FarmieMarket is now open

farmiemarket logoThe expanded version of the local online farmers' market Heldeberg Market -- FarmieMarket -- opened today. The market now covers the four core counties of the Capital Region. ("Farmie" is a play on "foodie.")

Heldeberg Market started just about a year ago. It and FarmieMarket are the creation of Sarah Avery Gordon -- she's an environmental consultant, and grew up on her parents' farm in Knox.

We've been interested in Heldeberg -- and now Farmie -- Market because it looks like an interesting bid to help develop the local food economy. So we bounced a few questions to Sarah today to hear about how things are going -- and where the market is headed.

Can you give us a sense of how big Heldeberg Market has grown -- how many farms, how many customers, the amount of goods that have been sold through it?

Heldeberg Market has worked with thirteen different farms since it started. Some are inactive right now, just because their products are out of season. In the first year (June 2010-June 2011), we made more than 500 deliveries, and sold more than $30,000 worth of local farm goods.

What prompted you to expand on the Heldeberg Market idea?

I chose to expand Heldeberg Market because I received correspondence from farmers and customers all over the Capital Region requesting a similar service. People responded to the idea incredibly well, so now I am going full time in three market territories.

It looks like Farmie Market is actually a group of three markets, each serving a subsection of the Capital Region -- why split it up rather than just have one market?

I split up FarmieMarket.com for two reasons. First, because I wanted customers to be able to order from the farms that are most local to them, and my desire to help small farms all over the Capital Region. Second, the Capital Region is too geographically broad to do all of my deliveries in one day. Segmenting the market allows me to keep my sales data organized in a way that I can dedicate one delivery day each week to each market territory, ensuring customers get the freshest food possible.

How does this sort of market change the economics for a local farm?

FarmieMarket.com enables me to market products on behalf of small farms while they stay busy on the farm. I work with a lot of Mom and Pop operations that do not have the resources or personnel to staff a table at a farmers' market multiple days a week. Every day spent at a market is a day farmers lose working on the farm.

By letting me handle the marketing, farmers can be selling their products at the same time as they are raising them. In this way, I provide an extremely efficient means for small farms to connect with new customers and add new profits to their farms' business balance sheet.

Additionally, farmers can use the extra time saved on marketing to scale up their operations to meet the demand I am generating on FarmieMarket.com. For example, this year the Heldeberg Market hosted a planning session for farmers to sign up to raise new crops that were requested by customers but that we did not have available last year. Each of these new crops represents an unfilled niche in the marketplace, and an opportunity for a farmer to create a new profit center in their farm business.

What's next? What are some of the challenges to meet as the market grows?

I would like to continue getting new farms enrolled in each of the markets. Currently, I am focusing on getting small dairies involved. I will be retrofitting a Honda Element for use as a custom refrigerated vehicle so that I can deliver milk, cheese, yogurt and more from the area's small dairies. This will be a huge addition to the market, and one that I am really excited about.

My goal is to turn FarmieMarket.com into a comprehensive grocery offering a wide diversity of products made by the area's environmentally- and socially-responsible small farms.

This interview was conducted via email. It was lightly edited.

Comments

Go Sarah!

THIS IS AMAZING!!! I'm telling everyone I know!!!

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