An online grocery service that expanded into the Twin Cities on Monday delivers farmers market finds like watermelon radishes, slices of pasture-raised smoked bacon and Waygu New York strip steak straight to people's front doors.
Midwest startup Market Wagon recently launched in the seven-county metro to deliver farmer-provided produce, meats and other products.
The service partners with local vendors who drop off products at a distribution center in Fridley. From there, they are delivered once a week by company staff to customers' homes in reusable, insulated cloth bags.
Customers pay a delivery fee but don't need a subscription. Vendors pay the company a percentage of their sales.
"When you come to know and love where your food comes from, you don't want to eat any other way," vendor Amanda Yadav of Fiddlehead Farm in Andover said in a statement. "It's my hope that Market Wagon can help build a healthier local food community by facilitating access to the foods and products of our local farmers, growers and makers."
Fiddlehead grows greens. Other vendors include vegetable farm Rotational Roots in Cannon Falls and cheese maker Prairie Hollow Farm.
Co-founder and CEO Nick Carter said the service is meant as a supplement to other ways consumers can currently connect with local farmers such as seasonal markets or CSAs (community-supported agriculture) in which customers share a portion of a farmer's crops.
"What's happening is that we are trying to make it as easy to buy local food as it is to buy Cheerios," Carter said.
Carter, who grew up on a farm inrural Indiana, said he was inspired to create Market Wagon five years ago from "the need to save the family farm" and introduce another way for farmers to reach consumers. Many of the company's vendors did not initially have websites where customers could buy their products.
"E-commerce and online ordering, this is no longer a new fad," Carter said. "This is sort of a necessity in any business in retail selling to consumers."
The pandemic helped boost business for the startup. Prior to March 2020, Market Wagon was only in a half-dozen cities. With more people opting to order groceries online to avoid in-person visits to stores, the company now offers deliveries in 36 metropolitan areas.
"The pandemic meant that there was a tremendous need for our services from farmers because their markets where shut down," Carter said. "The restaurants they were delivering to were shut down."
In the Twin Cities, Market Wagon offers more than 165 products and Carter hopes more vendors will join so product selection can continue to grow. Often boutique delivery services like Market Wagon are popular on the coasts, but Carter said he has been happy to find that the service has caught on in the Midwest.
"There is a great hunger for food that is produced in our own communities."