Some Oregon farmers markets have a new option for prople who want fresh, local produce but also want to minimize their possible exposure to the coronavirus.
It means customers can browse, order and pay for their produce online from the comfort and safety of their home. Some of the markets offer curbside pick-up at the edge of the market. Others require customers to visit the farm stand, where the vendors have their orders packed and ready to go.
Either way, the system minimizes the amount of time a customer needs to spend in close proximity to vendors and other customers.
At the beginning of the year, just one farmers market in the entire state offered online sales. Now, according to Kelly Crane, director of the Oregon Farmers Market Association, there are nearly 30 markets that are participating. “It’s really pretty amazing, when you think about it, to have such a big industry shift practically overnight,” she said.
The online ordering system has been a help for market vendors like Virginia Herrera, who co-owns the Eloisa Organic Farm in Benton County. At this time of year, her fields are full of healthy produce. “Tomatoes and peppers, corn and kale, cilantro, onions, radishes,” she said.
But turning that abundance into revenue has been a challenge this year. Eloisa Organics normally sells to some restaurants, but with restaurant sales limited due to the pandemic, Herrera has tried to expand in other ways. She's grateful that the Corvallis Farmers Market is participating in the online sales platform.
At the beginning of the market season, Herrera said just a few people ordered online each week. In the past few months, that number has tripled.
Crane, of the Farmers Market Association, predicted that online ordering will continue after the pandemic. But she said nothing can replace the traditional farmers market experience that many Oregonians enjoy.
"We see this as just a piece of the puzzle for farmers markets moving forward," she said. "We know that no online shopping experience can match or compare with the experience of connecting directly with your farmer face-to-face."