Fresh Thoughts, Locally Grown

7 Tips for a Healthy Workplace

A Farmigo delivery at the Kiva Offices in San Francisco. From left to right: Matt Flannery-Kiva CEO and co-founder, Emily Romanelli-Farmigo, Colin Frolich-Farmigo, Benzi Ronen-Farmigo CEO and founder, Nate Jordan-Farmigo

Congress can spend all the time they want arguing about healthcare, but at the end of the day, the people who should be most concerned about the nation’s health are employers. Why? Because at a very simple level, sick employees cost a lot of money. Even employees who aren’t sick but aren’t at their peak health could be a cost to employers money in terms of productivity levels. At the rate Congress is going our healthcare system might be broken for years, but it’s easier than you think to make little fixes in the workplace that lead to healthier, happier and more productive employees.

1. Fight Germs

This has been one of the worst year’s in history for the flu virus, causing a lot of sick days for those who are infected, and also some missed work for those avoiding the office for fear that it’s a breeding ground for germs. While the flu is highly contagious, there are steps employers can take to make sure that no one gets sick unnecessarily. Start by encouraging all employees to get flu shots, and making it clear that it’s acceptable to take 30 minutes or an hour off work to visit the doctor or drugstore to get one. Offer a generous work-from-home policy, so that employees who are feeling under the weather don’t pressure themselves to come into work and risk infecting others. Also, remind employees that stress and lack of sleep erode the immune system, while eating healthy and exercising can boost it. Showing your employees that you don’t just think of them as work horses and care about their health is a good way to remind them to take care of themselves.

2. Ergonomic Work Spaces

The research is out, and the verdict isn’t good for office employees. According to new research, sitting for eight hours a day is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. While not every office can offer standing desks or full customizable workstations, you can encourage your employees to make their workspaces as comfortable as possible. Supply exercise balls instead of chairs for employees who want to tone their core for a few hours a day. Most importantly, remind employees that getting up to get a glass of water or stretch once an hour dramatically improves their health. Even better, employees who do this are actually more productive.

3. Recognition

Employee recognition is one of the biggest, most important trends in human resources today. Why? Because it turns out that more than anything else (and that includes cash bonuses) recognition makes employees more engaged, productive and excited to come to work than simply saying, “thank you” for a job well done. It’s even better if you recognize your employees publicly so that they can shine in front of their coworkers. Strategies range from social recognition software to calling out a great week at team meetings to urging managers to highlight quality work on the spot.

4. Vacation

In our workaholic culture, not taking vacation can be seen as a badge of honor. In reality, not taking vacation is a surefire way to burn out, be less productive and run the risk of disease later in life. As an employer, you can’t make vacation mandatory, but you can strongly encourage it. More importantly, make it possible for employees to truly unplug while they’re on vacation. Suggest they turn off their email and work them to make sure they know their work will be covered by others when they’re away.

5. Encourage Physical Activity

Exercise is critical to health in ways that extend far beyond simple weight loss and maintenance. Exercise prevents disease, decreases stress and even improves brain performance. Encourage employees to exercise by offering a discount at a local gym, enrolling in team sports or signing up for events like short races and walkathons for charity. However, exercise doesn’t have to take place outside the office. Get creative – even during the work day. Meetings between two or three people can be switched to “walking meetings.”

6. Provide Healthy Snacks

It’s easy to make everyone in the office happy by bringing in a super-sized bag of M&Ms or providing donuts on Friday mornings. However, a few hours after the sugar rush comes the crash. And after a few years of eating junk food, your employees’ health will start to decline, and their productivity won’t be far behind it. On the other hand, making sure there’s an ample supply of healthy snacks like local, organic fresh fruits and vegetables will make for healthier, happier workers today and in the future. The behavior that you cultivate at the office may very well translate into their home lives as well, inspiring them to make more nutritious choices every day.

