Farmers are being hit hard with the increasing closure of farmers’ markets around North America. With the uncertainty of the timeline for the COVID-19 outbreak and its effects, market managers and farmers are looking to alternative sales channels.
A study conducted by the National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition found that COVID-19 will lead to a $240–600 million decline in farmers’ market sales in the USA alone.
Selling online is proving to be an effective solution to promote social distancing, support small businesses, and provide consumers continuous access to healthy, local food. Farmers and market managers are able to collect orders online and offer direct-to-door delivery to their customer bases to minimize contact and reduce risk. It was found that farmers who used an online marketplace had higher sales, suggesting online is a viable platform for farms.
Local Line, an e-commerce and logistics platform for farmers, food hubs and farmers markets, makes it easy for markets and their vendors to move online and start selling. The market software allows farmers who currently sell at the farmers’ markets to create an online store to sell to customers on the platform. Through creating their online store, farmers can list their products for sale and accept orders from customers.
“As growers, we’re so grateful that [the farmers’ market] has come up with this option to keep vendors above water during this time. Orders were pouring in today from customers!” explains a farmers’ market vendor from Rochester Farmers Markets in Minnesota.
Jessica Joyce, market manager at Rochester Farmers Markets, is impressed with the power of their new online store. “Our awesome vendors were able to list products for sale online, and in just a few days prior to the most recent market, we had enough sales from customers to make about 1/3 of the overall average market gross sales for this time of year, and a few of the vendors made as much in pre-sales as they would have at a successful market!”
Countryside Curbside market in Ohio launched their online store with 30 suppliers, 522 products, and 224 customers on March 21, 2020. They received 199 orders in less than a weeks’ time! Additionally, individual farmers are able to create their own stores and sell directly to their current customer base with Local Line. The platform allows farmers to manage their orders, customers, and delivery schedules in real-time, automatically.
“[I’ve] been with you guys for three years now. Rest assured, you have single-handedly saved our farm. Thank you for all that you do. Please know you are saving family farms all over Canada and the USA,” says George Wright from Castor River Farms to Local Line in light of the COVID-19 outbreak affecting family farmers.
Not only are farmers and markets able to keep their businesses alive and thriving, but customers are still able to shop at markets during the outbreak.
“Thank you so much for [getting online]. I am disabled and have only been able to get to the farmers market occasionally,” a farmers’ market customer said gratefully, “This new system is incredible!” Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Local Line has seen a 900% increase in customer orders through the platform. Consumers are seeing the benefits of buying online and supporting their farmers at the same time! From March 13 to March 20 this year, the average number of logins per food supplier has increased by 135%.
During a time of economic uncertainty, farmers, markets, and other food suppliers are overcoming sales barriers and remain resilient for their communities. The time for local food is now, especially in a time where traditional access to healthy food is dwindling.Source : LocalLine