Virtual farmers market connects farmers to customers


SIDNEY, Ill. (WCIA) — If you want farm fresh produce, you go to a farmers market. But some people might not feel comfortable going to one in the midst of a pandemic. So one farmers market is instead going to them. Virtually.

Market Wagon is a virtual farmers market that sells local products straight from the farmer or creator. It opened up a Central Illinois hub a few months ago. As it went online, it opened doors for farmers wanting to sell their goods.

“We’ve been doing the Urbana Farmer’s Market and have been doing okay, but you have a limited number of people that come to the market on any given day. Now we can reach the entire Central Illinois area” said Colleen Ruhter of That Little Farm in the Country.

Market Wagon Central Illinois covers ten counties. That includes Peoria, Sangamon, Champaign and everything in between. Buyers can go online, search for what they want, purchase it, and it’s delivered to their front doorstep.

It’s not just easy for buyers to get what they want. It’s also helping farmers who usually have a smaller pool of customers to pick from because they’re normally locked into a physical farmers market stand.

“You’re getting vendors who may only do one weekend. They’re only able to do one weekend,” said Ruhter. “So they might do the farmers market in Bloomington. They might do the farmers market in Springfield, and now they can reach an area like Champaign with this interim farmers market during the week.”

She said it’s also helpful for farmers whose normal farmer markets may have taken a hit from COVID-19.

“I think a lot of people are still shying away from it. It’s not the social event it used to be unfortunately,” said Ruhter.

Ruhter sells whole and half pasture raised chickens, and they’ll soon sell pork on Market Wagon in a few weeks. But other vendors sell items such as honey, breads, meats, eggs, coffee, jams, spreads, and even crafts.

“It’s bringing in a wider variety of people because you’ve got vendors from probably 150 miles or so of Bloomington that are bringing things in,” said Ruhter.

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