to pack fragile produce like tomatoes, berries, melons, etc. to be packaged separately versus in boxes or crates. Flats are used frequently for packing fragile produce. Some farms will pack shares of berries into individual biodegradable quart size berry tills or
baskets and then pack the tills or baskets into flats for easy transporting. The flats, tills or baskets
can be stored and returned to the farm week to week.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Organizing and Loading the Truck
Once farmers have figured out a system for packing the vegetables, they should develop a system to organize and pack the boxes into the truck. It should be efficient, both at the farm and for unloading at the site.
Having Enough Space for Deliveries
When deciding how many CSA shares to deliver, farmers should consider the capacity of their delivery trucks. The size of the share will change throughout the season as more items are ready for harvest. A truck that may not be full on a first delivery in spring may be packed by late summer when there is more bounty on the farm. Farmers should take this into consideration when deciding the number of CSA shares they are capable of delivering.
Packing the Truck
When packing the shares in the truck, think about what system will ensure that the right shares are delivered to each site. Farmers should consider the order that they pack the truck and how to best label the boxes or crates.
Packing in the Opposite Order of Deliveries
Packing in the opposite order of deliveries works best. Boxes or crates that will be unloaded last should be packed first and first deliveries should be packed last. This way, when farmers arrive at the first distribution site, that site’s shares will be easy to access. Remember to pack the last stop’s produce in the truck first.
Packing Deliveries onto Individual Pallets
Load share boxes or crates onto wooden pallets in a strategic manner for each CSA site. Each pallet is a CSA group clearly grouped together. It is helpful to label one box or crate on each side of the pallet with a sharpie or marker. The pallets are then loaded onto the truck in the opposite order of the deliveries. Some farmers will shrink wrap the group of boxes and mark the name of the site on a box with a sharpie or marker with the number boxes going to the site.
Easily Identifying Boxes in the City
New York City parking and traffic can be difficult to navigate. Farmers should try to minimize the amount of effort it takes to identify shares once in the city at the delivery site.
Keep each CSA’s shares clearly grouped together and easily identified. Farmers should develop a system so that it is clear which boxes or crates go to which drop off site. If a boxes or crates are not properly delivered to a site, this will only create more work for the farmer later when figuring out how to make up for the undelivered shares. Having a straightforward system to ensure that the correct boxes or crates are unloaded at each distribution site will save time in the long run.
Here are some methods you can use to clearly label the CSA groups:
• Using an invoice system – Printing out 2 invoices. One copy is for the drivers’ record. Tape the other onto the grouped CSA boxes or crates. The invoice notes the number of shares for that particular drop off site.
• Using colored duct tape on grouped boxes or crates to identify CSA groups. Each CSA group gets a different colored tape.
• Using a sharpie or marker to write the name of the site on a box(s) and the number of boxes to that site.
Some farms will send a text message to their driver verifying the number of boxes per site.
Golden Earthworm Farm’s method of packing their truck for a CSA delivery
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Collecting Money & Sign Ups
Because workplace CSA organizers have to fit CSA management into their workdays and because of restrictions on handling co-workers’ money, workplace CSAs may not be able to take on as many administrative tasks as community CSA core groups. Listed below are some options for handling member sign ups and collecting money for a workplace CSA.
Farm collects money
• The farm manages both member sign ups and collects money directly from the members. The farm creates an online membership sign up system. The members can sign up, log into their account and fill out a membership application form. They will have the option to mail the farm a check or pay with a credit card. Member registration and money is all handled by the farm.
• CSA members send their checks directly to the farm along with their completed membership application form.
Workplace CSA collects the money
• CSA members complete the farm’s member application form online but pay the CSA organizers for the share. CSA organizers forward the payments directly to the farm. The farm already has members’ information.
• The CSA organizers collects member application forms and money, then send both directly to the farm.
Workplace CSA creates member application
• CSA organizers create a membership application form for the farm and collects the money. CSA organizers send both to the farm.
There are CSA-specific online platforms available in which the farm can create the CSA membership application form. The farm can create a page for the Workplace CSA members to log in on the farm’s website. Farmers can create and manage the online platforms on their own or hire someone to create and manage these platforms for the farm. Regardless of the system you choose, a system for sharing information between the farm and the CSA group will be necessary. If the CSA organizers are in charge of collecting member payments and an online application sign up system is used, it is important for the farmer to share member information with the CSA organizers and vice-versa.
