Lynda and I are just back from visiting upstate New York, where we met some folks who are working on an innovative program that combines the internet and local food producers to create an online ordering system. It’s for all those “buy local” supporters who don’t have time to get to the farmers markets, cheese shops, or roadside stands.
It’s called Chenango Bounty (a play on Chenango County). The basic concept is this: farmers and other local food producers can post their weekly availability on a central website, and then customers can shop online–almost as if they were on Amazon.com–for everything from syrup to fresh produce (including cheese, milk, bread, eggs, apple cider, jam, mustard, etc). A weekly delivery truck will bring their order straight to their door.
It’s a pretty new system, with some hiccups still to be worked out. The local agricultural economic development specialist told us about challenges with delivery trucks breaking down, limited funding, and farmer hesitations–but overall they’re happy with their progress and upbeat about the future. The biggest challenge they face now is boosting customer demand, so that farmers can rely on the web system for relatively steady orders. Currently, they might get a huge order one week and no orders the next week, because there just aren’t enough customers using the system yet. Getting those customers will require marketing, which is in short supply since the county funding is tight. Hopefully if they stick with it long enough, word of mouth will help do the job.
Who would have thought that online shopping could play such a positive role for the local economy? I guess if you can’t beat ’em, you’ve got to join ’em.