Market Wagon online farmers market

Getting out of the dairy business was looking like the only option for New Horizon Farm and Dairy in 2015.

“My father and his family have been dairy farming in Clinton County for 60 years,” said Jackie Bickel from Happy Cows Creamery at New Horizon Farm and Dairy. “When milk prices took a dive, we were looking to do an exit strategy because at the time, we were shipping our milk bulk as a commodity.”

Instead, her daughter, Maggie, came home from an FFA trip with an idea she learned about: bottling their own milk and directly selling it to customers. She created a business plan, for which she won a national award, and the family started to refocus the operation and invest in their future.

It was in spring 2020, just as the pandemic hit, when the farm was licensed to bottle milk. However, the lockdown disrupted their distribution plans, so they were looking for new options.

“We had just started a partnership with Market Wagon on our freezer beef and eggs,” Bickel said. “We started bottling it right when the pandemic started. That’s when we received our license. We had no outlet to get the milk out to the customers, and then Market Wagon was deemed an essential business. So we were able to ship our milk through Market Wagon. As soon as we posted it on the portal, it just took off.”

An online farmers market

Started 10 years ago in Indianapolis to give farmers another outlet to sell their products year-round, the Market Wagon online farmers market has three hubs in Ohio.

“Market Wagon is a way to connect local producers to local customers,” said Jeremy Lewis, regional operations manager for Market Wagon. “So producers that don’t have a traditional online outlet to sell their products now can sell through Market Wagon and have their products delivered right to customers’ doorsteps.”

Market Wagon isn’t meant to replace traditional farmers markets or on-farm stores, Lewis said, but it gives farmers a place to sell their products every day of the year.

“During the winter months when maybe farmers markets are not going, or if you’re not willing to go out to the farmers market because you don’t want to brave the snow, you can (use) us and get it delivered every Tuesday or Thursday,” he said.

Trish Barbee of Barbee Market said Market Wagon “made our business, to be honest.” Barbee Market has pasture-raised beef and poultry in Orient, Ohio, in Pickaway County. “We had plans to open a storefront when we were told about Market Wagon,” Barbee said. “Sales just exploded and we were having trouble keeping up with demand, so we actually tabled our plans to do the storefront.”

Market Wagon
Trish Barbee of Barbee Market in Orient, left, and Jackie Bickel of Happy Cows Creamery in Clinton County have found success selling their products through Market Wagon year-round. Jeremy Lewis, center, is regional operations manager for Market Wagon, which operates in 10 states.

While Barbee Market still participates in traditional farmers markets, and the storefront shop is still a possibility down the road, Barbee said she regularly directs her customers to
Market Wagon.

“It’s such a great asset. They have all these fresh foods, these farm-raised items delivered right to your front door. You can’t get more convenient than that,” she said.

Seeking more participants

Market Wagon works with about 90 producers in Ohio, Lewis said, and is always looking to work with more.

“We’re always looking for more – more farmers, more producers, bakers, dairy farmers, produce, meat, cheese, everything,” Lewis said.

As long as a farmer is licensed to sell their specific product by the regulatory body that’s appropriate, they are welcome to sell on Market Wagon, Lewis said.

“Market Wagon customers are looking to support their local vendors, the local producers within their community,” he said. “They’re looking to support those in their community who are supporting them by growing these products.”

Market Wagon products
Market Wagon’s farmers bring their products to Market
Wagon hubs throughout the state, where they are packed with other items then shipped to customers’ doorsteps.

Currently, Market Wagon operates 30 hubs across 10 states. They operate three hubs in Ohio – central, northeast, and southwest. Customers visit the website marketwagon.com, put in their ZIP code and start shopping.

For farmers, the costs for signing up to sell through Market Wagon are well worth the investment.

“The overhead costs associated with Market Wagon, including gas to get to the hubs and the amount of the profit that we share with Market Wagon, is just very worth it to us because they help us market to a much larger audience than we could on our own,” Barbee said. “It does not take that much time to pull the items out of our freezers, put them in the cooler, and then come in here and fill the orders. If we had the store front, we may or may not sell everything that we have and the overhead would be higher. Plus, I would have to physically be there so my flexibility would be gone.”

A new pilot program

Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation board member Amy McCormick, who is corporate affairs manager for the Kroger Co., is helping guide a pilot program as Kroger Farmers Market powered by Market Wagon. She said as a Farm Bureau member, she is pleased that Kroger’s Farmers Market powered by Market Wagon is an outlet for supporting other members.

“Market Wagon is a way for me to do that,” she said. “By being a customer and being able to connect a little closer to those local producers, I’m able to learn a little more about their stories. They may have youth that we can connect to scholarships or (other) resources that they may not even be aware of.”

Farm Bureau connections are important to Barbee, too.

“I have great respect for Farm Bureau and how it looks out for farmers, how it always has looked out for farmers and advocates for them with the legislature and other officials when we need them. They provide great workshops, great resources and marketing tips,” she said. “It’s definitely a farmer’s friend.”

Visit marketwagon.com for more information about working with or ordering from Market Wagon.

Photos by Brooke Beam

Online extra

 

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
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Ernie Welch

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Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
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Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
The plan we are on is great. It’s comparable to my previous job's plan, and we are a sole proprietor.
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Kevin Holy

Geauga County Farm Bureau

Ohio Farm Bureau Health Benefits Plan
We work terrifically with the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau, hosting at least one to two outreach town hall events every year to educate new farmers and existing farmers on traditional CAUV and woodlands.
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David Thomas

Ashtabula County Auditor

CAUV: Past, present and future
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
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Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
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Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

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So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Advocacy
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