The Survey of Local Food Marketing Practices found U.S. producers utilized online marketplaces to sell $171,728,337 dollars of local food and value-added products in 2015.¹ Climbing consumer demand for locally produced food and a preference for convenience fuels the future of online farmers markets.
Online farmers markets showcase fresh food and food products from multiple farms within a defined geographic region, such as a single county or tri-county area. The close proximity of participating farms eases aggregation and distribution of orders. Producers nearness to one another also creates a competitive advantage of marketing products as locally produced. This competitive advantage distinguishes online farmers markets from grocery stores that sell food online.
How online farmers markets benefit shoppers
Online farmers markets bring together growers, producers and value-added vendors to sell on an e-commerce website. Shoppers enjoy a one-stop-shop for a wide variety of locally produced farm fresh food.
Unlike a community supported agriculture (CSA) model in which subscribers receive a share of whatever is in season, online farmers markets give customers free choice to purchase products that appeal to their tastes. Online farmers markets host a menu of currently available fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, maple syrup, honey, preserves and baked goods. Shoppers add products to their cart, pay online and pick-up their order all within a week.
How online farmers markets benefit farmers
Local foods sales grossed $6.1 billion dollars in 2012, according to a report from the USDA Economic Research Service. The majority of farms that sell direct-to-consumers and intermediated buyers are small to mid-size.²
A cooperative is a business that is owned and operated by its members. Farmers’ cooperatives exist to fill a mutual need, such as selling local food in an online marketplace. Co-ops are especially helpful for small and mid-size farms who wish to pool product to achieve larger volumes, offer a wider selection and establish a consistent supply flow. Cooperatives streamline the marketing, selling, packaging and delivery of farm products. E-commerce solutions handle invoicing, payments and create sales reports for member farms. Online farmers markets save farmers time, money and effort through cooperative sales on the web.
Buckeye Harvest Market was formed in 2016 when several small and mid-size farms in northeast and northcentral Ohio came together to form a farmers’ cooperative. Pooling product from diversified member farms creates a wide selection of local foods and a dependable supply flow. Buckeye Harvest customers place orders online at https://bharvestmkt.com, from Friday through Tuesday. Orders are available for pick up on Thursday, at one of four pick-up locations.
Monroe Farmers Market is an online cooperative marketplace featuring products from several small and mid-size farms. The co-op allows members to access larger wholesale markets like schools and restaurants. Shoppers in Greater Kanawha Valley and the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia place orders Sunday through Tuesday at http://www.monroefarmmarket.com. Customers pick up orders on Thursday at one of four convenient locations.
- “2015 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey.” U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Retrieved July 5, 2017 from https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Local_Food/index.php
- “Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems.” Jan 2015. U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic
Research Service. Administrative Publication Number 068.