The Farmers Market, Delivered – Modern Farmer

Within the age of DoorDash and Instacart, the idea of getting groceries delivered to the doorstep is just not unfamiliar. However for the Bickel household, which runs New Horizon Farm and Dairy in New Vienna, Ohio, it proved to be life-changing.

Jackie and Donald Bickel inherited their dairy farm from Donald’s father, they usually have been elevating their very own children within the dairy life. However, by 2018, Jackie and Donald have been beginning to discuss discovering a manner out. The Bickels bought their milk to a co-op and, economically, it wasn’t proving possible. 

“In 2018, milk costs have been equal to what my father-in-law was receiving within the Nineteen Eighties,” says Jackie Bickel.

And so they weren’t the one ones—many close by dairy farms in Ohio had closed up store over the earlier years after struggling towards low costs.

Fortuitously, the Bickels’ daughter, Maggie, had an concept. As a part of a Future Farmers of America (FFA) undertaking, she got here up with a marketing strategy for saving the farm that entailed making the swap to retail—promoting milk on to prospects. In the event that they did that, they may flip a revenue and keep in enterprise. However they’d want a couple of issues: certification to promote, bottling tools and a buyer base.

They began promoting their different merchandise, reminiscent of beef and eggs, on to customers on a platform known as Market Wagon. Market Wagon is a meals supply service for farm merchandise. The Bickels knew that in the event that they established a presence on the platform with their different gadgets, they’d have prospects ready after they have been able to promote milk. 

Maggie’s plan ended up profitable an award in a nationwide FFA entrepreneurship competitors. And her mother and father agreed that it wasn’t only a good pupil undertaking—it may truly work. 

And it did.

Farm to entrance door

Market Wagon features as a web based farmers market, permitting the Bickels to faucet into a bunch of customers who wish to purchase immediately from producers. In 2020, the Bickels began promoting milk below the label Blissful Cows Creamery. They provided customary, recent milk, however they ultimately additionally added enjoyable flavors reminiscent of orange creamsicle, chocolate and strawberry. In addition they use Market Wagon to promote merchandise reminiscent of delicate cheeses and rolled butter.

“We began delivering the milk by Market Wagon and we haven’t regarded again since then,” says Bickel. She provides that the dairy exit technique they’d as soon as been considering is just not even on the desk anymore.

Right here’s the way it works: Farmers replace the positioning with what they’ve on the market that week—recent produce, dairy, meat, prepackaged meals and extra. Prospects store throughout classes and distributors. They submit orders by a pre-set deadline, and farmers take their gadgets to the Market Wagon hub of their space.

“For a Tuesday supply, about one within the morning on Monday, we obtain what’s known as a ‘choose checklist’ from Market Wagon,” says Bickel. “It’s principally a listing that’s damaged down by buyer and it is usually damaged down by product. So we’ve a complete day to assemble the orders.” She drives the order in, disperses the gadgets amongst the person buyer tote baggage, after which heads again residence.

Gig drivers then ship the gadgets to their vacation spot. This course of occurs weekly or biweekly. 

Particular person buyer orders are assembled at native Market Wagon hubs. (Pictures courtesy of Market Wagon)

Grocery supply is nothing new, however many produce supply programs depend on nationwide provide chains. Some, reminiscent of Farmhouse Supply, supply an analogous farm-to-doorstep mannequin rooted in Texas agriculture, however in addition they supply sure gadgets from out of state. Versus a typical grocery supply service like Instacart, Market Wagon goals to maintain issues as native as they’d be at an in-person farmers market whereas utilizing its on-line market to combination at a scale that’s tough by conventional strategies.

“You would need to go to a farmers market each evening to succeed in the variety of individuals that you simply do by Market Wagon,” says Bickel.

Prospects purchase immediately from producers, similar to in a bodily farmers market. However there are variations, too: Farmers solely carry what they’ve already bought to the hub, as an alternative of getting to guess what they’ll promote that day.

“There’s a pipeline from native farms and makers to customers, nevertheless it’s slender and twisty,” says Dan Brunner, co-founder and chief government officer of Market Wagon. “And we’re right here to widen that pipe.”

Farmer to shopper

Brunner says plenty of customers lengthy to know the place their meals is coming from. And whereas farmers markets let you look your grower within the eye, Market Wagon tries to maintain private touches as a part of its expertise, by permitting for direct communication and emails between customers and farmers. 

“As a web based market, technically, we don’t want to copy that—we are able to’t completely replicate that,” says Brunner. “However enabling customers to ask these questions and get solutions is a central factor that we felt like we simply couldn’t stay with out.”

Screenshot of Market Wagon order screen.

Screenshot of Market Wagon order display. (Pictures courtesy of Tom Hodson)

However, in follow, the web neighborhood does generally spill over into the true world. Bickel says they’ve a loyal buyer base now and sometimes have their Market Wagon regulars come go to the dairy, see the newborn calves and choose up gadgets at their farm stand.

“Now greater than ever, it’s so crucial for us to have a voice with the patron,” she says. “So, we love to speak with our prospects and reply questions.”

Market Wagon doesn’t ship something—every thing is saved inside a good radius of the place it’s grown or raised or made. 

“It’s actually a singular enterprise mannequin, as a result of, as an alternative of constructing a nationwide distribution sample for a similar merchandise, we’re actively making an attempt to have a special provide chain everywhere we’re working,” says Brunner.

Tom Hodson is a loyal buyer of New Horizon Farm and Dairy’s Blissful Cows Creamery by Market Wagon. He orders weekly and favors their eggs and baked items. Hodson, descended from farmers and an advocate of consuming regionally, likes that Market Wagon permits him to know precisely the place his meals comes from and the way it was grown. 

“What you see on the display is precisely what finally ends up getting delivered in your order,” says Hodson.

In his retirement, Hodson has additionally begun driving for Market Wagon twice per week, and he says he hears that very same sentiment echoed by most of the prospects he meets. They like shopping for immediately from native farmers.

Market Wagon tote bag with produce.

Market Wagon tote bag with produce. (Pictures courtesy of Market Wagon)

Pre-pandemic, Market Wagon existed in six markets in Indiana and Ohio. However the introduction of COVID-19 highlighted the advantages of getting groceries delivered to your door. As we speak, Market Wagon is in about 25 markets general within the Midwest. Brunner foresees continuous enlargement into areas that might use a service like this—aimed toward serving to farmers thrive of their native markets.

This fortified resiliency is one thing that Bickel can attest to. Because of Maggie’s marketing strategy and the ensuing partnership with Market Wagon, her second-generation dairy farm seems to have a future as a third-generation dairy farm. 

“We’re simply making an attempt to be as sustainable as potential with each useful resource that we’ve in order that the farm is offered for the following technology and the technology after that,” says Bickel.