Farmers markets are the traditional way farmers and food suppliers sell their products direct to customers. Every business gets a stall and brings their inventory and stands for 12 hours selling face to face to customers that pass by them.
But farmers' markets are time consuming and unreliable.
In other words, farmers' markets are unproductive. For example, you’d think that at a farmers' market, you are guaranteed customers, yet this isn’t fully true. Firstly, you are surrounded by competitors and have to fight for every person to come to you, instead of your neighbour. Also, those herds of people are sporadic. One week you could have great turn out due to a school holiday or sunny weather, but the next week it’s back to work and non-stop rain.
It’s expensive. Experienced vendors warn newcomers to not underestimate the cost of getting to market. Consider time spent organizing products and driving to and from the market, costs of gasoline, bags and marketing material. It takes a lot of work to sell at a market. It requires face-to-face selling and marketing, and making many small transactions, therefore eating up time you could be spending on other aspects of your business. For small business owners, time is money.
Finally, market shopping and selling isn’t very convenient. A customer can only purchase from you once or twice a week, has to go all the way to the market, and hope you still have what they’re looking for. People could be dedicated, however often prefer the easiest solution.
So, why do we still sell like this?
There is a better solution for you.
Imagine a farmer’s market that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No lost time or costs for transportation and selling. Imagine a system that sells for you and showcases all of your products all at the ease of you or customers never leaving home. This is the farmers' market of the future.
Your customers can visit your store whenever is easy for them, see what you’re selling, and order. They can pay automatically with order, and then pick up their order or get it delivered to them whenever is convenient. Doesn’t this sound like a pleasant experience?
This is e-commerce—the way local food should transition. Every other industry is doing it, shouldn’t we offer it for local food? No more standing in lines, searching through the market, and hoping there’s stock left.
The traditional form of a farmers' market is no longer feasible, instead we should transition to the farmers' markets of the future—the blended market: a system that implements the centrality and community of a farmers' markets, with the benefits and accessibility of e-commerce.
Meet Spray Creek Ranch, a natural ranch located in British Columbia, Canada promoting holistic farming approaches to raising cattle, chickens, turkeys and swine. With their main sales channel as farmers' markets, they were starting to feel the pains of growing their business. Deciding to implement pre-ordering, they had too many orders and no way to keep track. They knew they had to get efficient and fast.
Fast forward a few seasons, Spray Creek Ranch implemented an online system that could provide one central hub to receive orders, manage inventory and get paid. No more scrambling through different spreadsheets and notebooks, it had to have everything you need in one place. In their business model, pre-orders are made on their online store and deliveries are made in person at farmers' markets around their region. The perfect balance of online sales and face-to-face interaction, in other words, the future is blended, not one or the other.
This is only one form of this concept, however the possibilities are endless. For a different approach, take the Flanagan Market. Flanagan Foodservice, Canada’s largest family-owned foodservice distributor, wanted to supply fresh local food, however due to complicated logistics, the distribution of these products did not seem feasible. A new approach needed to be taken.
The Flanagan Market is an online marketplace where Flanagan’s food suppliers are able to list their products, and have customers directly purchase from them. It provides a seamless ordering system and the same exposure for food suppliers as a farmers' market would, however the system is easier, faster and cheaper.
Whether, the blended market is one food supplier utilizing both systems to be more efficient, or an online market mimicking the traditional farmers' market; it is the future of local food systems. It creates a better system for consumers to get fresh, local food to their doorsteps, increases profits and accessibility for food suppliers, and addresses and minimizes the pain points of selling at market. The blended market is cheaper, larger and more dynamic than a farmers' market could ever be.
Nina Galle writes blog posts, templates, free tools, and other helpful resources for farmers and markets.