At GROW Nebraska, we love watching our members enjoy success while lifting up other entrepreneurs in the process. GROW member Little Town Gardens is doing exactly that with their Farmers Market 365 program.
What began as an effort to grow and sell produce through the winter has turned into a collaborative business between local growers and producers to provide a practical, necessary service.
Candi Benge, owner of Little Town Gardens in Pleasanton, is the original force behind Farmers Market 365. “It just kind of organically happened,” she told us. “My husband and I were trying to grow year-round in the dirt for the first time. We have an aquaponic system in our greenhouse and have greens growing year round. As I had vegetables ready throughout the winter time, I was sending text messages to my regulars from the farmers market to see if they wanted any of it. Then I would harvest it and take it with me when I went into town for church.”
This system worked well for a while, but this project was destined to grow! One of those customers made the comment that they wished there was a way to find information about local producers and meat providers. The customers were new to town, and had no easy way to find them.
“It planted the seed,” said Candi. “I just got a hold of the other vendors that I knew from the market, and said ‘Hey, I’m delivering veggies every week, would you like to see if any of my customers would like to buy your bread, eggs, Wagyu beef?’”
Unsurprisingly, the vendors said “Well sure, thanks!”
From there, this informal delivery system began to build into something bigger.
“A dear woman from Cairo, she owns the Medina Street Vault coffee shop, and already had a winter vegetable community going on. She would put together bountiful baskets and had gotten some veggies from me in the past.”
When Candi told her about what she was trying to do, her friend said, “Honey, let me help you with that!”
“She made the Google order form for me,” Said Candi, “and taught me how to use and administrate it. And that’s how 365 was born; I did it DIY for a year and a half.”
This last summer, Candi asked the other vendors at the Kearney Area Farmers Market how they felt about creating an online farmers market. The interest was encouraging, and Candi now has a little more help in keeping things running.
Shoppers can visit the Farmers Market 365 website to browse what’s available, and fill out the order form that is open Friday through Tuesday.
When asked what she really wanted people to know, Candi told us, “I would love for everybody to understand that we are a community of people who are trying to serve our community. But there’s plenty of room for other people to get involved. People could admin, could help with marketing. We don’t want it to be exclusionary at all. We want it to include anybody who would like to be involved. We’re really blessed with a large variety of customers and producers, and I hope that we can get more.”
Story by Lauren Bonk, owner of the Curtain and Pen Copywriting Services, a GROW Nebraska member. Lauren hails from Kearney, NE, where she works as a freelance copywriter for small businesses, startups, and even larger corporate entities in need of professionally-written marketing content for their businesses and organizations.