The Vancouver Farmers Market launched an online market where customers can purchase produce, meat, flowers and other local goods for curbside pickup on Sundays.
Stephanie Haynes, partnerships and programs manager, noted that many vendors are not able to participate in the weekend market due to local health and safety regulations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The scaled-down market in the 800 block of Esther Street has 34 booths and is limited to grocery items only, whereas the market usually has 165 vendor stalls.
The online market gives more local businesses a chance to sell their goods. Also, it offers seniors and immunocompromised people an alternative to walking the open-air market. As farmers markets across the country adjust to new ways of doing business while preventing the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, many are shifting to online sales.
“We thought we really needed to jump on board,” Haynes said.
She said the online market is a great option for people who still want to support the local market and its vendors but don’t want to shop in person.
Online orders must be placed by 8 p.m. Thursdays for pickup 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays at the Historic Slocum House, where the Vancouver Farmers Market office is located. When people arrive at the Slocum House, 605 Esther St., they call the phone number listed on the sign outside. Drivers can pop open their trunks or, if customers are on foot, they can wait outside for their orders to be brought to them.
The farmers market did a test run of the system last week, packing about 30 boxes Sunday morning. Haynes said the idea came from the Rochester Farmers Market in Minnesota, which uses Local Line, an online sales platform for local food suppliers. Innovative ideas and solutions within the National Farmers Market Coalition is “one thing that’s been really positive about this whole situation,” Haynes said.
The Vancouver Farmers Market received a donation from the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund to support the program’s startup costs, including equipment, supplies, staff time and $10,000 in subsidies for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program customers. (Customers using food stamps to pay for their online market order receive a $10 discount.) The Gregerson Family Fund paid for a walk-in cooler to increase the number of online orders the market can fulfill. Both charitable funds are held at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.
Besides grocery items, online offerings include flower bouquets, plant starts, goat’s milk soap and fabric face masks. Once staff feel more comfortable with the system, more products and vendors will be added to the online market, Haynes said. And, it may expand to curbside pickup on Saturdays, too.
Visit localline.ca/vanwafarmersmarket to order online from the Vancouver Farmers Market.