Virtual farmers market comes to Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY –– In an effort to support the local food industry, Middlebury College employee Francisca Drexel is taking grocery shopping online.
Drexel recently opened a local market for Middlebury College on yourfarmstand.com, a website that is run as an online version of local farmers’ markets.
Yourfarmstand.com began in Charlotte in 2009 as a way for people to purchase fresh food from local farmers and producers from the convenience of their home. Customers deposit money into a personal online account at yourfarmstand.com, select the food they want to purchase and then pick it up at a designated drop-off spot.
The business provides a website for individuals like Drexel to set up a virtual market for their area. The company has expanded to include vendors and drop-off points from all over Vermont — including Vergennes and Brandon — and parts of Massachusetts, Colorado and California.
The different local markets feature different local vendors. For example, if buying in Middlebury, users can select any quantity of veal from Meeting Place Pastures, coffee from Vermont Coffee Company, and eggs from Doolittle Farm in the same order.
Yourfarmstand.com operates on a weekly basis. Middlebury users can place orders up until the start of Tuesday. Farmers then deliver their products to a drop-off point at the college between 1 and 3 p.m. later that day. Packages are then consolidated for individual customers and available for pickup from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Unlike most farmers’ markets that are operated seasonally, this operation provides fresh, local produce year round.
Drexel, who acts as the Middlebury yourfarmstand.com branchwellness coordinator, says that Yourfarmstand.com provides a convenience element for both farmers and buyers.
“We all lead such busy lives,” she said. “Many people do not have the time to go to the farmers’ market. This gives them a way to access local, healthy food and is a way to open another avenue between local farms and consumers.”
Drexel was inspired to open an online market for Middlebury by a local farmer about a year and a half ago. But, worried about favoring certain farmers over others, she delayed acting on the idea until last fall. After hearing about the program a second time, Drexel presented the idea to Middlebury College’s Optimal Health Committee, and has since received positive feedback to continue with the project.
After its first week of operation, the Middlebury branch had signed up 110 members and 17 producers. There are 38 pending orders, totaling to the amount of $773.50. Drexel says that as demand increases, more farmers and products will be added to the local market list.
“I hope this will help faculty, students and staff have easier access to local food,” she said. “With 90 percent of the money going to local farmers, the program promotes local business and supports our efforts in sustainability.”
Greg Krathwohl, a Middlebury College rising junior, is serving as the student marketing coordinator for the summer. While Krathwohl at first had reservations about the program, he now believes that it will be a good way to promote local businesses.
“When I first heard about it I didn’t think it was the best idea because it is not as convenient for local farmers, but now I have a more positive perspective because this program does not take away from local, sustainable food sources,” he said.
Krathwohl said that while yourfarmstand.com is operated as a business, the Middlebury local market is not necessarily running the program to make a profit. The Middlebury branch receives 4 percent of the total sales; 90 percent goes directly to the local farmers, and the last 6 percent goes to the company heads in Charlotte.
Instead of building profits, Krathwohl hopes the Middlebury branch of yourfarmstand.com builds a stronger community surrounding buying and eating local foods.
“This will help people who are not involved in sustainable food sources to become involved,” said Krathwohl. “It’s another way that will help build a stronger, healthier community.”

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