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Farmers' markets going virtual in a surprising way

Farmers' markets going virtual in a surprising way

Shopper interest in a more direct connection between food production and consumption has fueled the growth of farmers’ markets, and it’s been good to see food retailers reaching out to meet this desire. I’m thinking of Ball’s in Kansas City, Lowes Foods in North Carolina and Strack & Van Til in Chicago. Now a surprising new competitor has entered the farmers' market “market”: Overstock.com.

Again, a nonfood retailer has decided to add food to their offering — and again, the internet has supported the creation of new connections between producers and consumers.

Currently, Overstock.com’s Farmers’ Market is capable of serving about 34% of the U.S. with “locally grown, farm fresh food,” and they’re aiming for 70%.

“We’re integrating small farms, community-supported agriculture and co-ops into our technology so as to allow consumers in their area to buy and arrange delivery through Overstock,” CEO Patrick M. Byrne said when he launched the program in November 2014. At this point, it’s easy for suppliers to get into the program. There are no upfront charges for food suppliers; Overstock compensates them through a revenue sharing model.

A quick tour of the new addition to Overstock’s site shows a range of products that’s similar to “regular” farmers' markets: produce, dairy and cheese, meats and seafood, even some pantry items, ingredients and beverages.

For me, it’s clear that online food shopping options are multiplying, nonfood retailers are seeing opportunity in this space, and the web is continuing to create new markets for all sorts of food products. Definitely a trend to watch on many levels.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Overstock.com has 34% coverage in the US, not 20% as previously stated. 

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