7. Create a Sense of Community

On any survey evaluating happiness in the workplace, you’ll notice questions asking whether employees feel that they have friends and/or confidants in the workplace. Gone are the days of clocking in at 9am, leaving at 5pm and heading home to a nuclear family. Your employees probably spend the majority of their time at work, so it’s important that they’re happy not just with the work they do but also with the people they work with. One way to make that happen is obvious: Do your best to hire good people. When conducting interviews and evaluating prospective candidates, look not just for job skills but also character traits. Then once you’ve hired good people, create scenarios in which they can bond and get to know each other. Instead of going the usual happy hour route, try team bowling, scavenger hunts or other unique team building activities. On a day to basis, implement a mentor or buddy program that encourages employees to eat lunch or grab coffee one-on-one. Taking a step away from their desks will not only foster friendship but also improve productivity and lead to idea sharing!

Kill a few birds with one stone and start a Farmigo community at your office. Employees who bond, relax and eat healthy together do great work together! Sign up to learn more here.

Calling All Superheroes: Save Local, Before It’s Too Late

 

Most of us have come to realize the importance of eating local. In fact, the market research firm Mintel reported that more than half of consumers believe that it is more important to buy local produce than organic. Unfortunately, as local has been getting more and more accolades, it’s caught the attention of some bad guys who want to steal its power and use it to do Evil.

These power-hungry folks don’t realize that the point of eating local is making things better for farmers and consumers. They want to use local to help themselves. We regret to report that one such maniacal evil-doer has kidnapped local – and we need your help to get it back.

That’s right. Walmart, one of our country’s most well-known (and highly suspect) megastores claims to be running a local food program. According to a story on Harvest Public Media, Walmart has launched an initiative to increase the amount of “local” food it offers in its grocery department. The company says 11 percent of food now comes from local farms, compared to 4 percent two years ago.

At first glance, the numbers look good. But to assess whether this is really progress, we need to ask exactly what Walmart means by “local.” The company does all of its own reporting and there’s no way to confirm exactly what local sourcing means to Walmart, especially in colder climates that can’t offer diversity in produce all year long. Furthermore, Harvest Media reports that they were unable to find local farmers who had worked with Walmart. Small, local farms are in most cases incapable of meeting Walmart’s supply needs. To get around this issue, Walmart labels anything that was farmed in-state to be local. In reality, the definition of “local” is typically food that was grown less than 100 miles away.

If we let Walmart get away with calling their groceries local, we let them hijack all the hard work our small farms have been doing all over the county. At Farmigo, we’re on a mission to save local from the clutches of companies like Walmart that want to use the power of local for evil rather than good.

If you’re with us, repost this blog post or tweet it out with the hashtag #SaveLocal. And stay tuned for more steps on how we can rescue local and keep it safe. We need all the superheroes on our side that we can get!

Our Resolution for 2013: Eat for Fun!

Most people start the new year with resolutions to eat healthier, but by this point in January, they even haven’t figured out to start – or have already stopped. Why? Because eating healthy is pretty hard! For most of us, it involves a lot of extra work, changing who are you and revamping your usual routine. Planning to eat better during the slow holiday season is easy; actually eating better when things get busy in January in another story. Plus, let’s be honest. Food is good and eating is fun. For most of us, January is dark, cold and remarkably fun-free when compared to December.

French fries and Ben & Jerry’s, anyone?
Here at Farmigo, we also love food (obviously!) and we’d be the last people to tell you eat less or have less fun with it. However, we do care about your health. That’s why our resolution for 2013 is give you access to food that will make you healthier, save you time, help you cook more delicious dishes, do good for the environment and support local farmers in your area. What’s more, we want to help you do it by asking you to do less work and making fewer changes.

You don’t have to go out your way to get access to food that will truly improve your health and your life. And once you have access to all that great food, you don’t have feel bad about really enjoying it – and dare we say, eating for fun?

In fact, to encourage you to have more fun with eating, we want you to share the recipes you’re most excited about it, whether it’s a dish you’ve been eating for years or one you’d like to try in 2013. You can tell us about your favorite food on Twitter with the hashtag #EatforFun2013, post to our Facebook page or leave us a note in the blog comments.

At the end of January, we’ll feature some of the best suggestions here on the blog. And maybe even try making them at home, because we think eating is fun, just like you.

