[Market-farming] Farmer's Market Pre-orders

Simon Huntley simon.huntley at gmail.com
Sat Jan 20 15:19:50 EST 2007

I'm currently gathering some requirements for a 'store' system to be added
to a small-farm web development software system, and I was wondering if the
group had any ideas on something I've been tossing around in my head for a
few days.

This store software would be able to handle four different kinds of sales:
-regular value-added shipping type orders - these are your jams or pickles
or whatever you are able to ship. This handles the obvious store type
settings that many farmers already have on their sites. This might also
include CSA share sales or anything else you can think of.
-farmer's market pre-orders (this is the one I have the most questions
-CSA 'Extras' - Many CSA farms will sell extra items that they do not
produce, but are locally and sustainably grown and add some extras to the
shares. This software would help make that process easier.
-Restaurant sales

These would each be separate stores that run independently of each other on
a website and they would all run through one credit card system as each
customer checks out. The customer would also have the option of paying for
the items they order when they pick it up for you (if it is not a shipping
order) if the farmer sets it up to allow them to do that.

OK, so one sort of controversial or new ideas is the idea of Farmer's market
pre-order sales, and I mostly want to ask you about that.

Would you be interested in someone being able to visit your website, seeing
what you have available to sell as pre-order produce and then order the box
of food that they want, pay for it by credit card online, and then pick the
food up at the market on the day chosen. Here are my potential issues and
how I intend to solve them:
---keeping the site updated: you will be able to set amounts and types of
produce as 'recurring', for example a vegetable grower might say he or she
can pre-sell 50 heads of lettuce at each farmers market, but that expires in
30 days when they expect to run out of produce. This is obviously one of the
biggest hurdles of this type of system, but with a little flexibility from
the software, the farmer, and the customer I think it can be overcome.
---logistics. You would be able to print out an aggregated list of what you
have to pick for your pre-sales at the beginning of each market day along
with the individual invoices.
---connection. Do you feel you would lose a connection to your customer? I
think it could go both ways, but you are increasing the connection of the
customer with your farm by having them buy a lot of their produce from you.
Also, this is linked with a database-driven website, which will drive the
customer to see what varieties of crops you have, recipes for each crop, and
all the other information that your site offers.
---money. In a system like this, you will not have your own merchant credit
card account, it will be run through a central account and you will be paid
out in measured intervals. There will also be a percentage fee taken out of
sales to pay the credit card company and to pay for the software. What is an
acceptable percentage?

Does this detract from something else you do like CSA or your ideals of a
market in general?

I don't think a system like this currently exists and certainly not
intertwined with a larger web development project. I think it may be a good
way to sell produce before you ever arrive at the market (no more wilting in
the sun!) and to increase customer loyalty. I'm interested to hear where the
group thinks that there are trouble spots for the farmer's market pre-orders
and the rest of the store software, though I haven't gone into as much
detail for the rest of the store.

I'll be glad to get your input.
Simon Huntley
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