The Altadena Farmer’s Market is the latest in a sea of local businesses smartly making once “in-person only” purchases now available online.
As Altadena Farmer’s Market Manager Stacey Whitney explained recently, the market had been working on creating an online platform back in November to enable customers to order online and then pick up their purchases online or have them delivered to their homes.
“A lot of people couldn’t make it to the market on Wednesdays, as it’s a school day and people have children. So we just tried to make the market more accessible by offering some different options.
According to Whitney, the app was successful at first, but in small numbers.
But then there was the virus and the isolation.
“We realized,” she said, “that we needed to make that our only option. Just to keep everyone safe and make sure that people were staying safe, and make sure that we were keeping ourselves safe.”
As the online ordering program has evolved, the market now only offers pickup of purchases, and there is no contact.
The program works like this:
Online ordering will open just before 10 a.m. on Thursdays, staying open until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, or until the market reaches capacity at 300 orders. The market is then open for pickup from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays with times staggered alphabetically. Less traffic and street congestion this way, Whitney said.
Customers drive up in their cars on a schedule, with their names in their windshields, and line up alphabetically by last name. Market employees pop open their trunks, scurry to get their groceries, put the purchase in the trunk, and the customers are on their way.
Online donations may also be made on behalf of seniors or EBT customers who may be having trouble accessing food, said Whitney. The market has arranged separately for those donations.
“It’s been working very well,” said Whitney. In order to safely keep everything safe and at a distance, she explained, the market has only a small number of staff members on hand.
Friday through Tuesday is now spent setting up and preparing orders for the Wednesday pickup. According to Whitney, the market serves about 350 customers in that short span of time.
Ironically, while the online purchasing program is successful, it results in less revenue for the market.
As Whitney explained, running the market as a “virtual” market is more expensive than a traditional market. The staff is working more hours, items have to be bagged and packaged, masks are constantly being sanitized, and there are new online fees, for example.
However, says Whitney, the benefit is that farmers are able to sell again.
“We have some farmers who primarily supply restaurants and now they have no restaurants to supply,” she said. “So they are really hurting. And this has offered us the opportunity to help sustain the farmers through this unknown territory we’re in right now. So it’s been a great opportunity for the farmers to still be able to have a venue for selling.”
Also, according to Whitney, there are some products which the market is often able to provide when supermarkets cannot. Eggs, for example,
“And,” Whitney added, “they can do it safely without having to worry about overcrowding in grocery stores, or touching a screen or passing cash or any of that stuff. So it’s just been an all around wonderful, win, win, win for us.”
Altadena Farmer’s Market orders may be taken at afm-subscriptions.com.