Options for Payment Flexibility
While paying the full price of a share at the beginning of the season is the ideal way to support farmers, it may be difficult for some members to afford this. Most CSAs members are given three options:
• Payment in full upfront
• Some companies subsidize shares to make the share price flexible for CSA members.
For Rabobank, the road to successful client engagement begins with the development of satisfied, motivated employees. Rabobank promotes Workplace CSA by subsidizing employee shares. The total CSA share cost was $575. Rabobank provided subsidies of $275 per share and employees paid $300 for the season ($13 per week for 23 weeks). The farm receives the full payment of the shares.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Drop Off and Distribution
Because Workplace CSA organizers and members are usually working when the farm delivers to their CSA, making sure the farm truck is organized and the shares are easily identifiable is very important. It will facilitate dropping off CSA shares to a workplace distribution location. Most commonly, CSA organizers will assist the farmer when dropping off the produce and will supervise the distribution. Having someone there to assist with unloading the shares allows the farmer to drop off the produce quickly and return to their delivery schedule.
Workplace CSA distribution locations are typically located inside the company. Commonly, it takes place in the lunch room, conference room, a common hallway, open office space, kitchen or mailroom.
When looking for a distribution site, Just Food encourages members to find a site that:
• Is located near an elevator and does not require climbing stairs when moving the shares from the truck to the drop off site.
• Is easily accessible to CSA members • Is not in an area with heavy foot traffic
During the initial meeting between the farmer and workplace CSA, Just Food helps the CSA organizers think through the drop off and distribution process.
At a loading dock
A loading dock is a recessed bay or platform in a facility where trucks are loaded and unloaded. They are commonly found in commercial and industrial buildings and warehouses, where many Workplace CSAs are located.
Loading docks are very busy as deliveries are being made throughout the day. There are usually shipping and receiving docks Timing is essential and there are some mandatory requirements when delivering to a loading dock:
• CSA organizers must work with the building manager beforehand to arrange approval of the farm delivery, use of the dock and any insurance requirements.
• The recurring drop off must be scheduled to occur within a specific window of time. • The loading dock is staffed with loading dock personnel trained to handle dock lifts,
indicator lights and accident prevention. They also manage the timing of all deliveries’, check in the scheduled deliveries and guide drivers back into the loading dock area. • There may be truck height and size restrictions. For example, if the farm uses a van to
deliver, they may not be allowed into the dock area and will be required to use the access ramp as the van would be at a much lower level than the loading dock height.
Drop off at the sidewalk near a service entrance located outside the building
CSA organizers and volunteers helping with distribution will meet the farmer outside the company building on the sidewalk, by a service entrance or by the curb with hand trucks, utility carts or service carts acquired from loading dock or facilities staff.
Drop offs are scarcely ever allowed through the front door
Because to employee foot traffic, delivery regulations and security reasons, deliveries through the front main entrance are not authorized.
Drop off normally takes 15-30 minutes. The farmer unloads the boxes from the truck, onto the loading dock or onto a hand truck or service cart. The farmer explains to members any details about the share and picks up any packaging materials from the previous week’s distribution.
Distributing the Vegetables
The CSA organizers normally schedule distribution to start immediately following delivery of CSA shares. Some Workplace CSAs schedule distribution at the end of the day, when CSA members are heading home. CSA organizers will have to identify a location where the vegetables can be maintained between drop off and distribution time. While sites rarely have access to refrigeration, they are located indoors, and the vegetables will be kept out of the sun and protected until members pick up their shares. While CSA organizers will work to keep the produce fresh, we would also like to emphasize the importance of good post-harvest handling of the produce. The produce will travel a long way from the farm to the CSA members’ homes and may spend a stretch of time without refrigeration.
Two to four volunteers from the CSA will help run the distribution site each week. They will make sure that members know that their share has arrived, what their weekly share is and what time to start picking up their share. This is sent in via email to CSA members after the delivery has arrived.
They will also break down the distribution, store any items needed for the farmer to pick up the following week and make sure that any leftover produce is donated or distributed appropriately so that none is wasted.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Workplace Insurance Requirements
When considering whether to host a CSA, many companies have concerns about legal risks. Before they agree to host a CSA project, companies often require specific types of insurance:
Commercial General Liability Coverage
This provides coverage for liability resulting from bodily injury, property damage or negligence for which you may be liable. General liability insurance is designed to protect business owners/ operators from a wide range of liability exposures arising from accidents resulting from the insured’s premises or operations, products sold by the insured, operations completed by the insured, and contractual liability.
Commercial Automobile Insurance
This provides coverage for personal injury to another person and vehicle damage to another vehicle, while using your vehicle if the insured is legally liable for bodily injury or property damage.
