A Recipe for Employee Engagement: EarthShare at Work and Sustainable Land Use

EarthShare-National-News-Blog-Recipe 1-for-Employee-Engagement-TIAA

“We had a great time! The recipes look delicious too!”

This is the first response EarthShare received from Chantél Ellington, a TIAA Volunteer Council member, who led her colleagues in a volunteer project for American Farmland Trust (AFT). AFT, an EarthShare member, works to save the land that sustains us by protecting farmland, promoting environmentally sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on their land.

Ellington gathered a group in the TIAA Philadelphia office for an innovative hands-on outreach project involving the development of fun, educational packets to be distributed at local farmers’ markets and conferences. The goal? To spread the word about sustainable farming and farmland protection, while inspiring people to explore and enjoy the bounty of our farmlands with recipe cards.

The recipe card packets include information about AFT’s annual Farmers Market Celebration, a national effort that promotes the importance of family farmers and farmers’ markets, and offer recipes for peach corn salsa, bacon blue cheese coleslaw, fruit crisp made with a variety of in-season fruits, and spinach basil pesto—all of which can be made using produce from a local farmer. No wonder Ellington and her colleagues’ mouths were watering while assembling these packets!

According to Ellington, the benefits of this group project went beyond the satisfaction of supporting local farms and food:

“Through volunteering, I have been able to show my TIAA co-workers a different side of me. I have always enjoyed volunteer work, and being able to take the lead this year has really enhanced my passion for volunteering. For me, when I am participating in a volunteer event, it’s almost as if the rest of the world stops for that time, and I am able to focus my full attention on what I am doing and dive in deep to ensure I am not only giving my best, but I am making sure those on the receiving end are getting the best.”

Thanks to Ellington’s leadership, 300 recipe packets assembled by the TIAA team in Philadelphia will be distributed by AFT at an upcoming agricultural conference and a Women’s Learning Circle, a meeting to give women farmers and landowners the tools they need to achieve their conservation goals.

The recipe card project was just one of several ways TIAA partnered with EarthShare nationwide during the company’s “100 Days of Difference,” a program celebrating the company’s centennial that offered over 300 volunteer opportunities across the country from March 5 to June 12 to inspire and empower employees to make an impact on the environment, hunger, and education. “We really enjoyed the 100 Days of Difference because since there were such a variety of events, employees could find opportunities that work within their schedules to engage with and make an impact in their communities.”

The volunteer projects also mean much more to AFT than the simple act of compiling packets. Heidi Blythe of AFT says, “With 175 acres of farmland being lost every hour, the time to act is now. Thanks to the generosity of the TIAA employees donating their time and talent, AFT not only received essential help in amplifying the impact of our No Farms, No Food message, but also gained new ambassadors for protecting farmland. American Farmland Trust is delighted to be partnering with EarthShare and TIAA and truly appreciates their help in saving the land that sustains us.”

To enrich TIAA employees’ dive into sustainable farming, EarthShare arranged for its member organizations, Environmental Defense Fund and Rainforest Alliance, to engage TIAA employees with webinars about sustainable farming. Environmental Defense Fund, whose slogan is “Finding the Ways That Work,” gave examples of how they partner with companies and farmers (through their work with Smithfield, for example) to create real, lasting, change on environmental issues. They also shared examples of innovations that are helping farmers use land sustainably, such as drones that can map crop yields to target the needs of specific areas of every field, helping limit fertilizer use and protecting the economy, human heath, and environmental health.

Rainforest Alliance walked participants through their product certification process, highlighting the chocolate supply chain as an example. The story was brought to life through videos featuring cocoa farmer Adrien Kouadio from Cote D’Ivoire. One video captured Kouadio’s journey from his cocoa farm through the supply chain to a chocolate factory in London, England where his cocoa was manufactured into chocolate bars. Karly Ashlock, a TIAA associate in New York City and TIAA NYC Volunteer Council Chair, participated in the webinar and shared these thoughts:

“In listening to Rainforest Alliance’s presentation on sustainable cocoa farming, it made me proud of the work our own organization is doing around sustainable farming. It’s an important topic of discussion and I am happy that TIAA was able to bring in a guest speaker to educate our employees on the efforts being undertaken all over the world.”

The collaboration between EarthShare and TIAA is an EarthShare at Work partnership, providing TIAA employees with meaningful volunteer and educational opportunities, while connecting them with EarthShare member nonprofits that make a real impact on both global and local environmental issues. This is our second story in a series about the TIAA-EarthShare partnership. See the first story here.

PHOTO CAPTION | TIAA employees in Philadelphia assemble recipe packets to spread the word about farmland protection and inspire people to enjoy the bounty of our farmlands. This year’s American Farmland Trust Farmers Market Celebration begins on June 21st so be sure to visit markets.farmland.org and vote for your favorite Farmers Market.