By Michele F. Mihaljevich
INDIANAPOLIS – Nick Carter was looking for new ways to get food grown on his family’s farm to the public when he co-founded Market Wagon – an online farmers market – six years ago.
Market Wagon allows customers to purchase local products such as meats, dairy, produce and prepared foods. Items are ordered online and then delivered. Customers choose products based on where they live; product offerings vary by location and the time of year. The weekly delivery day also varies by location.
“The company started because farmers like myself, in order to continue for another generation, needed to get food to consumers directly,” Carter explained. “E-commerce seemed the best way to do that. Our goal is to enable food producers to thrive.”
Carter – also company CEO – and his father have a grass-fed beef and pork operation in Howard County, Ind. He and his wife have produce and eggs on their Marion County, Ind., farm.
Market Wagon started in Indianapolis and has grown to serve consumers in 20 states, including Farm World’s primary coverage area, and the District of Columbia. The company has more than 2,500 vendors (farmers, chefs and artisans) and has served 45,000 customers.
“We’re an online grocery store,” Carter noted. “We have meat, dairy, eggs, produce, baked goods. We just have a different set of suppliers.”
Customers may also find spices, flour, corn meal, vinegar, soups, coffee, candy and popcorn. Dog food, soaps, cosmetics, lotions and some hand-made crafts are available, depending on location.
Items available in each market change weekly. During one recent week, the company’s Indianapolis market had 3,012 products from 152 vendors. The Columbus, Ohio, market had 1,444 items from 75 vendors.
The company’s growth increased tremendously after the pandemic began, Carter said. Market Wagon has full-time staff members who work to find new vendors. They go out into the community and visit farmers markets and other locations to find potential vendors, he added.
“It wasn’t a problem to find new vendors as our business grew so quickly,” Carter stated. “We’re sourcing from multiple family farms and we were able to scale up as our customers grew.”
For vendors interested in partnering with Market Wagon, Carter said, “The number one thing is, do you want to grow? A lot of farmers, they’re happy with the amount they’re selling now. Often farmers trying to increase their output are trying to make room for the next generation. Dad may be happy but the son is looking to grow.”
Carter said he thinks it’s vital for future generations that farmers reach the direct-to-consumer market.
“E-commerce is the way to do that,” he explained. “In 30 years, the amount of income farmers are able to make from commodity crops is not going to be enough to keep the next generation of family on the farm.”
Some of their vendors started growing or raising new products in order to partner with Market Wagon, Carter noted. “It depends on which generation you’re talking about. Dad might be growing corn and soy and the next generation is growing diversified crops or protein.”
For more information, including a list of market areas and vendors, visit www.marketwagon.com.