Adventist HealthCare
& One Acre Farm

A Partnership to promote good health, sustainability and buying locally

On Tuesdays between June and November, One Acre Farm brings a bounty of vegetables directly to Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, for a localized Farmer’s Market situated at the hospital. What started as a traditional CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) has blossomed into a special partnership – with a unique twist.

We spoke with Brendan Johnson, Senior VP, Human Resources and Sarah Kee, Manager of Benefits and Well-being Education and Outreach, Adventist HealthCare about the partnership (answers attributed to Brendan unless noted).

Adventist HealthCare’s commitment to health doesn’t stop with patients.

We are interested in showcasing the ways that business-to-business partnerships, like Adventist HealthCare and One Acre Farm, can promote public health and environmental sustainability while simultaneously seeing that food dollars are spent locally.

Tell us about the partnership between Adventist HealthCare and One Acre Farm.

We had a community member that knows the services of One Acre Farm; he knew Farmer Mike and introduced us to him. Mike’s vision for healthy food, for supporting the local community and thinking outside the box to deliver healthful food really aligned with our mission and approach. At Adventist HealthCare, wholeness and health is important for our patients and community – but also very much to our staff. Farmer Mike came in with a lot of passion about healthful, organically and locally grown produce. We wanted to figure out how to be a part of that locally while making it affordable to our employees.

When did the program get started?

Within the last year. Farmer Mike had a shared CSA program with us two or three years ago. Employees would order a box of goods – but they didn’t always pick it up. We wanted to try a different approach. 

Why is it important to Adventist HealthCare to provide your staff access to healthful foods as a foundation for a thriving community? 

Adventist HealthCare is focused on physical, mental and spiritual healing. Whole person wellness. We [our employees] need to be at our best health to take care of the community. We wanted to make healthy foods both available and affordable. Candy bars and coke can be cheaper than good quality carrots. We were determined to find a way to have healthy foods available for employees. Our staff happiness and good health lead to better care for patients in our community.

Tell us about the staff response to this endeavor.

Wellness Manager Sarah: Everything sells out! Lines of employees form before the farm stand opens.  It has not changed from day one. Even employees at our other locations have asked when they would get a farm stand because they’ve heard such good things about it! So great to watch, week after week, the lines forming, people asking for the produce and the excitement building.

Are other farms and businesses involved?

Sarah: Farmer Mike does a fantastic job of expanding his offerings. He partners with other local businesses and farmers to bring other products in – like fresh baguettes and seasonal fruit. People really seem to enjoy it.

Do you have any suggestions for replicating a community partnership such as this one?

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Find a community partner who is really on board for what you are trying to do. We would not have had the same success with a traditional CSA experience. We worked together to create something entirely different that has been a big success.

Tell us more about how you made this an affordable option for your employees. 

It’s important for us in Montgomery County to figure out ways to support our workforce when they can’t always support themselves. We partnered with One Acre Farm to help them but also to subsidize the sales. For the people that need the most assistance in finding affordable, accessible food, we pay for 75% of their food. The staff know their discount percentage. We devised a system that protected the confidentiality of pay. And we were pleased to see the lowest-wage earners had the highest volume of sales with the subsidies.

This is part of your overall health and wellness program for employees.

Sarah: Yes, we manage this program the way we structure our health insurance plan using the 75/50/25 discount model based on salary. Employees who make less pay less for insurance, just as they do at our farmer’s market. This model helps us focus on the total health and wellness of being a part of the Adventist HealthCare family.

And the results?

Sarah: In our year to date sales, we have had over 600 unique purchases made from the stand June through September. The highest discount group by far is the 75% group!

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Physical, mental and spiritual health – living and eating healthy is part of that.

We sell out the vast majority of everything, except for the garlic scape!