Farmers, programmers, and restaurant owners, we want you… to check out TheFarmCart.com. FarmCart is a brilliantly conceived management tool that allows local producers to connect with local consumers. Beyond merely connecting, FarmCart allows produce pictures to be uploaded, prices to be set and adjusted, and even includes a chat function for deal-brokering. The catch is that it is absolutely free.
Since you likely have more questions, let us turn to FarmCart co-founder Froggi VanRiper. She explains that in its original iteration, FarmCart was developed by her husband for a farmer friend in Illinois where she was working. It was spurred in part by the need for a better wholesale management tool. Prior to this technology, VanRiper’s farmer friend would receive orders via phone calls, emails, and spreadsheets colloquially known as “freshsheets.”
“It gets confusing and hard to manage [all the orders], so we got everything in one place online,” said VanRiper.
The benefits of FarmCart became obvious within a year and it was relaunched as a larger project with multiple users in mind. “We envisioned it becoming a network—a national network where consumers can find farmers producing local food,” she added.
That was nearly three years ago. Since then, FarmCart has attracted a number of farmers in Illinois, South Dakota, Michigan, and even one in Massachusetts. Although there are none in Oregon yet, FarmCart is the new kid on the block.
“We just arrived here and I’ve been pounding the pavement and visiting the farmers’ markets. Many people create their account during the wintertime when they can spend more time on the computer,” VanRiper said.
VanRiper explained that right now many producers are still working in the fields, but she expects to get a surge of Oregonians later this year.
We mentioned programmers and the fact the service is completely free at the top—what was that about? If you are one of those folks who think that creating a successful website allows you to sit back and make money, I have bad news.
“I have learned a lot about the implications of an online system just from watching my husband do the developing and hosting,” VanRiper said. “I thought that providing this free service would require very little effort on our part, but it is surprisingly expensive to maintain.”
There are several competitors developing similar programs, but they charge commissions.
“We like to think we have a better product, but it’s going to be dependent on people finding it beneficial enough to voluntarily donate,” she said.
Less concerned with the competition than she was excited to be near OSU, VanRiper has plans to continue growing FarmCart into a national network, and said they will be looking for programming students in the future.
Whether you are a farmer looking to present an organized and cataloged display of produce, a restaurant or healthy eater craving local goodies, or an IT student in need of some hands-on experience, the FarmCart has what you need… or, at the very least, it can connect you with someone who does.
Check out www.thefarmcart.com for more info and to create a free account—you could be a trendsetter here in Oregon.
By Anthony Vitale