Product Liability Insurance
This covers farmers against lawsuits that would be related to any products they sell, handle and distribute through CSA. For example, product liability insurance would cover food-borne illnesses present in any of the products being sold. Farm liability insurance covers personal injury to visitors, vendors or others on your farm property. Make sure that your product liability policy covers specifically risks related to food.
Umbrella Liability Coverage
Is liability insurance coverage that provides extra insurance protection over and above your existing policies .
Due to legal risks related to CSA, many Workplace CSA groups request from the farmer a certificate of insurance providing evidence of adequate insurance coverage.
Certificate of Insurance
A certificate of insurance or COI is a document issued by the insurance company or broker verifying the existence of specific insurance coverage. This document contains information on types and limits of coverage, insurance company, policy number, named insured, and the policies’ effective period dates and the entity to which the certificate is issued.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Driving Into and Around NYC
Driving into New York City can seem overwhelming for first timers. We recommend that farmers plan ahead to figure out a delivery route - paying attention to which routes are open to
commercial vehicles. Driving the route before the first day of deliveries can relieve some of the anxiety of driving in the city. The following is important information, resources and things to consider when driving into NYC.
Driving a Commercial Vehicle in NYC
The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) website offers a comprehensive set of rules for driving a commercial vehicle or truck in New York City. These include rules on traffic signals; pedestrians; restrictions on turns; speed restrictions; rules for parking, stopping, and standing; truck routes; rules pertaining to parkways, limitations on dimensions and weight of vehicles; and other information.
To review their comprehensive set of rules for commercial vehicles visit the DOT website: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/trucks.shtml#rules
NYCDOT’s Definition of a Commercial Vehicle
For the sake of choosing a proper driving route and to take advantage of commercial parking and standing, farmers should know whether or not their vehicle is considered commercial or not. Pursuant to Section 4-01(b) of the New York City Traffic Rules, a commercial vehicle is defined as the following.
For the purposes of parking, standing and stopping rules, a vehicle shall not be deemed a commercial vehicle or a truck unless:
• it bears commercial plates
• it is permanently altered by having all seats and seat fittings, except the front seats, removed to facilitate the transportation of property
• it displays the registrant’s (business) name and address affixed permanently, at least three inches high on both sides of the vehicle, in a color contrasting that of the vehicle and placed approximately midway on the doors or side panels
For the purposes other than parking, stopping and standing rules, a vehicle designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of property or for the provision of commercial services and bearing commercial plates is considered a commercial vehicle.
For a complete description on the definition of a commercial vehicle visit the DOT website: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/truckorcomm.shtml
kplace CSA Tipsheet
NYS Commercial Vehicles Rules
DMV Registration of a Commercial Vehicle
Commercial vehicles in NYC must be registered through the Department of Motor Vehicles. You must bring ID, license, insurance card, a completed MV82 form, title, and tax form. Upon registering your truck, you will receive a registration card and a set of commercial plates. Registration fee, plate fees, title fee and tax is based upon the weight of the vehicle and residing county.
DOT Requirements of a Commercial Vehicle
Trucks driving into New York City that weigh over 10,000 lbs are required to have a Department of Transportation Number (DOT #) displayed on the truck. If a truck is stopped without proper permitting, farmers can receive a ticket and be prohibited from continuing to make the delivery. To learn more about the permitting process, visit www.nypermits.org or call 1-888-783-1685 to speak with a representative from the New York State Department of Transportation.
Once the vehicle is properly registered, the driver must keep a daily log of the truck’s use. Consider leaving a special binder in the vehicle to record the truck’s activity for DOT records. The New York City Traffic Rules requires that commercial vehicles display the registrant’s name and address on both sides of the vehicle.
Because of the height of large trucks, it can be difficult for truck drivers to see what is happening directly in front of their vehicles. This has contributed to a significant number of pedestrian deaths in New York City. Since January 2012, cross over mirrors must be installed on all trucks that qualify as Commercial Vehicles, are registered in New York State, and operate in New York City (except for expressways)
Installing cross over mirrors in front of the cab of a truck is a simple way of eliminating a truck driver’s front “blind spot” and allowing the driver to see any person at least three feet tall and passing one foot in front of the vehicle. The mirrors are relatively inexpensive.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Routes Designated for Commercial Vehicles
Trucks used for commercial purposes and bearing commercial plates cannot use roads that restrict commercial vehicle access. The New York City Truck Route Network is a set of roads that commercial vehicles must use in New York City. This network is comprised of two distinct classes of roadways; Local Truck Routes and Through Truck Routes.
