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Most farmers could talk for days about soil pH, tractor implements, and seed varieties. When it comes to producing vegetables and stewarding the land, their technical expertise is dialed in. But when the conversation turns to supporting a crew of humans, farmers often feel like they could use some support. This was the feedback we heard loud and clear back in 2019, when we first wrote a grant to fund our work on the Becoming the Employer of Choice program - or BTEC for short.

BTEC is a training program focused on helping farm producers become more skilled and confident in their role as farm employers. Fortunately, an employee management training blueprint already existed! The University of Wisconsin-Extension created the original BTEC program in order to serve the state’s dairy farmers. Through close partnership with 8 farm owners - and a lot of working meetings! - FairShare and Extension staff began to modify the program, ultimately creating a 9-session version of BTEC that meets the unique needs of diversified vegetable growers.

What do we think is special about the BTEC program? For starters, each session is co-delivered by a farmer trainer and a FairShare staff member. This keeps peer-to-peer learning and discussion front and center - something we know farmers value. And while grounded in research, BTEC content is very practical, which helps farmers put what they learn into practice. And hey - we’ve got some data to back that up! Farmers participating in last year’s training put an average of 4.6 new employee management practices into place - from formal employee check-ins and policies around time off and benefits, to professional development stipends and so much more!

Our second annual delivery is now underway, and so far, we’ve talked with farmers about emotional intelligence, different leadership styles, and what goes into supporting a motivated workforce. With seven sessions remaining, there’s a lot of great discussion ahead. And each time we gather, farmers from nearly 15 states (and Canada!) are bringing their experiences, their perspectives, and their questions for one another.

When we began this work, our goal was to provide the tools that would in turn help farm owners become more comfortable in their role as employers. And while that’s still our goal, our efforts around creating a positive and rewarding work experience for both farm owners and farm employees have led us down a few more paths. Tune in to future blog posts to learn more about some of the additional work we’re doing in this space!

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Thirty years ago, a group of activists passionate about the possibilities of local food and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the Madison area came together and created an organization that was originally known as the Madison Eaters Revolutionary Front (MERF). Now known as FairShare CSA Coalition, we are excited to be celebrating three decades of supporting CSA as the backbone of a strong local food system in Madison, and beyond!

The world certainly looks different now than it did 30 years ago. And many of those changes are reflected in our work. Supporting the small-scale farmers that grow delicious food for our communities has always been, and continues to be, a key part of our mission. While originally farmers would have to drive, sometimes for hours, to meet in person in the off-season, technological advances have made it possible for farmers across the Midwest to connect on a daily basis, even in the rush of summer. FairShare’s farmer listserv is now a robust online space where producers can share growing tips, resources, supplies, and ask questions of one another, facilitating deep farmer-to-farmer connections and resource sharing, when it’s convenient for our farmers.

But sometimes there’s no substitution for being on the farm and in person with other growers! Events like the Organic Vegetable Production Conference, on-farm grower gatherings, and trainings like Becoming the Employer of Choice are places where farmers can continue to gather and build a community of support while sharing their knowledge and expertise with one another. Farming is tough work, but having a supportive community of peers can make all the difference in helping preserve that quality of life.

And it’s no surprise that the last few years in particular have made big changes to our world, especially for those with lower incomes. The challenge that has faced our farmers for years has been how to offer CSA shares to all households, not just those with substantial discretionary incomes. The Partner Shares Program was started in the early days of the organization with the understanding that while our farmers feel passionately about providing accessible food to all families, the financial burden cannot lie on farmers, who often are not making substantial amounts of money. Supported by donations, grant funding, and in recent years our annual Bike the Barns event, the Partner Shares Program now assists over 200 households across 74 cities, 34 counties, and 5 states in accessing fresh, local food through CSA from a farmer in their community.

From a volunteer-run organization funded by a cookbook and focused on the Madison area, to a fully staffed nonprofit that has a multi-state network, FairShare has changed more than just its name over the years. Still, many things have stayed constant. A focus on building a community of connection and camaraderie among farmers, supporting equity and access to fresh food for members of our community, and supporting the connection between farmers and eaters has always been, and will continue to be, at the core of FairShare’s mission. We’re so glad you’ve joined us on this journey, and we can’t wait to see what the next 30 years bring!

You can sustain our work as we embark on the next 30 years at

Want a deeper dive into the history of the organization? Check out our 30 year video on YouTube!

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Warm your holiday table with a farm-fresh seasonal recipe featured in our "From Asparagus to Zucchini" Cookbook:

Because you "turnip" in support of FairShare, you make a huge difference! Thank you for being part of our community.

~ Your friends at FairShare ~

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