Market Wagon connects small vendors with bigger online audience

By / Photography By Chris Zibutis | April 18, 2018
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Two days before farmers and artisans set up their Saturday stalls at farmers markets throughout Michiana, they meet in an office suite on the east side of La Porte, IN. There they fill lightweight totes cooled by ice packs with their locally produced goods.

These Thursday morning gatherings have become the favorite moments in Lauren Opperman’s workweek. Opperman works for Market Wagon, a website that helps a wide range of area vendors—from vegetable farmers to bakers to soap makers—to sell their products across Michiana.

“Over the few months that we’ve been here in Michiana,” Opperman says, “I’ve been able to form relationships with vendors, both professionally and personally, and see them grow.”

The company began in 2016 by serving Hoosiers in Central Indiana. Then it acquired markets in the Evansville area in 2017, and Michiana was added in December. The website, michiana.marketwagon.com, and its app give customers a quick, interactive buying experience each week that includes the option to pick up orders at local hubs or to get orders delivered right to their doorsteps. Pickups are free and home deliveries are $5.95.

Nick Carter, Market Wagon’s CEO and co-founder, believes the website fosters farmers market–like discussion. “Customers can post questions on each product’s page,” Carter says, while farmers “get to tell their customers everything they want to about their products.”

Carter grew up on a small farm in Howard County, IN, and wanted to use his experience in web development to help other small farms. The website’s mission—enabling food producers to thrive in their local and regional markets—counters many of the struggles Carter sees small farmers going through in an industrialized agricultural economy.

Small farmers “don’t have a grain elevator to send their products to,” Carter says, so the website helps expose them to a larger customer base. And there’s no waste. “Farmers get to load up their vehicles with only products they’ve sold.”

As larger food retailers move to online sales and home delivery, Market Wagon is putting small producers in Michiana on an even playing field. Jamie Hall of Micro Farms in Nappanee, IN, knows this well. “In today’s society,” she says, “shopping from home has become almost a necessity.”

Micro Farms, which started as a family-run greenhouse, is like many of Market Wagon’s vendors. It places an intense focus on producing high-quality, locally grown foods, and enjoys Market Wagon’s growing customer base so much that, as Hall says, they’ve “recently started selling … to the Central Indiana market as well.”

Locavores visiting michiana.marketwagon.com can purchase rhubarb butter from Southwestern Michigan Buttery in Galien, MI; broccoli from Rainfield Farm in New Carlisle, IN; raspberry yogurt from Crystal Springs Creamery in Osceola, IN; and dozens of products from more than 30 other vendors. Shoppers can also opt for a Farmer’s Best Basket, a collection of Market Wagon’s most popular products.

On nonmarket days, Opperman drives country roads and scours the web searching for more local vendors. She also wants to educate people in the area so that they don’t “blindly purchase food” without knowing the benefits of buying local. The best and most delicious way to learn this is by placing an order. Market Wagon texts customers when orders are ready for pickup, while those getting home delivery can just wait for a knock on the door.

Market Wagon Michiana

600 E. Lincolnway, Suite 615
La Porte, IN
michiana.marketwagon.com

Article from Edible Michiana at http://ediblemichiana.ediblecommunities.com/shop/market-wagon
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