Each year the NYCDOT updates its map of routes for commercial vehicles. Consult this map or a truck specific GPS when deciding a route to your CSA and all delivery points:
Low Clearance Structures
There are several hundred low vertical clearance structures in New York City, including elevated rail lines, tunnels, bridges, highway ramps, buildings over highways and other obstructions. To download a low clearance citywide map visit the DOT website:
Note that commercial vehicles are NOT allowed on most NYC parkways. Parkways with commercial vehicle restrictions include the following roadways:
• Belt Parkway (Brooklyn and Queens) • F.D.R Drive (Manhattan)
• Henry Hudson Parkway (North of 59th Street to the Bronx-Westchester county line) • Cross Island Parkway (Queens)
• Jackie Robinson Parkway (Brooklyn/Queens) • Bronx River Parkway (Bronx)
• Hutchinson River Parkway • Mosholu Parkway (Bronx) • Pelham Parkway (Bronx) • Ocean Parkway (Brooklyn)
• Korean War Veterans Parkway (Staten Island)
• Grand Central Parkway, except for the portion of the Parkway between the Robert Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge and the western leg of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Single-unit vehicles with no more than three axles and ten tires may operate in both directions on this segment of the Grand Central Parkway.
In addition, certain segments of roadways throughout the City restrict access to commercial vehicles. For example, portions of Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue and the Brooklyn Bridge have restrictions for commercial vehicles and are signed accordingly. Please obey all posted signage in these areas.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
What to do if your truck breaks down
If your vehicle stalls on a highway, bridge or tunnel, call 911 to get help. Each road has its own towing company contracted to service that route.
For a 24 Hour, 7 days a week towing service, call the New York City Towing hotline 212-567-5282. For more information visit:
To review the Port Authority of NY and NJ – Traffic Rules and Regulations visit: http://www.panynj.gov/truckers-resources/pdf/green-book.pdf
For additional Trucker resources visit: http://www.panynj.gov/truckers-resources/
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Parking in NYC
Farmers delivering to Workplace CSAs should take into account parking when dropping off to their site.
Here are some general parking rules for a commercial vehicle:
• If you double park, you will have better luck avoiding a ticket if you do not block the entire road.
• Avoid parking within 10 feet of a fire hydrant. Parking in front of a hydrant will result in a ticket.
• Commercial vehicles are permitted to park in loading and unloading zones.
• Commercial vehicles can double park next to loading and unloading zones if there is no other space available within 100 ft. in either direction.
• If double parking, commercial vehicles must not block a bike lane. They should park outside of the bike lane leaving it clear, but avoid blocking the entire road.
• There are additional zone and time restrictions. To see a full listing of restrictions for parking, stopping and standing a commercial vehicle in New York City visit:
If you are having repeated problems receiving parking tickets, talk to the CSA organizers about possible parking strategies to avoid receiving parking tickets, or let someone at Just Food know.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Working with the City Group
As with all CSAs, a successful Workplace CSA is based on mutual understanding and support between members and the farm. Workplace CSAs have some unique challenges because they are not the primary activity during distribution and members/volunteers/coordinators have to fit the CSA into their often already busy workdays. As a result of this, there are some limitations the farmer must consider when working with a city group, both in the planning of CSA and throughout the CSA season.
While organizers are always present at the distribution site since it is their place of work, this doesn’t always lead to greater flexibility in managing the CSA. To make sure that they are available, CSA organizers and weekly volunteers often plan their workday schedule around the CSA drop off and distribution time--setting meetings for before or after the set times. While it is often hard to anticipate changes to the delivery schedule due to unforeseen events such as the truck break downs or heavy traffic, it is important to minimize schedule changes as much as possible.
Being a half an hour late could mean that the volunteers or coordinators are no longer available or that the loading dock is no longer free. The farm must communicate with the city group often and openly about any change in plans. This will allow the CSA organizers and their volunteers to plan around a problem when one occurs.
Because a Workplace CSA distribution happens in the middle of a company’s normal business activities, it is important to make the delivery process non-disruptive as possible. For most Workplace CSAs, the distribution day logistics must be well thought out in advance to avoid disturbing company employees and management or any other businesses at the same location.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Members’ sharing in risk and bounty is an important concept built into the CSA model.
With most CSAs, members pay up front for the whole season and the farmers do their best to provide an abundant share of produce each week. The farmer and members agree to share the risks and rewards of growing their food. Many times, the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of connection among members, and between members and the farmer.
