Is There an Online Opportunity for Farmers’ Markets?

Discussion
Aug 27, 2013

Described as "Etsy for local foodies," Good Eggs is a newer e-commerce site enabling consumers to buy local foods from farms and other local purveyors.

The start-up, founded in San Francisco by several Silicon Valley alums, launched last summer in the Bay Area and expanded this year to Brooklyn, New Orleans and Los Angeles.

Good Eggs claims to be opening up an online opportunity for not only the sale of produce from local farmers but also local sellers of jarred items like jams, baked goods, meat and other regional fare often found at such markets. The San Francisco site is the most developed, counting more than 150 vendors, including those offering cheeses, olive oil, teas, baby foods and chocolate, as well as a variety of vegan, gluten-free and ethnic food options.

Shoppers go to their regional Goodeggs.com marketplace and browse through microsites set up for each local food specialist. The microsites are segmented by "Markets", such as Summer Fruits & Veggies, Dairy & Eggs and Baked Goods & Sweets. All the purveyors set their own prices.

Customers order what they want and pay the individual purveyors directly through the website. Home delivery (a cost of $3.99) is done by the individual vendor or by Good Eggs. Shoppers can also retrieve their purchase for free at pickup locations.

Good Eggs receives 25 percent of the sale for each delivery they orchestrate and six percent for direct orders the local producer handles. Like Etsy, small food vendors have a platform for selling their products online.

"There’s no way I could build the tools they’re building [at Good Eggs]," ShaeLynn Watt of Early Bird Ranch in Pescadero, CA, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "My time is better spent producing delicious food and building better relationships with my customers."

For consumers, Good Eggs touts the benefits of buying local, including maximizing freshness, supporting nearby businesses and reducing waste. But the ambitious founders believe they’ve simplified local grocery online delivery.

"A lot of entrepreneurs are inventing other ways to get food to people outside of traditional grocery distribution channels," co-founder Alon Salant told Wired in an article last year. "That’s great, but it’s completely disorganized without any infrastructure or support. There’s a clear need here to make people’s lives easier."

What do think of Good Eggs’ business model? What are its benefits and drawbacks for both consumers and local food producers? Do you see such shared online e-commerce platforms as a potential boon to local farmer communities?

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13 Comments on "Is There an Online Opportunity for Farmers’ Markets?"

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W. Frank Dell II
BrainTrust

Good Egg is just the start of a new wave of joint internet selling. Too many items do not have the price point and gross margin for internet shopping. The concept of linking sellers together and shipping one time for all will grow, but we will have failures along the way.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Really cool idea, but from my understanding of the system, it is going to hit limitations. It’s a convenience for people that want to try new things without too much inconvenience, just like food items on Etsy. However, there’s a limited market for that.

Every Sunday we hit a nearby farmer’s market for one farm stand in particular. For us, we hand pick the produce we want even though we fully trust the farmer. Home delivery would be a convenience, but it would lose some level of control and discovery—including tasting.

For most people the market is an experience. They get outdoors, find new things, bring the kids and dogs, grab something fresh to eat and create a personal mini event of it.

Digital just can’t do that.

Joan Treistman
BrainTrust

Good Eggs represents the “win-win” business model. Consumers are able to shop conveniently where they want and feel good about their purchases, while the local food producers have improved sales by accessing consumers they typically could not reach. This may not be as fruitful in all markets, but the cost of entry does not seem a barrier to test markets around the country. Am I missing something?

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Ken Lonyai is right about the value of the experience at a market. It is a delight to multiple senses that the website just can’t provide.

But I wonder if we have “progressed” to the point that most people don’t have any idea what this is like? Are we so separated from nature that “digitally enhanced” can really enhance our lives? If so, maybe there is enough of a market to support shopping small producers through a common portal. It would be kind of sad—but it might be true.

