You know we have a passion for helping small farms try new and different approaches to farming. But in order to succeed, they need new and different channels for selling what they produce. So when Overstock.com asked us to help them find new farmers for their online Farmers Market we were super excited. And super curious. How could a large, online retailer offer farm-to-door service? And how could small farms take part? So, we took the goat by the udder, and found the right person to answer all of our questions…Shelly Olsen, Buyer for Farmers Market at Overstock.com.
- Why did Overstock.com start their Farmers Market? Our CEO, Patrick M. Byrne, felt Overstock.com needed to use its advanced platform to offer Americans a convenient way to access better food choices. By offering a local assortment of fresh products that can be delivered right to the customer’s door, it makes healthy eating more attainable.
- Why did Overstock feel it was important to add Farmers Market to all the rest of the things they offer? com has spent 16 years perfecting its search engine and marketing techniques. We realized we could use these efforts to supercharge the CSA model. These search capabilities help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for; whether that’s a couch, a diamond ring, a pet or farm-fresh produce.
- How many farms are you working with right now? We are partnering with over 200 different farms, ranches, bakeries and artisan producers across the US.
- What kinds of products can we find on Overstock’s Farmers Market? Through our marketplace you can shop everything from fresh local produce and grass-fed meats to artisanal cheeses, gourmet chocolates, fresh baked goods, coffee, snacks, DIY kits, sprouting seeds, even chicken coops!
- Was it easy to find the farms? How did you find them? For some of the larger more established farms, it was easy to find and get in touch with them. But for our smaller family-run farms, it took a lot of effort; many of these farmers do not have websites or easily accessible contact information. Word-of-mouth, referrals, and a lot of digging helped make connecting with these farms possible. We hired a wonderful sales and research team to help us locate and network with farms of all sizes across the country.
- Would you like to work with more small farms? If so, how can they reach out to you? Yes, we are always eager to work with new farms and food artisans. Part of what makes our store so unique is that we partner with family farms and small businesses to provide customers with hand-curated assortments they may not find elsewhere. If a farm or specialty food purveyor is interested in working with us they can email: [email protected] and someone from our buying team will follow-up on these inquires.
- Any fun stories you’ve experienced with the farms in the program? We had the great opportunity earlier this year to visit one of our local farm partners here in Utah. The whole team took a fieldtrip to Bell Organic Farm to help sow this year’s crop. Together we planted several varieties of peppers and eggplant that eventually yielded over 5 tons of organic produce. It was eye-opening to experience how rigorous and hands-on it truly is to grow food for a community. It is a labor of love for these farmers, and it reminded us how valuable locally grown fruits and vegetables are.
- How have your shoppers reacted? We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from customers who have enjoyed the convenience of ordering their local CSA bundles online. But it has been a learning experience for us as well as our customers. Since our platform supports small local farms, our local delivery bundles are built just like those you would typically see at your local CSA (community supported agriculture) program. This means that the produce is sourced either locally or regionally, reducing the amount of food miles traveled from farm to table. The produce is picked when the order is placed, so you’ll often see different items in each bundle depending on the season. Additionally, we do not discriminate against cosmetically imperfect produce, so customers may see charmingly misshapen fruits and vegetables pop up from time to time. In fact, we are partnered with a great group out of Baltimore, Hungry Harvest, who specialize in imperfectly delicious produce to help reduce food waste in their communities. It is important to us to not only provide convenient access to healthy, locally-raised food, but to also do our part in helping reduce food waste across the US.
- What makes you different from other online grocery retailers? We are all about transparency and we value telling our partners stories. We have worked hard to build meaningful relationships with each and every one of our partners, and we take pride in their stories and sharing them with a wider customer base. We also provide extensive support with training on assortment ideas, product copy and photos to help them build a unique shopping experience. We handle all of the customer service and marketing so they can focus on what they do best, producing delicious food. We also provide our partners with three different platforms to accommodate their needs: local delivery, regional delivery, and drop ship. Our local delivery program is designed so that customers may shop what is available in their specific zip code. Our partners in this program are then responsible for hand-delivering their own products, so you get the chance to meet the folks growing and crafting your food. Regional delivery is also a zip code-restricted program, but partners have the opportunity to ship products via 2-day ground shipping making their assortments available to a slightly larger customer base. The drop ship program is a traditional relationship where customers may shop a wide range of products from small producers all over the US and get them delivered right to their doorstep. We also offer an ever-growing collection of recipes to inspire creative cooking and eating adventures.
We’d like to thank Shelly for answering our questions. If you’re a small farm and want to sell on Overstock.com, send them an email! ([email protected]) And if you want to see what’s available from Overstock’s Farmers Market in your area, click here.