Making a Difference With Carrot Creative

When we first partnered with Carrot Creative, we were excited about the opportunity to help them change the way employees eat and think about food. One of the key missions of Farmigo is to bring better quality food to everyone across the nation by giving them access to local, sustainable food directly from farmer.

With our recent launch, we opened our platform to anyone who wants to lead a food community at their workplace, school or apartment complex. Carrot Creative has been a fantastic partner from the beginning, recognizing how important it is for employees to eat well, and even giving each employee a $10 weekly subsidy to help make that happen.

However, while bring better quality food to people is important, we can’t forget those people who struggle to put food on the table at all. We’re proud to be joining Carrot Creative in an initiative to donate food to the Food Bank of New York. Together with local New York farmers, we’ll donate fresh, local food to families in need — for the next twelve months.

Carrot Creative has created this awesome video/GIF, “The 12 Days of GIFing” to both celebrate the holiday and to encourage others to join us in this mission.

To help us give a gift to those in need, visit the our marketplace for donations today!

Happy Holidays from Carrot Creative and Farmigo!

Start An Online Farmers’ Market in Your Community Today

If you’ve ever bitten into a tomato fresh from the vine or scrambled up some eggs from a hen that’s been allowed to run free in a pasture, you’re probably as passionate about farm-fresh, locally-grown, just-harvested food as we are.

But, if you’ve ever glanced at your watch at 3pm on a Saturday only to realize that you were running errands and missed your neighborhood farmers’ market again, you’re probably well aware that buying fresh, local food isn’t always easy.

At Farmigo, we recognize this challenge as well. We’ve been working to solve it for three years by delivering technology to farms to help them manage their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions. We’ve helped farms deliver to big companies like Google and Twitter and we’re thrilled with how these programs have flourished. But we also realized that the farmers’ market has something CSAs don’t.

Choice.

We started to wonder: what if there was a way to combine the variety and personalization of the farmers’ market with the convenience of a CSA? What if there was a way to connect communities, such as workplaces, schools and community centers, directly to complementary local farms to provide a personalized online marketplace for local, fresh-from-harvest food? Well, it turns out there is a way. And we’re very proud to announce today that in several newly developing Farmigo food communities in Brooklyn and SF, the revolution has begun.

So what does it mean to be a “Farmigo food community?”

Every Farmigo community starts with a champion who is passionate about turning his or her workplace, school or community center into a delivery site for local farms to deliver food that’s been harvested within 48 hours and traveled less than 100 miles. Champions get the communities started and connect farmers to members on delivery day.

Once a community is set up, members of each food community shop their dedicated Farmigo farmer’s market online, pick and choose from a selection of seasonal fruit, vegetables, eggs, meats, cheeses and even wine and coffee in some locations. Then, their orders are delivered weekly to their food community site.

Although we’re just launching, we already have food communities rolling out in New York and San Francisco. Communities spring up at workplaces, schools, apartment buildings and community centers for all different reasons, but share one common goal. At Carrot Creative, a new media marketing agency located in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, they view Farmigo not just as a way to offer delicious, fresh produce to employees but also to gain an edge in New York’s intense war for talent. They offer employees $10 a week towards their Farmigo groceries. Employees choose from a broad range of items from apples to meat to yogurt to coffee. Check out the full selection here.

Farmigo is not only a great benefit for employees, it also provides a new revenue stream for farmers. When they sell to grocery stores, they make nine cents to 20 cents on every dollar. When they sell to Farmigo communities, they make $.80 on every dollar. It’s clear that the food system is ripe for change, and we’re thrilled to say with our first communities, we’ve started the ball rolling.

But this is only the beginning of the beginning. The exciting part is, now the ball is in your court. Anyone can be  a community champion and become an agent of disruption. To learn more, visit our community champion page. Join us now in creating the infrastructure for a better food system!

Farmigo’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund

 

Photo by Mike Schroeder

There are still many families in New York and New Jersey devastated by Hurrican Snady and in need of help. In the wake of the storm, victims relied on the generosity of others to get food, shelter, blankets and support. At Farmigo, we were inspired to take action, roll up our sleeves and help out. We began collecting donations that would be used to provide hurricane victims with healthy locally grown meals.

