Farms credit online marketplace service for surviving pandemic

SULLIVAN, Ohio – Farmers’ markets and other types of selling opportunities are one of the most important sources of income for farmers. An online delivery service is helping farmers keep sales despite the pandemic closing markets.


What would you like to know

  • When the pandemic first struck, many restaurants and farmers’ markets had to close without warning
  • Farmers and food producers have been left in limbo
  • They had to figure out how to connect their food with customers
  • Many farmers had to switch to online sales
  • New online farmers market service helps farmers do it easily

Chris Blankenship has loved farming since he was a child. He got his feet wet on his parents’ pig farm, and 19 years ago he started his own farm, Grasslands with blue birds.

The farm uses sustainable practices and raises livestock naturally. They offer beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey and farm fresh eggs.

“Our hope is to provide our customers, our local community with a product that they know where it’s from, how it’s raised, what my expectations are for farm animals, you know, their good. -being, and on top of that, of course, providing a healthy product for people, ”Blankenship said.“ It’s not full of antibiotics and growth hormones and GMO foods and all that stuff. . “

Farmers’ markets have been a great source of income for Blankenship, but when they closed at the start of the pandemic, it was left in limbo.

“It was quite nerve-racking trying to figure out what we were going to do because we, you know, like a lot of farmers had to do, especially commercial farmers, they were euthanizing the animals and we didn’t want to have to do it. do that, ”Blankenship said.

An online farmers market service called Market wagon took away his worries. It allows people to buy products from local farmers and artisans and have them delivered right to their doorstep. Market Wagon launched in Indianapolis in 2016 and has already expanded to 20 states and the District of Columbia.

CEO and co-founder Nick Carter also grew up on a family farm and knows firsthand the love farmers have for their land and how difficult it can be to stay afloat at times.

“It’s very difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been a farmer what kind of connection you have to the land,” Carter said. “It’s not just one acre where your kids played on a swing for 12 years as they were growing up. But this is land that my grandfather, my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather cultivated, and we have a responsibility towards that. And that this connection is really, really deep.

He started the online service as a way to keep small farms like the one he grew up in business on.

“With a stroke of a pen, with a governor’s order in March 2020, restaurants were closed, schools were closed, and farmers’ markets were closed,” Carter said. “What are you going to do? And that’s when we realized we were in six places then. And we knew the need was great. So we got down to business. opened 26 more branches in less than a year.

HOW IT WORKS?

Customers can browse locally grown produce online and order from multiple vendors in one checkout.

“Today, more and more consumers are very concerned about where their food comes from. And they care about their communities. They just need a way to access this food. And so, producers, too, need a way to get their food into the hands of these consumers. The internet is the great equalizer, ”Carter said.

Market Wagon has four hubs in Ohio. Delivery days vary for each location.

Columbus – Delivery days Tuesday AND Thursday

Southwestern Ohio (Cincinnati, Dayton) – Delivery days Tuesdays and Thursdays

Northwestern Ohio (Toledo / Lima / Sandusky) – Thursday

Northeastern Ohio (Cleveland / Akron / Canton / Youngstown) – Thursday

Western PA (Centered around Pittsburgh but also includes Steubenville) – Tuesday

Each week Blankenship and his family pack their orders and deliver the products to the hubs. Customer orders must be placed by 1 a.m. the day before a delivery, so for a Tuesday market, an order must be placed before 1 a.m. on Monday, for a delivery on Thursday, it must be placed before 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

The Northeast Ohio hub opened in July 2020. It recently hit $ 1 million in sales for farmers and artisans, a milestone that has made farmers like Blankenship grateful to the internet world. in which we live.

“Boy, have they opened up ways for us that have been amazing,” Blankenship said. “We are now in an Amazonian society. People want things to be convenient, delivered, but they still want quality, they still want to support the local when possible and Market Wagon provides this platform to do that.

Blankenship gives Market Wagon credit for saving his livelihood. He was able to expand his audience and clientele from the entire county to the entire state.

It helps the farm-to-table concept become a farm-to-door reality and enables family farmers like Blankenship to not only stay afloat, but to grow and prosper.

” It is special. There are many memories and experiences that happened here on the farm that I will never forget, ”said Blankenship. “We want this to continue. I hope my children’s children will. That would be great.”

For more information on Market Wagon, visit here. For more information on Bluebird Meadows Farm, visit here.