GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — The company MarketWagon is an online food delivery service with a twist. The service allows consumers to shop directly from local farmers.
For CEO and founder Nick Carter, the inspiration behind MarketWagon comes from his farming roots. He spent his childhood growing up on a small farm in Indiana.
"I grew up on a small family farm, we had eighty acres and leased another couple hundred," Carter said. "Through the seventies and eighties it was all about get big or get out commodity farming and we didn't get big enough."
As their farm began to lose business, Carter realized staying on the family farm wouldn't be a viable career option for him. But after leaving home and going off to college, he realized he didn't want to leave the farming industry.
That's when he began looking for a way to help bring business back to local farmers.
"In my late twenties, I realized that I didn't want to be the last Carter to farm," Carter said. "I started understanding some of the meta things that had been going on in our food supply in the U.S that had damaged family farms in the U.S."
That's why he says he created MarketWagon to mitigate some of the barriers in the marketplace that local farmers often face.
"The reason family farms have been slowly dying away is because they don't have access any longer to the marketplace," Carter said. "If you grow the greatest turnips in Madison, Walmart's not buying them from you. The consolidation that's taken place in grocery has made it very difficult for small family producers to enter the market."
MarketWagon functions as an online-farmers market. No subscription is needed. Consumers can simply head to marketwagon.com, enter their zip code, and browse produce that's available for delivery in their area.
"There's a lot of people who want to buy food produced this way but for whatever reason, the farmers market doesn't fit their lifestyle," Carter said. "We are helping farmers and food producers reach those consumers who would like to shop farmers market style, but they can't make it there on Saturday."
Carter says the service is "apologetically seasonal." While there are many products like meat, dairy, and baked goods that are available year-round, you won't find any produce that's out-of-season.
In addition, Carter says sustainability is another key part of MarketWagon. All of the packaging the service uses, from the totes that the produces comes in, to consumer packaging such as milk or egg cartons, is all reusable.
"All of our totes, all of our ice packs are completely reusable. We bring those back from the customer each time we make a delivery and we re-use those so we're not pushing cardboard and Styrofoam into landfills everywhere," Carter said.
He says close to 2,000 farmers are selling through the platform so far. One of those farmers is Matt Lutsey from Waseda Farms in De Pere.
"We opened our store a couple months ago again after the pandemic and this looked like a great opportunity for us to reach more customers,” Lutsey said.
He says the exposure from MarketWagon has given his business a new customer base.
"The sales keep going up as more people sign up for the service," Lutsey said. "It’s just one more chance that they see our name and if they’re driving down the street then maybe they stop in the store.”
For many of the farmers that are now using the service, that new customer base is what saved their farm.
"We hear stories almost weekly of how we either saved the family farm or expanded the farm and allowed the next generation to come in," Carter said. "Our vision is to re-shape the way that America buys groceries, to understand what you can source locally from people that you know in the community, and we're doing it. It's really phenomenal."
Farmers who are interested in signing up to sell through MarketWagon can apply on their website.