In the last few weeks, we, along with the amazing farms in our network, reached out to members on our platform and asked them to contribute funds to feeding Sandy victims. We are using 100% of funds collected to purchase food from local farmers in the NY/NJ region and redistribute it to those in need.

There is still an opportunity to participate in this effort, which benefits both families and the local farming community. If you would like to help, please visit our Sandy Relief page to learn more.

Your generosity is greatly appreciated by all involved. We hope you and your families are well.

Click to donate now!

Organic Vs. Local Produce

These days, more and more people are paying attention to where their food comes from and how it was produced. There are many consumers who choose what products to buy based on environmental or health concerns. They look for items that are certified organic or that were locally grown. Local produce does not guarantee that the food is organic, while some organic produce is produced in distant areas.

There are organizations that have certifications for organically grown produce. Each organization has their own set of rules that must be followed in order for their certification to apply. Foods that meet the federal government’s definition of being organically grown will carry a certification from the USDA. There are certain chemicals a farmer can use on the crop without losing the certification from the USDA, so those who want a chemical-free food should look for a different certification.

Some other organizations have organic certifications that follow a stricter set of guidelines. Organic certification programs, like CCOF, Quality Assurance International and OCIA, have their own labels, and they award to food products that follow their standards of growing. These labels are awarded along with the USDA label. Many state-specific organizations offer organic certifications at a state level, also.

Local produce is environmentally responsible because transporting food across the country or shipping it from another country consumes massive amounts of fossil fuels. Farmers’ markets are gaining in popularity all over the country as more and more shoppers want to reduce their carbon footprint. However, just because the food came from a local farm, it does not necessarily mean it is certified organic.

Yet many local farmers will practice organic farming but opt out of the organic certificate because of the high costs imposed to qualify for certification.  However, these farms usually offer the option for you to go and visit the farm and see for yourself the different methods they use to grow their food.  This kind of transparency is often worth much more to the customer than certification.

Whether one should buy foods that are produced locally over those with an organic certification is a personal choice. Responsible consumers should research each option and decide based on what is most important to them. No matter what, every consumer should be able to find foods that fit the standards of what is important to them.

Would you like some wine with that?

It’s Tuesday evening and you’ve just gotten home from a long day at work.  Your weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box arrived at the office today and when you start unpacking the contents of the box, your head rushes with excitement and planning.  A nice beet salad with massaged kale, spaghetti squash with tomatoes and fresh basil, watermelon gazpacho with red onion, capers, and a touch of fresh mint.  The possibilities are endless, if only you had a little something to take the edge off the long day before getting started in the kitchen….

Photo Credit: Food Bytes at cbc.ca

Well, if your CSA delivery comes from Covert Farms outside of Oliver, British Columbia, you just might find exactly what you are looking for tucked away in your veggie box!  Alongside the fresh ingredients for all the delicious meals to be prepared, members of Covert’s Wine Club can find one of many varieties of locally produced organic wine to be paired with countless creative dishes.  Located in the heart of Canada’s Wine Capital, the Covert Farms Vineyard is situated on the same grounds as the 600 acre vegetable farm and fruit orchards, and has been gaining recognition and a steady following since it opened in 2005.  As of this month, the Wine Club and CSA have joined forces to offer you a delivery package that provides you with locally grown organic produce and organic wines in one convenient location.

British Columbia boasts a unique climate at the northern limits of where grape-growing is possible.  The hot, dry, desert climate gives way to intense summer heat and extreme cold in the winter, which pushes the grapes to their limit and risks killing the vines.  The resulting growing season is short and hot, falling rather late in comparison to other regions, but this same heat makes the grapes ripen quickly and produce sugars which enhance the flavor of the wines.  White wines can range from dry to sweet, while red wines tend to be on the dry side of the spectrum.