In a plentiful year, the members’ shares are bountiful. During adverse farming conditions, members will receive less bounty. While this is one of the great benefits of a CSA for farmers, figuring out how to implement this idea can be difficult. This concept is especially tricky for CSA farmers who are growing for other markets and not simply dividing the harvest among their members. How does a farmer balance risk sharing and pleasing members? How do farmers decide whether to absorb a crop loss or to share that risk with members?
Situations that warrant risk sharing:
• Weather related events such as storms, strong winds, hail, frost damage, drought, excessive rain, etc. that damage the crops.
• A late spring with a lack of crops due to late frost, snow, or wet conditions • Uncontrollable damage from pest or disease
• Any crop failure that happens due to events out of control of the farmer
Situations that do not warrant risk sharing:
• Poor crop planning – improper succession planning or low quantity growth for CSA • Crop failure due to poor maintenance – lack of watering, weeding, fertility • Any crop failure due to conditions the farmer could have prevented
• Poor labor management
• Improper post-harvesting and storage of vegetables • Machinery or equipment failure
If a situation that warrants risk sharing arises, farmers should:
• Immediately communicate the problems with the CSA and Just Food. The more open and honest the communication, the easier it will be for CSA members to understand the
CSA members quit CSAs as often because they receive too much produce as too little. If you are having a good year, try to strike a balance between sharing the bounty and not overwhelming CSA members with too much produce.
situation. Even though this can be one of the more stressful times for farmers, having straightforward, timely communication will keep the problem from escalating.
• Work with the CSA group to figure out a way to best deal with the situation.
• Farmers should remember that CSA members are not wholesale purchasers. Even if the produce is not picture-perfect but still edible, it can be included in the share. With education in the newsletter, your members may be willing to eat greens with holes or split tomatoes.
• Consider the pros and cons of buying in produce from another farm to supplement the share. Farmers should especially consider doing this when the crop failure is due to poor management. While this may be an immediate cost for a farm, it could be a long-term gain with appreciative, loyal CSA members.
• When transporting produce, consider the possibility of carrying disease off of your farm. Even if produce is presentable, it is probably not prudent to transport diseased produce that could spread to other farms such as blighted tomatoes or potatoes.
Just Food recommends that farmers consider purchasing crop insurance. For more information on
insurance, see Section 2, Managing Risks, page 73.
In our experience, most CSA members will be supportive when they learn that a farm has suffered a loss. They will and take into consideration all of the bounty they have received through the season, and for long-term CSA members, the seasons before the loss.
Claudio Gonzalez farms in New York State’s Black Dirt region. Claudio sells his vegetables at farmers’ markets and to CSAs in New York City. 2011 was a tough year for many farmers, from an extraordinarily wet spring to historic flooding from Tropical Storms Irene and Lee late in the summer. Of the 16 acres Claudio farms, only three remained viable after the storms.
While Claudio struggled to deliver the remaining crops to his CSAs and was able to provide shares until the end of the season, his New York City community reached out to support him. His members were understanding about the slightly smaller shares in the weeks following the storm, his CSAs held a potluck to raise money for the farm, and some members helped with storm clean up on the farm through a volunteer trip organized by Just Food.
kplace CSA Tipsheet
Risk is a part of any farming operation. The primary goal of risk management and insurance is to protect your farm against property or liability losses that occur on the farm property and crop loss due to weather and climate. It is also to protect assets from claims and lawsuits that may result from injury to persons or damage to property of others from accidents that are associated with your farm business.
All farms should take the time to assess what risks exist and ways to protect the business against these risks. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) offers a Risk Management Check List: http://farm-risk-plans.rma.usda.gov/pdf/risk_management_checklist.pdf
RMA also offers a SWOT analysis, which is a tool that helps evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in your farm business. It can help you gain insight into possible solutions to existing or potential problems and the farm’s risk management needs:
As you complete the checklist and SWOT analysis, you may want to know what some risk management terms mean. This glossary will help you understand many of those common terms: http://farm-risk-plans.rma.usda.gov/pdf/rma_glossary2.pdf
Consult an insurance agent who understands the agriculture business and will work with you to reduce your potential risk and determine the specific needs of your farm. Each farm’s insurance policies will be different based on the individual farm’s needs, marketing, and financial situations. Since insurance rates can fluctuate, farmers should get insurance quotes every 2 – 3 years to ensure the best policy fit for your farm.
