Local Food Distribution
from Farmers’ Markets Pilot
TO Food Market has conducted a 2 year case study in assessing feasibility of food delivery from the local farmers market in order to shorten the food kilometers and implement just-in-time model.
The study included providing local food delivery to residents within 2 km radius of the market, surveying of local residents and businesses as well evaluating feasibility of different options.
Pilot evalutation included the following criteria:
- interest of residents and businesses in online ordering and delivery
- feasibility of different offerings (food boxes, bulk ordering, customized orders)
- evaluation of farmers’ markets readiness
- environmental impact assessment
The pilot ran out of Evergreen Farmers Market located on Bayview Ave in Toronto. Evergreen Brickworks has offered us a free stall where we conducting surveys and promoted delivery service from the market.
Year 1 Summary
The focus was on local restaurants. 100+ restaurant owners were contacted, 20+ showed interested, 0 ordered.
The biggest hurdle for restaurants was a misalignment between their menu and seasonal availability. A few restaurant chefs would take time to come to the market in search of less common produce. The secondary hurdle were minimums restaurants were locked into by large food distributors like Sysco etc.
Year 2 Summary
The focus was on local residants of the area. A survey was conducted to see what there is an interest for. About 50% of surveyed people was interested in home delivery from the market. Many of the market goers were looking for the physical experience at the market.
The options surveyed on: custom online ordering, subscriptions boxes, bulk group ordering. The response was favourable and the program switched to residential food delivery program.
Case study evaluation
The home food delivery program was setup with 5 food boxes in different sizes: veggies/fruit, cheese, meat, vegan and baked goods. Boxes could be purchased individually or as a subscription with pickup or delivery options. The most popular box was veggies and fruits box. Most orders were for delivery.
Farmers Markets readiness
Evergreen was not interested to promote or announce the program throught their channels. This made it difficult to promote and gain accetaptance. During COVID-19, Evergreen Farmers Market launched their own food box program that was very successful. This shows that market’s active support and ownership is crucual for programs like this to succeed.
COVID Influence and Updates
COVID-19 has hit just as market were starting to plan for their next season. Majority of farmers’ markets have been caught unprepared for going online. Very few have offered online pre-order and pickup options on-site. Most of these markets were allowing farmers to use market space for their order pickups, only a handful was doing the consolidated online ordering and pickup options through a market run online store.
The pandemic lock-down and restrictions have accelerated the assessment of farmers’ markets readiness for becoming a hub for local food distribution rather than just a meeting place where farmers and vendors sell their products. The farmers’ markets that have taken ownership of online store ordering have done well.