Virtual farmers markets have been online for a few years now, but the COVID-19 pandemic is giving them a boost. Many consumers are happy to get fresh goods from local farmers without having to brave in-person stores or markets.
Online farmers markets usually operate in a fairly small geographical area. The operators partner with local farms to market their wares online and deliver them to individuals. The consumer peruses a website packed with delicious fruits and vegetables, picking what they want from various producers, just like at a real farmers market. After paying online, the market ships or delivers the goods. This is a little like the convenience of a community supported agriculture subscription, but with a full choice of items from a variety of farmers.
In Southern California, online farmers market Market Box recently expanded its delivery area to Los Angeles. This virtual farmers market is based in El Cajon, a small city east of San Diego. The new venture involves 50 local vendors offering upward of 600 items. All are vegan and locally grown.
When Jessica Davis and Amanda Zollinger Waterman heard that their local farmers markets were closing due to the pandemic, the vendors teamed up to found Market Box. “Finding vendors was the easy part — everyone was looking for sales outlets and we had relationships already built from doing farmers markets. What we did not plan was everything else. Just finding supplies, alone, was so difficult,” Davis and Zollinger Waterman told VegNews. “Our community helped us so much — we would not have been able to pull this off without friends volunteering, families flying in from out of town to help, vendors being insanely patient and kind to us, companies renting us refrigerated vans off their own fleet, and our customers that were so sweet, understanding, and encouraging, through every steep learning curve we experienced.”
Other online farmers markets include OurHarvest in New York, NoCo Virtual Farmers Market in northern Colorado and Champaign County Ohio Virtual Farmers’ Market. During the pandemic, Crescent City Farmers Market is offering a weekly drive-through market in New Orleans.
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