Couple creates virtual farmers’ market
DENVILLE — Part of the attraction of farmers’ markets is the opportunity to closely examine the produce, chat with the farmers and meet friends and neighbors.
But the social aspects of farm market shopping aren’t compatible with today’s necessary social distancing.
Ray and Nancy Painter, publishers of Edible Jersey and Edible Philly, found a solution to providing nutritious food without the dangers of social contact in this age of COVID-19.
They created My Community Market, allowing shoppers to shop online at a favorite market by clicking mycommunitymarketplace.com.
The pilot market in the program is the Denville Market in Morris County.
Nancy Painter explained they were looking for a market that had both a summer and winter season and “a terrific market manager.” That would be Liisi Lascarro, the founder and manager of the market which is held in the municipal parking lot on Bloomfield Avenue.
Denville is an established market, Lascarro said.
The summer market was started 10 years ago and the winter market is at the end of its seventh season. There is plenty of room to separate the vendors and plenty of parking.
Painter was worried the state might cancel farm markets because of COVID-19, but when the governor’s directive listed them as “essential services” she and her husband went ahead with the idea for online ordering.
They had actually talked about going virtual for some time, Painter said, noting e-commerce is part of the Edible Jersey website. The publication is advertising-based and the Painters have created special events on their site, like the after-Thanksgiving holiday market last fall.
The COVID-19 crisis added a layer of urgency to the idea. Patrons can order off the vendors’ websites and pay electronically.
They then travel to the market on Sundays and pick up the order, already packed, thus spending less time at the market and not touching the produce or handing cash to the vendors.
Painter said seven of the vendors participated the first week. They only had three days notice of the new ordering system.
The Painters sent out an e-blast and put it on social media. Edible Jersey also covered the costs of the changes for the first week.
Although the vendors hope the market gets back to normal soon, Painter said, many of them would like to continue making sales in advance. It helps them judge how much product to bring each week and avoid spoilage and waste from transporting it.
She said she and her husband haven’t heard from every one of the vendors.
The first Sunday under the new system was March 29. Painter said most of the vendors did well and one, Chickadee Creek Farm in Hopewell Valley, sold out. She noted that farm has an established customer base while some of the other vendors don’t.
Lascarro noted the shoppers were very respectful of the new rules when they picked up their produce.
The market is operating under the winter hours, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Starting May 3, the hours will be 8:30 to 1 p.m. throughout the summer season.
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