At the end of the work-week, a trip to the vending machine might be tempting. But at NSA, employees have a fresh and sunny alternative: an onsite farmers market.
NSA's Associate Directorate for Installations and Logistics hosts the farmers market for NSA employees every Friday from April to November at NSA headquarters near Fort Meade, Maryland. Last year's market drew more than 1,100 employees each day to browse the vendors and enjoy the outdoor break.
"The farmers market is a great opportunity for employees to enjoy food and sunshine together," said Dan Thomas, NSA's Chief of Logistics. "We are proud of the extraordinary effort of our logistics team to help create this opportunity for the workforce every week."
The farmers market is a new feature on NSA's campus. Previously, local produce sellers and food trucks could not get inside the secure facility's gates. Now, the push to better serve the workforce and the desire to better accommodate local business have resulted in the arrival of creative and innovative local products, directly onsite for the NSA workforce. The Friday market was so popular that a farmers market is now held in a second location on campus on Thursdays.
Executive Chef Ed Zebron is outside every Friday serving pit beef at Hill-Billy BBQ, Sodexo's farmers market venue. Zebron is impressed by the local flair the farmers market brings to a large workplace like NSA.
"It is amazing that NSA does this for their employees," Zebron said. "They do a really good job putting this together. It encourages people to get out of their offices to enjoy good food and fresh air – and maybe some of our pit beef."
"Most of us know each other," added Zebron. "I went to high school with the pizza maker. And, the polish sausage stand was an institution in Baltimore long before I was born. I am impressed that they are out here."
In addition to encouraging local community involvement, the farmers market gives both employees and vendors a refreshing change of pace.
Taking breaks to be physically active and having access to fresh fruits and vegetables are workplace goals emphasized in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), farm-to-institution programs, like the NSA farmers market, allow people regular and convenient access to affordable, high-quality, and regionally grown fruits and vegetables. In addition, a farmers market increases demand for fresh produce, encouraging local and regional farmers to produce more volume and variety of fruits and vegetables.
"It's great we get to step away from the desk for a few minutes each Friday to enjoy the Farmers Market," said Amber L., an employee standing in line at a vendor's booth last Friday. "It's a great way to end a long week."
The NSA farmers market invites employees to purchase healthy and local food products. From produce and honey, to baked goods and food truck meals, vendors change from week to week, bringing a variety of local products and produce to the weekly farmers market crowd.