On-Line Farm to Workplace System

2013 Annual Report for CNE13-107

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2013: $14,985.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Tara Kelly
Rutland Area Farm and Food Link

On-Line Farm to Workplace System


Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) is testing the implementation of an on-line farmers market as a means of reaching new customers at their place of work. Piloted in the summer of 2012 at one worksite, NESARE grants have allowed us to expand this to additional worksites and continue learning more about the benefits and challenges to implementing this type of local food market.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. At least 7 worksites will participate in the program.
  2. 20% of employees per worksite will register to participate in the program.
  3. At least 500 employees will make at least one purchase through the program.
  4. At least $60,000 of product will be sold June 1 – December 31, 2013.
  5. 250 employees will actively order throughout the season.
  6. A minimum of 12 farmers / producers will participate in the program.
  7. 100% of farmers will express satisfaction with program operation.
  8. 75% of farmers will commit to participating beyond December 31, 2013.
  9. 75% of customers indicate they will continue to participate beyond December 31, 2013.


  1. 8 sites have enrolled in the program (including the original pilot site)
  2. The participation rate has varied widely among worksites. The highest percentage in any worksite is 80% of a 6 person worksite. 27% of a 40 person worksite. %%% VCS and RRMC
  3. 213 people have made at least one purchase.
  4. $24,000 of product was sold through the market in 2013.
  5. 175 people actively ordered throughout the season.
  6. 14 farmers (meat, eggs and vegetables), 1 baker and 1 specialty foods producer participated in the program.
  7. There were some complaints from farmers about low sales. We’ve worked closely with them to resolve issues – including putting a much greater effort into marketing. The resulting improvements have helped and farmers and producers want to stick with the market.
  8. All farmers and producers are currently committed to participating in 2014.
  9. Customer surveys were conducted but were not conclusive on this particular point. Survey results are below.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Our scope of work has evolved a bit compared to our initial proposal.  Here’s how it has evolved:

We anticipated that expansion of the program to sites beyond our pilot worksite would involve needing to create a distribution system. We built into our budget costs for packing materials and a contractor to make the deliveries.  As it turned out, we were able to do these activities in creative ways that did not require use of grant dollars.  The pilot worksite, Vermont Country Store, has become a full partner in the program.  They are allowing use of their distribution warehouse to accept the weekly deliveries from all of the farmers and other producers.  Their staff then picks and packs the orders using packing materials largely recycled from their warehouse.  They then make deliveries to worksites south of Rutland via their own courier services. A $2 delivery charge per order is charged to help cover their costs.  Another partner, Green Mountain Power, then makes deliveries to worksites within Rutland using an electric van they own.  They do this as a community service.  So, again, no grant dollars are used.

Meantime, we realized that there is a great need in this program for proactive marketing by RAFFL staff.  Our original proposal anticipated that we could rely on in-house champions at each worksite to promote the program and keep people engaged within the worksites.  We learned two things.  First, the worksites did not always have a person with the time and energy or expertise to be a full champion.  At minimum they would be a point of contact for us and for participants, troubleshoot issues etc., but they weren’t necessarily effective at marketing.  We found that this was resulting in variable sales and low participation at some worksites.  RAFFL staff met with farmers in September to review sales data and check-in about the program as a whole.  At this meeting it became clear that additional marketing was the critical bottleneck that needed our attention.  RAFFL staff then began actively marketing the program both to increase the number of people enrolling as well as to increase the weekly sales.  The results clearly demonstrated themselves with a doubling of weekly sales and consistent participation from enrollees.

Finally, we are at a critical point in the market as we come into the coldest winter months.  We want to continue the marketing efforts to ensure there is consistent participation.  We feel this is a critical learning time.  We have shared preliminary results with colleagues in Vermont at Vital Communities, the Intervale Center, and the Agency of Agriculture.  But, we’d like to continue this work a bit longer before drawing conclusions that will shared more broadly.  As a result, we’d like to request a modification to our timeline – allowing us to continue with the active work through the beginning of March at which time we can stop, assess, and prepare findings to share broadly with others in keeping with the grant timeline. 


Kara Soulia

Distribution Manager
Vermont Country Store
401 Innovation Dr
N. Clarendon, VT 05759
Office Phone: 8027754177
Mike Walker

517 White Birch Lane
Charlotte, VT 05445
Website: www.yourfarmstand.com
Ryan Wood-Beauchamp

Evening Song Farm
1451 Route 103
Cuttingsville, VT 05738
Office Phone: 8023580011
Website: eveningsongcsa.com
Jeff Smith

Smith Maplecrest Farm
2450 Lincoln Hill Rd
Shrewsbury, VT 05738
Office Phone: 8024920571