Browsing stand after stand stacked with carrots, squash, berries and baked goods is the norm when you think of shopping at a farmers market. But a new dimension of clicking and dragging your produce to a virtual shopping basket has become an option as online farmers markets continue to emerge.
“It is a new thing, but it’s growing like gangbusters,” says Shelly Stevens, founder of Northwest Farm Fresh, a local online farmers market.
Stevens, who helped found the Chewelah Farmers Market in 2008, used the relationships she developed with local farmers and customers to start up an online farmers market called the Chewelah Valley Fresh Market in early 2012.
Since, Stevens has expanded her online market and changed the name to Northwest Farm Fresh. She added a drop-off location last year in Colville, and a third drop-off location began in Spokane on Sept. 18 at Lasagna’s-On-Ya.
Adding Spokane was the next logical step in growth for Northwest Farm Fresh, Stevens says. With a larger urban and suburban population, presumably fewer Spokanites are growing their own food, whereas Stevens County is largely a farming county.
“By reaching into that denser population in Spokane that do not have that lifestyle, I think ultimately it’ll be super-beneficial for these small farmers to be marketing their products there,” she says.
Here’s how the market works: Customers register online for free and have from Wednesday through Monday each week to shop — choosing produce, meats and breads from approximately 38 farmers as far north as Orient and as far south as Reardan. Tuesday is pickup day from 3-6 pm. You choose if you want to pick up in Chewelah, Colville or Spokane, and you pay for the order in person.
The online market helps solve the problem for folks who can’t make it to regular farmers markets because of their schedule but want to buy local, Stevens says. Farmers also benefit from the larger customer base and exposure. The website provides information about each farmer, such as growing practices and how animals are raised.
“Most small farmers don’t have the savvy to market themselves online, so this fills that niche for them,” Stevens says.
Northwest Farm Fresh • Order from Wednesdays at 9 am to Monday at noon; Pickup on Tuesdays from 3-6 pm • nwfarmfresh.com