A Market Where Even the Tomatoes Need Security Clearance
- By Ginger Hill
- Jun 24, 2015
I think there’s hardly anything better than cold, fresh fruit and vegetables on a hot summer day from the local farmer’s market. I usually get up early, when the sun has just barely peeked out to introduce a new day and head to the market to engage my senses and buy pieces of nature’s bounty. Even NSA employees love a good market as they dreamed up the concept of their very own NSA Farmer’s Market.
Beginning last year as an alternative to the on-site cafeteria, NSA’s market launched with just a few local food producers and was held every Friday starting in spring until November. It was a huge success, so this year, NSA’s market was brought back again, this time even closer to the main building.
Can you imagine what type of security clearance you would need to become a vendor at NSA’s market? I would imagine a pretty high one.
Vendors can’t simply fill out an application as most are based on employee recommendations and receive an email invitation. The initial screening process requires vendors to give their place of birth, birthday, Social Security number and vehicle details. Once cleared, vendors must schedule in about 30 extra minutes on the day of the market to pass through two security checkpoints. Trained K-9s smell coolers and inspect vehicles for anything suspicious while refusing to gobble down treats being transported in. I’d say that takes some major restraint, especially since one of the vendors sells freshly-baked cupcakes!
NSA’s Farmer’s Market gives employees a chance to mingle across departments and become better acquainted as an agency. Even some of the vendors have befriended NSA employees but they must be careful how they interact outside the protective confines of the market. It’s okay to say something like, “It was great seeing you on Friday,” but the “where” must be left out.
Of the 10,000+ on-site employees, it is estimated that more than 1,000 visit the market every Friday.
Ginger Hill is Group Social Media Manager.