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Farm to Work (Texas)

Implementation

Main Components

  • Determine program feasibility* – The first step in establishing a Farm to Work program is determining its feasibility.  Answers to the following questions will help with this task:
    • What are employees’ interest level and demand for the program?
    • Is there someone who can serve as the primary coordinator during the planning and implementation phase? Does the worksite designate someone with worksite wellness as a primary function of his or her job description?
    • To implement the program, will it be possible to obtain documented approval from all the appropriate people at the worksite?
    • What funds does the worksite have available to start and sustain a program?
    • What farm(s) are available and interested in supplying a program?

* The Farm to Work Toolkit, in the Intervention Materials section, includes further details on how to assess feasibility.

  • Determine interest level of employees – To establish an accurate prediction of participation, DSHS conducted an online, interest survey with its employees during the initial planning phases.  The survey is included in the Farm to Work Toolkit in the Intervention Materials section.
  • Identify an Internal Farm to Work Coordinator – Identify someone to fulfill the role of a Farm to Work Coordinator, ideally someone whose current job functions align or relate to the coordinator duties.  This coordination may take significant staff time during the initial planning and start-up phase, but once the program is in place, the time required is minimal.  Farm to Work Coordinator duties include:
    • Being a point of contact for project partners
    • Becoming familiar with relevant agency policies
    • Obtaining all approvals
    • Identifying the drop-off location and coordinating distribution on delivery days
    • Communicating with employees and conducting ongoing outreach and promotions
    • Providing customer service by answering employee questions
    • Providing technical assistance for moving the program forward
  • Identify an External Farm to Work Coordinator – Partnering with an external group may be necessary to coordinate initial tasks such as:
    • Identifying and coordinating with farmers
    • Developing and hosting an external website for processing orders and payments
    • Working with farmers to prepare for production, equipment, and staffing changes that may be required to supply the worksite
    • Securing necessary legal documents, such as farmer waivers and worksite MOUs
    • Providing training to farmers in customer satisfaction and use of farmer-administrative section of the website
    • Providing training and technical assistance to Internal Farm to Work Coordinator in promotions, customer service, and use of administrative section of the website
  • Find the farmer or group of farmers to supply produce – The External Farm to Work Coordinator will identify and build a relationship with a farmer or group of farmers who have the desire and capacity to meet the demand of the worksite.  Farmers’ market managers and local producer groups are good places to start this process.
  • Identify a distribution site – Determine where employees will pick up their produce.  When selecting a location, ensure the pick up area is covered, easily accessible by both farmers and employees, and will not interfere with traffic flow or normal business operations.  Examples include near a front entrance or break area.
  • Get approvals both to implement the program and to address liability issues/concerns – Permissions needed may include approval from a department or program director, facilities/building manager, legal counsel, etc..
  • Establish an external ordering/payment system – A secure external online ordering and payment system is needed to process, track, and handle all the orders and to process payments.  At a minimum, the ordering system must:
    • Allow users to select a delivery site when placing an order (instead of asking users for a shipping address)
    • Update weekly the available produce listing and the date of the next delivery
    • Send a confirmation email, instruction and reminder emails, and other announcements (such as promotions, changes due to weather, etc.) to customers
    • Possess tracking capabilities for generating weekly lists of individual orders and for evaluating the program’s success.
    • Sustainable Food Center, with supplemental funding from DSHS and other third-party funders, contracted with a web developer to create and maintain a highly functional website, which can be replicated and utilized by other entities.  Costs to use this existing website are minimal, and include a set-up and training fee, plus covering ongoing maintenance costs. 
    • A percentage of sales (10%) is retained by SFC and used to offset web maintenance, hosting, and payment processing fees with the remainder (90%) paid directly to the farmers.
  • Determine a communication channel – Identify a means of communicating information to employees to promote the program and respond to questions.  For this purpose, DSHS created a general “wellness” email account.  The worksite coordinator, with approval from administration, worked with an IT or internal communications department.
  • Raise awareness and market the program – Identify and work with someone at the worksite who can help craft messages and promote the program as needed.  If possible, develop a communication plan and timeline for the messaging.  DSHS used an internal website to provide basic information, including answers to FAQs, and to create a buzz about the program.
  • Launch the program!

Keys to Success

  • Designate roles of participating entities
    • As the state health department, DSHS provides technical support, coordinates evaluation efforts, promotes the program to local and national partners, assists SFC in worksite recruitment, and trains worksite coordinators.
    • As a nonprofit organization with the goal of increasing access to locally grown food, SFC recruits and trains farmers, operates the ordering/payment website (with website management contractor), recruits and trains worksite coordinators, assesses employee interest, secures worksite administrative approval, supports outreach and promotions, and provides customer service and support.  Website services, integral to the operation of the Farm to Work program, are provided by a contractor and include ongoing website maintenance and support.
    • Farmers provide high quality produce at ample volume and variety, provide information for promotions and marketing, update weekly “what’s in the box” information, deliver on time, and participate in promotional events.
    • Each worksite designates an employee to serve as an onsite coordinator who will facilitate administrative support, conduct ongoing outreach and promotions, assist with distribution of orders during delivery days, and provide some customer service.
  • Beta testing of ordering and payment website – Have employees on hand who have agreed to test the site, and provide them with specific instructions for providing feedback.
  • Trial run – Coordinate a mini-delivery to test the program and delivery system.  One suggestion is to only promote the first delivery day among those employees who responded to the survey and to limit the number of orders that can be accepted during the first delivery.

Barriers to Implementation

  • Staffing –Identifying a staff member who has the time to be the internal coordinator can be a challenge, because this Staff member must have time to coordinate start-up of the program during regular working hours in addition to their existing job duties.
  • Farmers – Depending on the size of the worksite and demand for local produce, having enough farmers able and willing to meet the demand could be challenging.
  • Weather Weather can play a big role in the farming community with drought, flooding, heat, and freezing conditions.  During adverse weather conditions, the program can go on break for an indefinite amount of time.