By STAN MADDUX
LA PORTE, Ind. — Ordering fresh produce online straight from the fields of local growers and having it delivered to your doorstep is becoming reality for more Hoosiers.
Market Wagon, founded in January 2016, recently opened its third location in La Porte. Its other geographic sites are in Indianapolis and Evansville; its online address is https://marketwagon.com
Nick Carter, CEO and founder of the online farmers’ market, said many of the fruits and vegetables offered are seasonal but there are limited supplies of vegetables during the winter from growers with indoor facilities raising mostly cold-weather crops like lettuce, carrots and potatoes.
Milk, cheese, eggs, baked goods and other locally produced farm goods, though, are in ample supply year-round. “We’ve got a lot of farms up here and we want to be able to deliver that food right from the local farms to the people that live up here,” said Carter.
He said people can go online 24 hours a day to shop and place orders, then local growers gather what customers want and bring the items to the Market Wagon the following day. From there, the food is placed inside tote bags containing ice, for drivers to take to the homes of customers, who are charged $5.99 for delivery.
There are also free pickup locations for customers who don’t want to pay for delivery. “It’s incredibly fresh food and it’s direct from the producers,” Carter said.
The operation in La Porte delivers to seven counties from the Illinois border to Elkhart just east of South Bend. In less than two weeks, Carter said deliveries from La Porte were made to 30 customers. Too, more than 500 people on Facebook and other social media requested additional information about the new location.
“We’ve had a tremendous response,” he said. He has about 3,000 total customers with roughly 150 suppliers across the state. Customers browsing the online store are provided updated lists of what’s currently available from each participating grower. Deliveries are made every Thursday for customers getting orders in by midnight the prior Tuesday.
The idea sprung from Carter, who grew up on a farm and later worked in the grocery business, having a desire to get locally grown food into the hands of moreconsumers. He said one advantage for producers is supplying only what’s ordered.
There’s no risk of the waste from going to a traditional market and all of the produce brought there doesn’t sell.
Chris Hurt, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, said access to farm goods online reflects a modern trend but he feels there’s still a place for the traditional farmers’ market. Outdoor markets offer not just variety but an opportunity for people to meet and interact with growers and other consumers along the way.
But, growers securing enough online customers may no longer need to go out and set up at a market, he said. Online sales could also create opportunities for farmers to grow their bottom lines by reducing some of the steps involved in the more traditional manners of getting product to the consumer.
“We have a movement of big information technology companies getting into the food business with online delivery, and why shouldn’t local farmers get into that? Sounds like the modern era,” said Hurt.