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

Seems like even if this digital means to selling products forgoes the “experience” of a farmers’ market, it may provide a good vehicle for sellers to come together and sell to those who either don’t know what the experience is like, or simply don’t have the time or interest to attend.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

I see the obvious business benefits of this system for the local food producers. Pre-ordering and having visibility of local food offerings would be beneficial for consumers.

I hope that these technologies don’t cause the vendors to turn the local farmers markets into delivery mechanisms for pre-ordered goods. I may be in the minority, but I visit farmers’ markets for the experience of engaging with local food and craft producers, grabbing a few interesting items, and enjoying the too rare relaxing moment.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

The tough, but not impossible obstacle to overcome is the human touch/interaction part of a typical farmers’ market. Not only picking your own items based upon touch, smell, etc., but also interacting with the vendor themselves. I found a vendor who grew up in the same town as me, and now I return to his stand every week. I wouldn’t have had that experience online, typically, so far.

Nice idea, though. I believe these and other challenges can eventually be overcome.

Warren Thayer
BrainTrust

Good model for urban markets where there are no farmers’ markets, or where farmers’ markets are a real hassle for many of the farmers to reach on a regular basis. When I lived in NYC, fledgling farmers’ markets were hampered by farmers having to be on the road by 3:30 a.m. to get to the city, and worries that they might not sell enough to really cover cost of gasoline, time, etc.

I’d be a little worried about food safety; one bad apple can do a lot of damage, in terms of loyalty and litigation, but I’m assuming Good Eggs has that covered pretty well. Where I live in Vermont now, and in rural markets, the Good Eggs model would never work. Too many local farms with their own stands, farmers’ markets, and even farmers where you can sign up for a share of meat or veggies.

gordon arnold
Guest

Internet auctions are the mainstay for flea market e-commerce activities at present. This will expand to coupons and catalogs as the ownership of these businesses moves aside for the younger generations. What comes after the change of guard is speculative at best, but there will no doubt be something interesting and new for all to participate in and save a couple of bucks while doing so.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

As Ken points out—and I imagine all of us thought—one of the main points of a farmer’s market is meeting the farmers, face-to-face, and the whole shopping experience; so my initial thought was “eh.” But if we accept the limitations, and see it as a supplement to—rather than a replacement for—”going to the market,” then I think it has potential. One of the limitations will be quality control, and policing the multitude of vendors who are essentially selling directly to consumers with little oversight…expect lots of (widely) differing reviews in social media for this one.

Vahe Katros
BrainTrust

There is a large base of occasional shoppers who are not ‘into’ a farmers’ market’s lovely chaos. These ‘foodies’ care about the product. Removing the hassles inherent in local/seasonal shopping will drive more business for the hard working farmers. A good thing.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
3 years 9 months ago

What is the #1 draw for farmers’ markets? Right, it’s tomatoes. Seasonal fruit is #2. And as a devotee of farmers’ markets here in NorCal, I have one rule: The uglier the better.

Almost every time I visit a farmers’ market, I see one or two vendors who offer perfect tomatoes or fruit with uniform sizes and colors—usually arranged in orderly rows in boxes designed for that purpose. The waxy coating on the tomatoes is a dead giveaway that they were purchased from a supermarket supplier, not home-grown. And the vendor always lies and promises that they are home-grown.

I avoid those vendors and gravitate to others who offer tomatoes with wildly different sizes, shapes, and colors. Those, the ugly tomatoes, are the ones that taste best and which are genuinely home-grown. I also prefer less-than-perfect fruit from a pile or bucket rather than a box.

How can I exercise my preference for ugly tomatoes and fruit when ordering online?

Karen S. Herman
BrainTrust

Does anyone else think there is a 24/7 effort in Silicon Valley to translate the virtual storefront ecommerce business model to absolutely every line of business in the world?

Yes, Good Eggs is a win/win for the purveyors, who can focus on doing what they do best and increase their customer base through a microsite, but a 25% transaction fee for delivered sales kinda tells who is profiting the most here.

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