Moving food markets and farmers' markets online

Around the world people are working with market managers to change traditional (face-to-face) markets into online shopfronts with a home delivery service.

The Open Food Network facilitates this process with an online toolkit and the following resources (which can be adapted to suit other online systems).

In may cases the stallholders are very busy trying to adapt their businesses in the light of the coronavirus situation. Even at the best of times they are often not quite the most computer-friendly people :slightly_smiling_face:. Therefore to help them make the transition to online selling as quickly and effectively as possible, communities are recruiting volunteers from the large pool of people staying at home to do some of work on behalf of the stall holders and market managers.

Getting Started

The first step is to get the Farmers’ Market profile set up and ready. Here is a summary of the steps involved in creating an online market shopfront.

Recruiting Volunteers

We are finding that in most communities there are lots of people that are willing to get involved helping to set up stall holders as online enterprises, including adding their product data.

Stroud Farmers Market used this form to collect volunteer details. Feel free to copy and adapt it for your own use.

The Stroud Community have also developed these detailed instructions for volunteers working with stallholders to set up their enterprises and product lists on OFN.

Finally, OFN UK have recruited and trained a small team of volunteers that can help to pair with producers and get them set up. Let us know if you would like some pre-trained helpers!

Getting Stall Holders Set Up

Some stall holders will be willing to set themselves up. In this case we have some quick links that can help.

This is our one page summary of how stall holders can register and set up their product lists on OFN. It includes links to our user guides and a bunch of videos to try and make this process as easy as possible.

Often, however, we find that it can work best if one person contacts a number of producers to collect all their details over the phone. As everyone is currently run off their feet finding time for one phone call in which you just collect all the information about the stall and the products can be the fastest route to getting up and running.

To make this as streamlined as possible we’ve developed this template to help a coordinator easily collect the stall and product information. Firstly copy this to your own Google Drive to use. Then just make a new sheet for every producer. The OFN Support team can then use this to create the each of the stalls - or you can do this yourself.

Figuring out your Business Model

Just like a real farmers market, there are overheads to your online farmer’s market.

In a real farmers market there will be stall holder fees, then the stall holders themselves will need to pay staff to run the stall and if they take card payments they’ll need to pay charges for that.

For a farmers market on the Open Food Network that takes payment by Stripe a markup of 3.7% should cover these base fees. After that you need to think about costs like:

  • Home Delivery. Will this be for everyone? Will some people collect? Will you offer free delivery to those self isolating? Will you offer others the chance to donate or pay-it-forward in support?
  • Packing space and box packers. Often volunteers are keen to help out but in the long term it is important to think about paying staff.
  • Admin and accounting. OFN has plenty of functions to make this easy but it does still take work. Answering emails, managing accounts, newsletters and social media all take time.

To cover all these costs most groups find that adding 15-20% on top of the producer price works well, though the actual figures you come up with will depend on a number of factors relevant to your specific context. The OFN team would be happy to talk your business model through with you.

Everything Else

  • Please contact us with any issues through our support form.

  • Learn from enterprises and share knowledge via our online community forum or Facebook group.

  • We are offering regular online drop-in calls for anyone who is new to the Open Food Network to have some help with the detail of opening their shopfront and starting to trade. We will be screen sharing. One of our experienced OFN shopfront managers will be sharing their screen, taking questions and walking through all the details of setting up an enterprise. Participants can also share their screen and be helped with anything they are stuck with. These calls are happening:

  • Keep up to date with COVID-19 advice (weekly webinars, Wednesday 16:30) and funding opportunities.

  • Regular blog posts and newsletter.

  • We have also set up a WhatsApp Group- contact us with your phone number and consent to be added.