The Covert Farms Wine Club has two different membership levels which determine the amount of wine you will receive throughout the year.  The “Nighthawk” membership requires a commitment of purchasing the equivalent of at least one case throughout the year and a 10% discount on the retail value of the wine, while the “Amicita” membership requires a minimum purchase of two cases throughout the year and offers the additional bonus of a 15% discount.  One case is equal to 12 bottles and the best part of the Wine Club-CSA is that you can divide up the order however you want over the year; whether that means a bottle a week or a bottle a month is up to you!  And you can choose a different wine each time, selecting the wines based on the season, sales offered by the farm, or depending on what kind of meat or fish you are planning to cook this week.  Maybe a light pino blanc to cool off on a hot summer evening?  Or one of Covert Farms’ unique proprietary blended reds to complement your locally grown steak on the grill?  The choice is entirely up to you!

If you are interested in getting to know the wine before signing up for a membership, consider visiting the farm and winery.  In fact, you should bring the whole family as there is something for everyone at Covert Farms.  From the wine tasting room to the market cafe complete with a coffee bar and kitchen preparing dishes with ingredients straight from the fields, you will be able to experience first-hand the local tastes of British Columbia.
Other ways to connect:

Catch Covert Farms this summer at one of many Okenhagen Wine Festivals happening almost every day and featuring between 20-100 BC wineries.

Or consider joining the folks at Covert Farms for their annual Festival of the Tomato in September to celebrate the peak of tomato season with tomato fights, tomato mini golf, wine tasting, food vendors, and live music!

Live in British Columbia and want to join Covert Farms’ CSA and Wine Club?  Sign up today!

Commitment-phobe Eats Local: What it takes to be a successful CSA member

A guest post by Karli, one of Farmigo’s wonderful Customer Advocates :)

Karli and Zeek with their CSA fridge - pure excitement for all the yummy things they are going to cook

Working for Farmigo, I get to see a lot of variety in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) models; so when it came time for me to choose my CSA for the season, I found that I had a whole checklist for what I wanted. Finding a CSA is a little bit like finding a date –  there are things on my checklist that are deal breakers, as well as others with which I can be more flexible with.
Similar to dating, when you find a CSA that you like, you have to commit. Many questions ran through my head like, “What if it’s too much food? What if I get veggies that I don’t know? What if I need to go on vacation?” – all the typical questions of a classic commitment-phobe.  Knowing this about myself, I decided to make a pact with my friend, Dan with whom  I share my CSA. To solidify the pact, we recorded it – we were a bit silly with excitement:

I live in Ithaca, NY, where shopping for a CSA share is like speed dating. You can walk down the farmers’ market and stop at almost every booth to learn about a new CSA. The best advice I can give when choosing a CSA program is to ask questions. One of the greatest things about local food is that you get to actually have a relationship with the person who grows it. It is best to start out with the questions that are deal breakers. For example, one of my non-negotiables was flexibility of the share if I go on vacation.  Every farm has different policies, so it is important to find one that fits with your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to commit to a share just because you are traveling. There is always a solution whether it is doubling up on a share for a week, passing it off to a friend for a week, or donating it to a local food bank.  Don’t forget that the deal you make with your farmer is a two way street; in return for your commitment through purchasing a share in the beginning of the season, the farmer is usually willing to make some compromises for you.

Anton talking about the history of his land with 2 CSA members

Anton, the owner of Early Morning Farm is the King of Flexible. I chose Anton’s program not only due to the quality and variety of produce he offers, but because he gives options including many pick up locations at many times and pre-packed shares as well as pick your own shares. I can pick up a pre-packed share at 9:00 PM on a Thursday at a coffee shop or pack my own at 9:00 AM on a Saturday at the market. The best part is, I can change my pick up time, location, and type every week!  This flexibility has been a major contribution to my success as a CSA member.

A large part of being a CSA member is shared risk, and I have found that in most cases the outcome is usually very positive for the buyer. Like anything, the first time you try something, you are going to face challenges. When you become a member of a CSA you find that your lifestyle will change a bit. You will be eating healthier, spending less time and money at the supermarket and a little more time in the kitchen (Who said change was bad!?). Since I have started my CSA, I have reduced my meat intake by half, and I have saved about $150 a month at the supermarket.

Inoculating mushroom log at Early Morning Farm open house!

