PORTLAND, Ore —
Summer is normally the busy season for farmers markets across Oregon, as crops of delicious berries pop up around the state. But now the markets are innovating to find new ways to get local goods to Oregonians during a global pandemic.
It's online shopping for your local farmers market. Yes, just like all of the online shopping you've been doing the past few months while staying at home - except you're supporting your local community in the process.
"There are so many ways that farmers markets are an asset for a city, especially in Oregon," said Melissa Matthewson, Oregon Online Farmers Market Coordinator. "Whether [vendors are] bringing honey or cheese or meat, whatever product. Even artisans and crafters are also selling at farmers markets. Some of this is their primary income, so shoppers who come to the farmers market are supporting the local economy."
Now 27 Oregon Farmers Markets have some sort of online shopping system. The Oregon Farmers Market Association (OFMA), along with the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, worked with each location to figure out the best options for each community.
“Each market is really dedicated, it’s pretty great to see how innovative they all are and dedicated to setting up a safe shopping environment for Oregon customers," said Matthewson.
On the coast in Florence lives a big senior population, which means high risk when it comes to COVID-19.
“So it’s very important to take care of our community members. And they’re grateful to still be able to access that quality of food," said Mary Shaw, President of the Florence Farmers Market.
The Florence Farmers Market decided not to open for any in-person shopping this summer, and instead offer online shopping with drive-through pickup.
“It was quite a process to reinvent ourselves, which we had to do. Literally," said Shaw. "The real mission of our market was to bring quality local food to our community, so we're continuing that mission by having our online market."
So now to buy from the Florence Farmers Market, you just go to its website, and from there, it's just like the online shopping you're used to.
"Choose what you like, put it in your cart, just like you were shopping with Amazon, only better," said Shaw.
"You know how easy it is to go online and purchase a book or a piece of clothing, and now it's like, you can go online and purchase strawberries," said Matthewson. "And they're grown here in Oregon ... You're getting fresh local products, and that's pretty incredible. You can't really compare getting a farmers market blueberry to what you might get at the grocery store."
The Oregon Farmers Market Association has organized each online market by region on its website, so if you want to start shopping, just scroll down to your local market, click the link, and it will lead you through the process. You can also find a list of all the markets that are open for in-person shopping.
“Since farmers markets and those small local businesses are such a large part of our agricultural economy, it would be a real shame to see them not supported during this time," said Matthewson.
And even when this pandemic eventually passes, and we start to go back to in-person gatherings and less social distancing, OFMA says this online shopping experience won't go away.
"It's an enhancement to the physical market, so it's just an additional way that vendors can sell products, farmers markets can stay viable, and customers can shop," said Matthewson. "So I think it will only be a continued enhancement in the future post-pandemic."