Insurance is one way to manage risk on a farm. Insurance is beneficial and essential for a farm for multiple reasons. The risks that a farm faces fall under five major categories:
• Crop Production Risks • Market Risks
• People Risks • Financial Risks • Legal Risks
Crop Production Risks
No matter how seasoned the farmer, no farmer can predict the yield or success of the crops planted each year. Major sources of production risks for small diversified farms are weather, pests, and diseases. Diversifying the farm operation can protect farmers against some of the risks of farming. However, weather and pest related problems could arise that could have an effect on the farm overall.
Purchasing crop insurance transfers risk from the farmer to the insurance company. Crop insurance is an example of a risk management tool that not only protects against losses but also offers
the opportunity for more consistent gains. When used with a sound marketing program, crop insurance can stabilize revenues and potentially increase average annual profits.
Types of Insurance that cover crop risks: AGR-Lite – This insurance is based on a farm’s annual
revenue instead of individual crop performance. This provides coverage for multiple crops under one insurance policy and protects against crop loss due to unavoidable natural disasters. This coverage may be useful for diversified farms. The application can be attained on the RMA website:
Crop insurance protection is also available on limited number of individual commodities (e.g. fresh sweet corn, apples and etc.). USDA also offers low level individual crop protection through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for almost all crops for which crop insurance is not available. NAP protection is available through the Farm Service Agency serving your county at:
Marketing is that part of your business that transforms production activities into financial success. Luckily, through certain avenues such as CSA, farmers are guaranteed their market at the beginning of the season with money paid in advance. At farmers markets, there is the risk of more variability in what profits a farmer might see each season. However, none of these marketing options are subject to the changes in global markets like commodity crops. However, if farmers are also selling through wholesale avenues, they should be aware of the potential swings in prices that can accompany unanticipated forces, such as weather or government action. These can lead to dramatic changes in crop and livestock prices.
Types of Insurance that Cover Market Risks: AGR Lite - This insurance is based on a farm’s
annual revenue instead of individual crop performance. This provides coverage for multiple crops under one insurance policy. This coverage may be useful for diversified farms and will protect against market fluctuations. See the RMA’s website: http://www.rma.usda.gov/pubs/rme/agr-lite.pdf for more information on AGR Lite.
Employers face two forms of people risks: the ability to secure and retain workers throughout the growing season and providing compensation to workers for injury or illness.
While there is not a form of insurance that can ensure worker availability and retention, there are strategies for managing employees to best deal with the risk. At the core of dealing with that risk is your approach to managing people.
Many farms are run by families, with multiple members of the family contributing to the farm work. Most families that successfully work together have evolved a good management system, although they usually don’t think about it as a management system. When working with family, the system usually reflects the time family members have spent together, of giving and taking, of
listening to and respecting one another. However, even small family farms can benefit as much as large operations from clearly defining how plans and decisions are to be made for the business. For managing employees both inside and outside of the family, involving everyone in the planning process of the farm can create a sense of group ownership of the goals of the organization. Workers who understand why and how decisions are made, and exactly what their responsibilities are, will see opportunities for the organization and for themselves inside the organization. Formalizing planning and management can improve safety and performance and reduce legal risks arising from employee relationships.
To ensure the health (both short term and long term) of the farm’s employees, farmers should consider purchasing insurance to mitigate health risk.
Types of Insurance that Cover People Risks:
Health Insurance – Health insurance covers medical expenses. It can be purchased on a group
basis (e.g. for companies interested in covering employees) or on an individual basis.
Disability Insurance – Disability insurance ensures income when a worker is injured and unable to continue working. This includes paid sick leave, short-term disability benefits, and long-term disability benefits.
Long-Term Care Insurance – This insurance covers costs related to home care, assisted living,
nursing homes, and other forms of care that require long-term assistance.
Worker’s Compensation Insurance – Also known as worker’s comp, this insurance provides
compensation to employees for medical care required due to injuries incurred while working.
Financial risks take multiple forms for farmers. Some of the major risks are: • Securing loans when needed
• Paying back loans at the end of the season • Having cash when needed
• Being able to grow the equity of the farm. Equity is the farmland, machinery, facilities, and crop and livestock inventories against which there is no debt.
It is especially important to have enough cash to cover ongoing farm obligations such as cash needed for on-farm costs, tax payments, repaying debt, and family living expenses.
Farmers have multiple strategies for managing financial risk. These are:
• Identifying what the financial risks are for the farm • Having a solid business plan to deal with these risks
• Setting aside a cash reserve for unanticipated costs or for times when income is not being earned