An online farmers market is a local food market meets online shopping — perfect for busy locavores. (And let’s face it, taking a trip to the farmers market with little kids in tow isn’t the easiest feat.) Each website is a little different, with some “storefronts” open on certain days, and deliveries on set days, but here’s how it generally works: You go online and place an order. Then you pick up your order from one of the pickup spots available (some even deliver it straight to you). Thanks to these new options, you no longer have to be that frazzled mom chasing your kids around the farmers market. Here are 8 of the best online markets around the country:
1. Farmer Girls
When local farmers Deborah Williamson and Deanna Child noticed a disconnect between local produce and the local consumers who should have been buying it, they decided to sell their stuff online. The pair even took things a step further by developing custom software for other farmers to follow suit online. Now, with this easy-to-use online market (that’s also one of the best looking sites out there), they sell a huge variety of goods from local farmers and producers.
Star Hollow started out selling their goods through the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model, where customers pay an up-front fee in the early season for a weekly box of freshly harvested produce. But in response to the growing number of CSA customers who wanted to choose exactly what they got in the box each week, farmers Randy and Chris Treichler planted the seed for an online market in 2003. Star Hollow Farms is now an online CSA where customers pay $300 up-front in store credit, which they can then use up with each online order to get the specific produce they want.
Farmer Mariann Van Den Elzen’s online market has accelerated the community’s locavore culture through convenience. She sells her own produce along with that of many others, so people can get their meat, eggs, and veggies in one place. Always changing to accommodate customer needs — for instance she just started taking online payments — Field Day Farms also sends out a handy email reminder each week, complete with news from the farm and recipes for seasonal produce.
4. Bon Vivant
The Bon Vivant online market has a huge variety of produce and many other types of goods — including grass-fed meats, milk, honey, coffee, and even doggie treats — from a variety of area farms and producers. They also have a standout web site in the sense that it makes the online buying process (which is new to many consumers who are used to going to the farmers market in person) very straight-forward; one visit to their home page instantly puts a new online shopper at ease when he sees their simple 3-step “browse, buy, delivered” procedure. But their best feature? Home and office deliveries.
This online market has a huge variety of items, from flowers and pet products to fruit and veggies. But what makes it truly cool is that, instead of being run by one owner, it’s a collaborative marketing effort among area farms. The farmers are all small-scale sustainable, certified naturally grown, and USDA Certified Organic food producers who came together to conveniently get their products to the people.
Online shoppers sign up for $10 per year on this site to buy anything from preserved foods and mushrooms to seeds, plant starts to grow on your own, and produce. Although this is a smaller model compared to some other online markets, it’s a down-home site that’s clearly a dedicated, collaborative effort from small farms in the area to get the best produce possible onto Florida tables.
Set up to be a one-stop shop for locavores, this site is up-front with its mission to “Make Local Easy.” Its cool factor comes from the fact that along with a great selection of in-season produce, they also offer locally made crafts and other interesting items that make perfect gifts, such as not-your-average beverages and household goods.
With a goal to “offer you the best handmade and home-grown food, and the ability to buy it easily all year ’round,” the Rusty Tractor Farm sells the usual farmers market finds, along with farming tools and prepared foods. But what stands out most is their beautifully designed website. The homepage launches the user right into the shopping experience with great photography and easy-to-find shopping categories.