The Waco Downtown Farmers Market is experimenting with a new location this week: customers’ phones and computers.
Starting this week, the market will offer what it calls “Market in a Box,” which offers online ordering from local providers, with customers picking up their orders Tuesday afternoons at the Waco Food Hub, 420 Dallas St.
Online buyers can choose from produce, meat, dairy products and more from participating Waco Downtown Farmers Market vendors, place orders between noon Friday and 5 p.m. Monday, then pick them up between 4 and 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Market director Bethel Erickson-Bruce said the new twist to market buying is aimed at expanding sales opportunities for area farmers and vendors and providing more flexibility for customers who cannot visit the Saturday downtown farmers market held in the McLennan County Courthouse parking lot at Fifth Street and Washington Avenue.
“We’ve experimented with another market day, Tuesday, but with mixed results,” Erickson-Bruce said. “There were not enough vendors and not enough customers. This is a way of making local food more accessible.”
She said the online option may help area farmers when they harvest bumper crops and cannot sell it all at the Saturday market. It also may provide an outlet for farmers and vendors when rainy or stormy weather causes cancellation of the Saturday market, as has happened several times this spring, she said.
Participating vendors place their produce and products for sale on the farmers market’s website with offerings changing week to week based on availability. This week’s list includes produce from Johnson’s Backyard Garden; pork products from Blackland Prairie Pork; bread from Homestead Bakery; Apex Coffee Roasters coffee; kombucha from Bare Bucha; dairy products, honey and spices from multiple vendors; and even frozen pizza from Artisan Ovens.
Customers need to have a credit card to use the secure ordering site, but there are options to pay in cash or by check at delivery, Erickson-Bruce said.
She and market assistant Kaitlyn Breedlove will collect orders from vendors and prepare them for pickup at the Waco Food Hub, a building that once operated as a farmers market. Customers need to bring their own bags or boxes for the items ordered.
The Hub, which also houses cold storage for Brazos Valley Cheese, has a roof enabling all-weather service and refrigeration for meat and dairy products.
Will online ordering cut into the market’s Saturday attendance? “There’s always that potential to undercut Saturday visits, but my hope is we’re expanding our customer base,” Erickson-Bruce said.
Potential online customers might find Tuesdays after work a better time than Saturday mornings to pick up market items.
“They’re pretty different experiences,” she said.