B y Jaime Thomas
The age-old farmers’ market has taken to the Internet. Larson Farm in Wells, Vt., has recently started a virtual farmers market. Co-owner Rich Larson thinks the business revolutionizes the local food system.
“It’s like going to a local farmers’ market, but you go online. There are farms with beef, cheese and eggs, and you can do it any time of the day or week,” Larson said.
Shopping at the virtual farmers market is as easy as visiting a website, ordering various food and plants and paying online through PayPal. Customers can then stop in on Wednesday afternoons to pick up their orders, which are boxed and ready-to-go.
Ellen Malona, who co-owns Second Nature Herb Farm and Horticultural Services in Wells with her partner Richard Strange, loves this concept.
“I think it’s a great idea to offer things from several different farms in one place, and it’s easy for people to pay with a credit card,” Malona said.
At their farm, Malona and Strange grow culinary and medicinal plants, which Malona describes as a niche offering. Though they have not yet sold anything through the virtual market, Malona thinks that putting her products online allows a wider range of people to find them.
Larson said it has been hard to get things off the ground since operation of the online market began in August. He and his wife Cynthia, who have been running their farm for 35 years, were inspired to start the virtual market after seeing the idea work very successfully in Northern Vermont. His wife then spent a lot of time setting things up with the local farm board.
The virtual farmers market in Wells now offers products from several area farms, including Larson Farms, Second Nature Farm, Harmony Homestead Farm and the Wood Family Farm. Larson Farms sells grass-fed, grain-free beef, raw Jersey milk and free-range, soy-free organic chicken eggs. Rich doesn’t want to stop there.
“We would love it if people could buy other products; our vision is to make more food products available to people for a one-stop shop,” Larson said.
He feels strongly about what he does.
“It’s all about food— the first pillar of health is good food.”
Larson also sees the benefits of a virtual farmers’ market for the farmers themselves. He points out that farmers spend the whole day at a traditional farmers’ market. This is a way for them to sell more products without standing around all day, Larson said.
Malona hopes to work more on the virtual farmers’ market now that her farm’s busy season is over. Though business has so far been slow, Larson remains hopeful that the market will pick up.
“Like all good things,” Larson said, “It takes some time.”