Supporting Alternative Sales Options for Direct-to-Market Farmers

Last Updated: March 20, 2020. We will continue to update this page with new resources.

Although the NC Department of Health and Human Services has recently clarified that Farmers Markets are classified as groceries and may remain open, many markets in the state or other parts of the country will see decreased traffic or choose to remain closed until the threat of COVID-19 has passed. This means many farmers are faced with the problem of how to continue to sell their products through alternative market channels. Fortunately, as more families are spending time at home and cooking their own meals, there is a great opportunity for farmers to connect with new consumers and continue to sell their products. If you’re a farmers market manager looking for ways to support the vendors while the market is closed, here are a few ideas for how you can help boost farmers pre-order and delivery sales.

  • Share the News: In addition to the individual farmer’s social media pages, website, and e-newsletter, market managers can share and repost through the farmers market communication channels. This could include an updated list on your website, weekly newsletter, and Facebook page of vendors with online sales or home delivery/drop-off sales options.
  • Use the Market Site: For farmers who are willing to do prepackaged drop-off sales, they may want to use the existing market site, date, or time as a means of consistency for customers. As a manager, you can help by verifying if – or under what conditions – farmers may use the location as a drop-off site. This may mean organizing a staggered drop-off schedule between multiple vendors to ensure the number of people congregating does not exceed the recommended limit.
  • Scope Alternative Drop-off Sites: If the market site is no longer available for any kind of drop-off option, managers could help farmers find alternative drop-off locations in convenient, recognizable locations around the community. This may involve contacting business or property owners to ensure if and when farmers can use the space.
  • Get Farmers on the Map: Carolina Farm Stewardship Association has created an interactive Google map that shows farms across North Carolina and South Carolina that offer online sales, drop-off and home delivery. Send out this link to vendors at the farmers market to add their farm to the map. NC Choices has also launched their website, MeatSuite, earlier than expected in order to help connects customers with locally produced, high quality meats in bulk.  Farmers can sign up to add their meat products here.

Helping a Farm Start Online Sales

If a vendor at the farmers market is asking for support to set up an online, drop-off, or home delivery sales option, you could help them think through some of the following considerations:

  • Customer Communications: How will they spread the word to potential customers? Is it clear what’s available for sale, at what price, and what the deadline is for ordering?
  • Taking Orders: Farmers could use an e-commerce software to take online sales. This requires some research to find the right set-up and price for their operation. Another option is to create an online survey (i.e. Google Forms, Survey Monkey) to receive orders and that can be regularly updated with available products. Taking orders over email or phone is also an easy way to get started.
  • Delivery and Pick-Up: As mentioned above, market managers can help determine whether the farmers market site is still available for drop-off purchases. Farmers may also consider doing home deliveries, using alternative drop-off locations, or using their farm as a pick-up location.  This will largely depend on the farm’s proximity to customers and the distance farmers are able to travel to reach customers.
  • Health and Safety Precautions: What will the farmer do to reduce the health and safety risk between themselves and customers? Managers may help farmers think through changes to their packaging process that better protects the safety of all involved. These precautions should be openly shared with customers.

If you would like additional assistance with supporting local farmers in your area, please feel free to reach out to RAFI-USA. Contact Charlotte at [email protected] or Lisa at [email protected]. If you additional recommendations that we can add to this post, let us know too!

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