An agricultural supplier describes Market Wagon as DoorDash for agricultural products. The CEO and co-founder of the company explains his idea as an online farmer’s market that delivers to buyers’ homes. From the perspective of farmers and consumers, Market Wagon is meeting the needs of the pandemic, supporting the popularity of online shopping, and providing an answer to supply chain issues.
Based in Indianapolis, Market Wagon provides consumers with an online marketplace for local farm produce delivered to their homes and provides farmers with an online wholesale market and delivery service for their produce. Currently in Illinois, Market Wagon distributes to three locations: the Chicago area, the St. Louis subway, and 16 counties in central Illinois. (Vermilion County is not currently one of the counties receiving shipments, but neighboring Champaign County is.)
Central Illinois agricultural supplier Ropp Jersey Cheese of McLean County has been selling produce through Market Wagon for about a year. âIt’s like another big account for me,â said milkman Ken Ropp. âThey take care of all the deliveries and everything. Market Wagon is ideal for tracking all business; everything is personalized down to the minute. It (Market Wagon) enters a clientele that I could not otherwise. “
Ropp explained that he delivers dairy products from his Normal farm to the company’s Bloomington-Normal hub. He knows of another agricultural source that delivers to two hubs.
Market Wagon CEO and co-founder Nick Carter, who grew up on a farm in Indiana, explained that local agricultural vendors bring their produce to the company’s distribution centers in their respective delivery areas.
When asked what was important to the business, Carter replied, âNo. 1 is local transparency (firm). Buyers know what they are buying and who raised it. They can chat and ask questions to farmers on the platform (company online).
Buyers order a la carte items and pay no subscription fees. âYou can buy what you want, when you want it,â he noted. Customers must pay a fixed delivery charge to homes located in the delivery area of ââthe hub.
Market Wagon does not prevent agricultural sellers from using specific production methods. âIt’s not all organic or grass-fed,â Carter said. The company requires that suppliers be inspected and legally licensed for their respective production, such as a Class A dairy license or state license for eggs.
Ropp explained that Market Wagon takes a percentage off the top of a seller’s sale. From its dairy perspective, Market Wagon featured a lot of fresh, seasonal produce and its sales declined when product sales declined.
âLately we’ve seen the (sales) numbers go up. It means for me more families [were] get back together for the holidays, âsaid Ropp.
Farmers and families were the driving force behind the boom in Market Wagon’s growth. When the pandemic began, the company was present in six markets. Just 18 months later, Market Wagon was selling and delivering to 15 Midwestern and Eastern states after opening 27 new centers in one year.
The pandemic has made ordering and delivering food online “normal,” according to Carter. While consumers had limited access to food sources, farmers who sold directly lost their markets when restaurants, farmers’ markets and other direct outlets closed. Market Wagon has provided an outlet for farmers to sell their produce, Carter said.
âWe have grown in leaps and bounds. It was overwhelming at first, âCarter said. âWe realized that was what we are here for. It has been incredible.
After massive growth, Market Wagon’s geographic expansion will be slow, according to Carter. The company’s plan is to be nationwide by 2025.
The CEO predicted that local food sources offer a solution to disrupted supply chains.
âAll of these supply chain issues don’t affect us,â Carter said. âBuying local is the solution to supply chain problems. The most stable and secure supplies are found in our local communities. “
This story was distributed as part of a cooperative project between the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more information on food and farming, visit FarmWeekNow.com.