Another one of my non-negotiables was that I wanted to be able to visit my farm and meet other CSA members. I had this opportunity a few weeks ago. Anton arranged an open house at Early Morning Farm where I got to learn how to inoculate a mushroom log, eat delicious local, seasonal specialties from some of Ithaca’s finest, and walk through the meticulous greenhouses. Getting a chance to go and see where my food comes from and understanding the work that goes into producing locally grown produce was one of my biggest motivators to get a CSA. The community and network that is built around the farm provides learning experiences I never thought I would have.

 

I think one of the biggest reasons I have been a successful CSA member this season is that I have a partner in crime. Somebody who is willing to eat the things I don’t like, cook, and share a meal with me. When we unpack our box every week we make guesses as to what the mystery items may be. It’s kind of a fun game, although today we totally mixed up zucchini and cucumber (easy mistake – it tasted good anyways). The mystery items are a fun challenge and allow us to explore outside of our comfort zone into areas of delicious concoctions that are sure to become family favorites. When we get stuck, we turn to gojee.com, a really cool website that pulls all sorts of creative recipes. All you do is type in the ingredients you have and wallah – recipes galore with beautiful pictures and sometimes some fun stories. There is always a sense of pride when we sit down at the table and can say 80% of this meal came from a farm 20 minutes away and we are part of the reason that they are able to succeed.

Carrot cake I made with carrots from the farm, it seemed like the first two weeks I managed to make everything into a pie or a cake! Who said veggies had to be healthy?

I totally understand the fear of commitment to a CSA, but just like with relationships, there are many proverbial fish in the CSA sea (and even some actual community supported fish shares!). There are challenges and compromises, but in the end, you feel happy and well fed.

The Muddier the Boots, the Fresher the Veg!

Boston residents, listen up!  Fresh, locally grown, organic produce is now available at a location near you!  A new collaborative of Vermont farmers, Muddy Boots CSA (community supported agriculture), now delivers a variety of fruits, veggies, eggs, cheeses, and meats to locations in Cambridge, Sommerville, and Jamaica Plain.

members of the Muddy Boots team plant seeds for the summer season

Muddy Boots CSA, a joint project of five Vermont farms (Rockville Market Farm, Burnt Rock Farm, Kingsbury Market Garden, Wood’s Market Garden, and Pakeen Farm) was recently established to address a number of difficulties facing farmers in the area.  First of all, the challenging weather conditions in Vermont, characterized by harsh winters and mildly warm summers, present an array of obstacles for growers to overcome.  By working in a collaborative nature with other farms in the area, each individual farmer can focus on fewer crops and really master the techniques needed to grow those crops in Vermont.  The CSA shares are rounded out by each farm contributing their mastered crops to the box, providing the customer with a variety of produce without the danger to the farmers of spreading themselves thin trying to grow too many different crops.

The variety and ease which this shared model offers to the farmers creates an attractive offering to the customer, leading to yet another benefit of the collaborative action: access to a large, urban market.  You may remember a while back when we featured a similar collaborative effort between a few members of the Farmigo family out in Houston, TX.  Both the Houston model and the Muddy Boots model emphasize the importance of seeking out opportunity for collaboration by viewing other small farmers in the area as allies rather than competition.  These types of collaborative initiatives are exactly what we need to help promote a new model of business, the “Economy of Community”.

nothing says summer like strawberries!

When we spoke to Eric from Rockville Market, one of the founding members of Muddy Boots, he alluded to the good business practice of farms working together as it pertains to each of the three points outlined in the Economy of Community:  shared efforts in marketing, distribution, and the transfer of information.  The size of these farms makes it difficult for them to tackle any of these points on their own, yet when working with others in a similar position, these goals become ever more attainable.  Evidently, the kind of collaborative model used by Muddy Boots enables profits to increase for the farmers as well as increasing the benefit to consumers through the availability of affordable, fresh food into their communities.

fresh produce delivered this summer to Boston Residents

In fact, the partnership was such a natural next step for these farmers, that it formed rather easily.  As Eric told us, “I got three guys together for a beer, and by the end of the night we had started a collective.”

What other kinds of revolutionary social changes can we dream up over a beer??