Farmers’ Markets are a great way for citizens to connect to their local community. Dollars spent go directly into the local economy, and you have the opportunity to meet the people who actually produce the products you purchase. Simply wandering around a Farmers’ Market is a joy unto itself – taking in all the bright colors and delightful displays.
Although, dedicating a large portion of the day commuting to and from the market is a luxury not all of us can afford. If you work on the weekends, chances are you won’t be able to partake in the festivities. Carting along a big family can be a trying task, as well, and getting up and out the door can seem like a chore.
As a result, Farmers’ Markets are making the bold move into the online world. Websites are springing up all over the US, acting as congregators of locally made products, making them available to a larger swath of people interested in buying local crafts and foods.
Eugene Local Foods
Take the Eugene Local Foods (ELF), based in Eugene, OR, for instance. They’ve built a website where you can browse an online products list of all the different products you might find at a farmers’ market. Products include eggs, honey, preserved foods, baked goods, fruits and vegetables, crafts, mushrooms, dairy, and meats. Each category lists a variety of prices and producers, and variations on individual products. Want eggs? Did you want Quail or chicken eggs? Organic or Free Range? Need some smaller, “Peewee” eggs? The selection is of almost every product is staggering. You quickly realize that by fully utilizing this online grocer, you would need to supplement your food items very little at the grocery store.
Once you’ve placed your order and paid in full, you need to actually pick up your goodies. There are two convenient locations in Eugene for pick up with flexible hours. Drop by, and there’s your box waiting for you.
Since the two locations are a bakery and a brewery, there’s the added benefit of hanging out and getting to meet some other folks in the community who partake in the online farmers’ market. With selection and purchasing out of the way, you can go grab a pastry and a cup of coffee from the bakery, or a refreshing pint from the brewery, and socialize with everyone else picking up their boxes. This impromptu social event maintains the communal aspect of the farmers’ market to some degree, while the online component makes these local foods available to a larger demographic.
Other Online Farmers’ Markets
Other online farmers’ markets similar to this one are springing up all over. The New Hampshire Virtual Farmers’ Market is serving their immediate area. They do not process payments as other online farmers’ markets do, so it is necessary to make transaction directly with each individual farmer or business.
Rouge Valley Local Foods, also based in Oregon, is building their web presence in the same way that ELF created. They serve a larger area with more pick up points across multiple cities.
Foodzie – A National Online Farmers’ Market
Foodzie.com acts in much the same capacity as ELF and other online Farmers’ Markets, except that they congregate products from small scale producers from around the US. Products span the map from coast to coast, although, currently, most producers seem to be based out of California.
Ordering from Foodzie feels more like a conventional, top tier website. You can order anything at anytime and it will be delivered right to your door. Coffee, gifts, meats, and cheeses are all abound on Foodzie, made by small scale, artisan food producers. Fresh produce is not an option on the website, though, as it would likely spoil en route.
It is slightly ironic, though, buying “locally” made goods from across the country. Part of purchasing artisan goods is that it stimulates your local economy, where you live and reside. Foodzie is a great concept that fills a gaping niche in the marketplace.
Clearly, there’s demand out there for a stronger online Farmers’ Market community. More and more folks are taking the plunge as local food congregators, building easy to use, efficient websites with a variety of pickup locations and times. Making local foods more widely available is a win-win-win for the farmer, congregator, and consumer.