By Peggy Mackenzie
The age of online shopping continues to mature, bringing the world, so to speak, to our fingertips. One can find almost anything, it seems, and get it delivered to your home, even here in rural West Virginia. Some of us have quickly adapted to this amazing resource and welcomed the online world-view. Others of us only slowly (and painfully) are learning to make use of what is out there in computer-land, or to even remember it’s available, since we were around before computers were invented.
Being one of those slow adapters, I was recently introduced to the Monroe Farm Market online, a fairly new resource offering local, sustainable food from southeastern West Virginia. I found their website, www.localfoodmarketplace.com/monroe/, most inviting and informative.
The Monroe Farm Market sells locally-produced fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, eggs, and baked goods from the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia to customers as far away as Charleston through their online farmer’s market.
As my online learning curve continues, I have discovered that access to the Monroe Farm Market is now available through a mobile app allowing customers to order their produce not only from their home computer but also from their cell phones and I-pads. This is apparently used by over half of their customers, so it must be very popular.
The food delivery that you order through their market arrives every Thursday, May through October and every other week from October to the following spring. I was most impressed that I can buy locally grown fresh produce even through the winter months.
The market is comprised of over 25 small and diverse farms located in Monroe and the surrounding counties who produce seasonal fruits and vegetables, beef, veal, goat, chicken, lamb, pork, eggs, baked goods and other value-added items. The farms are family owned and operations range from small two-acre farms to several hundred-acre farms.
I appreciated that this online service makes it possible for farmers to work together to meet the growing demand for local, sustainable food in our part of West Virginia, delivering fresh, healthy, locally grown and produced food to you, the buyer, in a cost-effective manner on a weekly basis. Plus, they only sell what they have raised, grown or made with their own hands. In this way, the farmers benefit from the marketing, selling, packaging and delivering of their produce and prepared foods. I also appreciated that just as we support the farmers markets here in Lewisburg and elsewhere, that buying from the Monroe Farm Market online helps to build and support our rural communities, and, by extension, is a great way to preserve our precious agricultural land for future use.
So, I wondered, how does this work?
To start with, you need to simply click on the “Sign In” button on the website (www.localfoodmarketplace.com/monroe/) and create an account. You will then start receiving emails notifying you with a list of available products, and you can browse the items before you place your order.
Making an order is easy and straight-forward. Each Monday by noon, a list of available products is sent to all registered customers by e-mail. Customers place their order on the website for the week no later than Tuesday by 12:00 p.m.
I really liked that you get to order what you like, in the quantities that suit your needs, from the farms that you select, unlike some co-ops, buying clubs, or CSAs where everyone gets the same box of goods (and you don’t know what you’re getting until you get it).
Delivery day is on Thursdays, and for Lewisburg, the produce pickup is at Dr. Erskine’s office in Fairlea from noon to I p.m. For Monroe County, the pickup is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Union Senior Center’s lower parking lot. Most people in Union, I’m told, shop for their produce through the online market.
You pay for your order when you pick up your produce. They accept cash or checks. A preliminary invoice is sent automatically to you once you make your order, and then you get a final invoice in hand when you pick up the groceries. There are further details where adjustments are needed, particularly when items are sold by weight and also for items that were unexpectedly unavailable. For these reasons, they do not accept advance payment on the website.
Are there membership fees, you ask? As you can imagine there are many costs associated with running an online market, however membership fees have been kept surprisingly low. For the first time in years board members will be voting this weekend on lowering fees, however, a decision has not yet been made. Fees for Lewisburg residents may be as low as $20 per year, or perhaps they may be eliminated. Either way, the costs are small when you weigh the benefits of healthy fresh locally raised produce grown and delivered to you year round. They are still a growing operation and so is their product list. Check the website weekly for new items and more information.
I find there’s plenty of good reasons to support our local economy by accessing Monroe’s online farm market. Stabilizing the local economy, preserving natural resources, and cutting the costs of transportation are only three of them. Supporting small, diverse, family-owned farms that contribute to society’s overall health as a way of life, now, that’s an honest and worthy means of making a living. I’m for it!
Growers are invited to sell through this market as well. Monroe Farm Market plans to participate in the state wide “winter Blues” market in Charleston in late February, in which an expected 409 vendors from across the state will be participating. So, check out Monroe Farm Market online for yourself. It’s easy! For more information about why buy local, check out: www.greenbriervalley.org/why-buylocal/.