LocallyGrown.net gives the internet's advantages to Farmers' Markets.
Whether you manage or sell at a traditional farmers' market with many other vendors or use a small email list to market produce off your farm, LocallyGrown.net is for you!
LocallyGrown.net Gives You
Your Own Web Address
You can create your market at a unique locally grown address (i.e. athens.locallygrown.net)
Your market comes with a welcome page, a Frequently Asked Questions system, and a weblog (news page), all out of the box and all ready for your own content.
Users can create accounts at your market. There are four levels: Market Managers (those people "in charge" of the market), Growers (all sellers through the market are called growers), Market Volunteers, and Customers.
Any number of growers can join the market. Unsolicited requests require approval from a market manager before they are listed and can begin selling. Of course, it works just as well with a single grower as it does with a whole market full.
Virtual Farm Tours
Growers get their own "About" page and a photo gallery, with unlimited photos and captions. If growers are certified USDA Organic or Certified Naturally Grown, the logo and a link to more information is prominently displayed.
Flexible Product Listings
Market Managers and Growers can organize product categories and list products, giving them full descriptions, images, prices, etc. You can build your product category structure from scratch, or just automatically use the categories I’ve been using at my market for the last five years and go from there.
Market managers and growers can quickly adjust availability, pricing, and other items at any time. Growers can only edit their own products, but Market Managers can edit everything.
Membership is flexible. You can charge customers an membership fee -- you set the amount and whether it is annual or lifetime. You can charge growers a fee to sell their products (either as a variable percentage of sales, set per grower, or as a flat fee per item), just like a table fee at a booths-and-tables market.
Growers set their own prices. The market can tack on a surcharge for each item. The customer sees the total of the two. The Grower gets the sales price, minus any surcharge, minus any sales percentage. It’s hard to succinctly describe, but is rather easy in practice.
Customers can be marked as "Wholesale Accounts". Growers can set special wholesale prices for their products, and the wholesale customers will automatically see those prices. Wholesale customers will go to the end of the line by default (to give retail customers paying higher prices first dibs), but that behavior can be disabled.
Automatic sending of the availability email. Each week I send out an email to our customers with a little chatty news section followed by the complete listing of products for that week. They go to the website to place their orders, but they enjoy getting the email as a reminder. So, the system allows you to type the chatty news section through the weblog, and by checking a box it will email all your customers the weblog entry plus the product listing.
Ordering is very simple. Customers can place their own orders, and market managers can place orders for customers unable to do so themselves. Confirmation emails go out to both the customer and the market managers.
The market manager is able to edit and adjust individual orders and individual items within the order. This includes price adjustments, credits, etc.
Grower Harvest Notification
The growers can see the orders for their products in real time through the website, but at the end of the ordering window, the website will send emails out to the growers letting them know of the orders, what needs to be harvested, etc.
Labels for each grower will be automatically generated as PDF documents formatted for printing to several standard Avery label sizes. The growers can print them on their own using their own printer (or the market manager can do it for them).
"Delivery Day" Reports
Ready-to-print PDF documents are created for processing grower drop-offs/pickups, invoices for the customer, and packing lists for those putting orders together.
Online or In-Person Payment Processing
Payments are taken in person, when the orders are picked up, or online when the orders are placed (using Stripe.com). Or both! It is very common to have to adjust customer orders, because the weather affected expected crop yields for the week or they decided to buy something extra you brought along, etc. It's much harder to go back and adjust after you've taken payment, so the system makes it easy for you to keep track of who got what before the customer pays in person or their card gets charged. The system does keep track of customer balances, so it is possible to allow customers to conveniently pay as much as they want in advance and then "draw down" on their balance if they wish.
Customer orders can be easily adjusted after the fact through the website to account for rejections, shortages, credits, etc.
Slideshow from February, 2010
The produce is local to the market.
Every market may have a different idea of what that means. For our market in Athens, GA, nothing comes from further away than about 100 miles. The system won’t prevent you from selling something that traveled 1000 miles, but that goes against what I’m trying to accomplish here.
The growers set their own prices.
The system is meant to emulate many aspects of a traditional “booths and tables” farmers’ market. The customers are buying directly from the grower, at prices set by the grower. The grower describes what is available, supplies photos of the items, and sets the purchase price.
The customer has choices.
Just like at a traditional farmers’ market, the customer can browse everything that is available from all of the different growers. The customer can choose exactly what to buy, how much to buy, and from what grower to buy.
The customer has time to decide.
Unlike a traditional market that may be only open for a couple hours (with all the good stuff gone soon after opening), LocallyGrown.net markets are usually open for business for two days—long enough to fully browse the site and plan menus for the week.
Availability is flexible.
The growers estimate how much of each item that will be able to harvest a week ahead of time. This takes both skill and practice. Even so, unpredictable factors—such as whether or not it is sunny on a Wednesday morning—can make the difference between having a bumper crop or a very small harvest. So, the site will allow customers to keep on ordering an item even if sales have passed the estimated availability. The item might not be there when the order is put together, but then again, it just might be.
The produce is harvested to order.
After the ordering window has closed, the growers are notified of all of their orders for the week. They usually have a day or so to go out and harvest exactly what was ordered, package it, and deliver to the pick-up site. The produce is not coming off from a shelf somewhere, but is coming straight from the field to the customer. Of course, this doesn’t apply for some items. Garlic, for example, is often cured for a while before sale. Jams and other preserves may be made in batches. Honey is processed seasonally and then stored. Soap is made in batches. You get the idea, but most things will indeed be harvested to order.
Payment is taken or cards get charged when the orders are picked up.
Most markets will have a set time and location for customers to pick up their orders. Payment can be made when the order is placed through the website or made in person when the order is picked up. Adjusting the amount owed for an order will be a common occurrence. Maybe something ran short due to bad weather, or maybe there were extra items available on the table when the customer arrived, or maybe the grower decided to adjust the price down at the last minute to account for an imperfection. In any case, the system helps you keep track of it all so everyone gets charged exactly the right amount.
The system does keep track of customer balances, so it is possible to allow customers to conveniently pay as much as they want in advance and then "draw down" on their balance.
One aspect to this, however, is that if a customer places an order but for whatever reason does not arrive to pick it up and has not pre-paid for it, they should still be responsible for paying for that order. Since everything is harvested to order, the growers still had to work to put the order together, and should therefor still get paid for that effort.
That is what makes a LocallyGrown.net market.
There are many nuances I've left out, but that about sums up the major features. The cost? It's completely free to start your market, and from there I'll be asking for 3% of your completed sales to cover my hosting costs and development time. I'll give you a paypal link or a mailing address to send payment, and you can pay on your own schedule. You'll find it to be much cheaper than trying to host your own online ordering system!
You can see what we’ve done with our market at athens.locallygrown.net -- feel free to look around, "tour" our member farms, and browse our product listings.
Many other markets across North America are using the system right now. You can see them all by clicking "Our Markets" above. Cumberland Farmers' Market in Tennessee has been using the system the longest besides us here in Athens -- you can find their site at sewanee.locallygrown.net.
Feel free to create a site for your market to get the ball rolling and see for yourself how it works. Just click on "Our Markets" to get started.
And as always, if you have any questions, feature requests, etc., please let me know. Since 2002 I’ve seen how our system has revolutionized marketing for small growers and farmers markets in general in our area, and I know it can do the same for yours.
Athens Locally Grown
Boann's Banks Farm