Ever forced yourself out of bed for a Saturday morning trip to the farmers market, wishing instead there was a way to shop for quality local products from home? Well, wish no more, my fellow Hoosiers. Nick Carter and his team at FarmersMarket.com have made it possible through their online platform and mobile app. Finishing their first year of business in January, the small tech company is connecting more local farmers and artisans with central Indiana consumers.

How It Works

Local farmers and artisans sign up to sell their products—things like eggs, meat, bread, vegetables, soaps and lotions and more—with FarmersMarket.com’s custom software, setting prices and maintaining inventory themselves. Then customers visit the site (either online or through a mobile app) and place and pay for their orders. There’s no membership or minimum order required. The only limit is the delivery range: Customers can pay $5.95 for delivery to their home or office, or choose from approximately 30 free delivery locations, all within a 30-mile radius of Indianapolis.

Weekly ordering closes at midnight on Tuesdays, when FarmersMarket.com notifies vendors of their orders. Farmers and artisans then show up at the FarmersMarket.com warehouse Thursday morning with their wares, dropping specified products into customer bins that line the shelves. By 10 a.m. the bins are filled and contracted delivery drivers take them to the selected locations, usually by 1 p.m. that same afternoon.

Farmers’ Choice

Why do vendors sell on FarmersMarket.com? Carter said farmers markets remain somewhat exclusive and are often hard to get into, especially for new farmers and artisans. FarmersMarket.com’s online system, on the other hand, can handle unlimited vendors and items. “The vendors are the most important part of this business,” Carter said.

Some farmers choose to participate in both. Mike Hoopengardner from Caprini Creamery in Spiceland said selling through FarmersMarket.com exposes him to a larger customer base.

“It expands your market beyond just Broad Ripple,” said Hoopengardner, who sells Caprini’s locally produced goat cheeses at both the summer and winter Broad Ripple Farmers Markets.

Customer Loyalty

Carter said one unexpected hurdle in their first year of business was helping customers overcome their reluctance to buy food online due to apprehension as to what they are really buying. Fortunately, word-of-mouth recommendations help, and Carter encourages vendors to include as many product photos as possible on the website, along with thorough descriptions. Once people try FarmersMarket.com, they usually move beyond those initial hesitations, Carter said, adding that loyalty is huge.FarmersMarket.com also guarantees everything, offers refunds when requested and removes vendors who have too many customer complaints.

According to Carter, another challenge they face is customers’ lack of forethought and planning. Carter said, “but our competition is convenience … we’re competing against people’s inability to menu plan, to know what they’re going to want to eat next Tuesday.”

Opportunities for Growth

FarmersMarket.com currently offers only Thursday delivery, but according to Carter that’s an opportunity for growth. Their goal is to grow from the 100 customers currently receiving once-a-week delivery to 1,000 customers spread across three to five delivery days per week. Once they max out the Indianapolis location, they can then expand into other cities.

More immediately, FarmersMarket.com will be expanding partnerships with large corporations to become delivery locations for employees, as well as working to intentionally add vendors, which always adds customers through a network effect.

At its core, the FarmersMarket.com mission is about helping local farmers. “Creating this market is creating opportunities for farms to revive,” he said.

Originally published at Edible Indy on March 15, 2017.