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An agricultural supplier describes Market Wagon as DoorDash for agricultural products. The company’s CEO and co-founder explains his idea for an online farmer’s market that delivers to buyers’ homes. From the perspective of farmers and consumers, Market Wagon is responding to pandemic-related needs, supporting the popularity of online shopping, and providing an answer to supply chain issues.

Indianapolis-based Market Wagon offers consumers an online marketplace for local farm produce delivered to their homes and offers farmers an online wholesale market and delivery service for their produce. Currently in Illinois, Market Wagon distributes to three locations – the Chicago area, metro St. Louis and 16 central Illinois counties.

Central Illinois agricultural supplier Ropp Jersey Cheese of McLean County has been selling produce through Market Wagon for about a year. “It’s like another big account for me,” said milkman Ken Ropp. “They take care of all the deliveries and everything. Market Wagon is ideal for tracking any business; everything is personalized up to the minute. He (Market Wagon) gets into a clientele that I might not have otherwise.

Ropp explained that he delivers dairy 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 products to the company’s distribution centers in their respective delivery areas.

Asked what is important to the company, Carter replied, “No. 1 is the local (firm) transparency. Buyers know what they’re getting and who raised it. They can chat and ask questions to the farmers on the (company’s online) platform. »

Shoppers order items a la carte and pay no subscription fees. “You can buy whatever you want, whenever you want,” he noted. Customers must pay a fixed delivery charge to homes within the hub’s delivery area.

Market Wagon does not restrict agricultural vendors from using specific production methods. “It’s not all organic or grass-fed,” Carter said. The company requires suppliers to be inspected and legally licensed for their respective production, such as a Class A dairy license or state egg license.

Ropp explained that Market Wagon takes a percentage off the top of a seller’s sale. From his milkman’s perspective, Market Wagon offered a lot of fresh, seasonal produce, and his sales declined when produce sales declined.

“Lately we have seen the (sales) numbers go up. That means more families to me [were] get back together for the holidays,” Ropp said.

Farmers and families have driven Market Wagon’s explosive growth. When the pandemic started, the company was present in six markets. Just 18 months later, Market Wagon was selling and shipping 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 provided farmers with an outlet to sell their produce, Carter continued.

“We have grown by leaps and bounds. It was overwhelming at first,” Carter said. “We realized that’s what we’re here for. It was amazing.

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 foresaw that local food sources offer a solution to the disruption of supply chains.

“All of these supply chain issues don’t affect us,” Carter said. “Buying local is the solution to supply chain issues. The most stable and secure supplies are in our local communities.

This story was distributed as a cooperative project between the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and agriculture news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.