Implementing Solutions Under Extraordinary Circumstances
Above: Market staff Joe, Gabby, Serena, and Kyle prepare online market orders for customer pickup. The Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market is operated by the Traverse City DDA and has been managed by SEEDS staff and volunteers since 2011.
In March 2020, when COVID-19 suddenly jeopardized the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market season, SEEDS staff worked with the Downtown Development Authority and Taste the Local Difference to quickly create an online marketplace and curbside pickup option that fully launched in May! Soon after, we figured out how to safely reopen the live market and also retained the online market as an additional option for our vendors and customers – including Bridge Card and Double Up Food Bucks users.
The online market is now a key feature of the Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market, allowing it to operate year-round! It was one silver lining that came from an extraordinarily challenging year. Here’s what the online market accomplished in the first year:
- Generated nearly $225,000 in online sales for local farms and producers
- Served 54 vendors and over 1,350 customers
- Fulfilled 4,266 online orders by hand
“I own a small nursery and in spring 2020 all of my plants were waking up and, under COVID rules, I had no way to sell them. The online market was critical in helping me to get my business off the ground.” – Tom Jessmore, Wild Juniper Nursery
Above: Our impromptu COVID-safe distribution center! Over 4000 curbside pickup orders have been put together by hand by SEEDS staff and volunteers in the last year.
Moving online required support from so many partners including our terrific vendors and spearheaded by the TC Downtown Development Authority. Taste the Local Difference helped select the software and onboarded vendors into the online platform. Food Rescue of Goodwill Northern Michigan provided cooler and freezer space all season allowing for the sale of temperature sensitive products. Workshop Brewing Company hosted the pickup location for online market customers during the winter months. Oryana Community Co-op and Burritt’s Fresh Markets donated bags and boxes to sort customer orders.
From May through October, the online market offers order pick ups on Wednesdays from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Customers can place their orders beginning Thursdays at noon until Mondays at noon, and can purchase products from multiple vendors with just one transaction. Bridge cards and Double Up Food Bucks are accepted.
Product variety includes traditional agricultural products, such as vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, plants, maple syrup, and honey, as well as value-added products such as bread, cheese, soap, and desserts.