GREENFIELD – Under a local entrepreneur’s vision, the traditional method of grocery shopping – hauling a cart up and down aisles in a store – might soon be an unnecessary errand.
Chris Baggott, owner of Tyner Pond Farm in Greenfield, recently launched FarmersMarket.com, an online marketplace that connects residents to local farmers and producers. The site, which went live in December, offers online ordering of locally grown food and other artisan items for pick-up from designated locations across central Indiana, including Carmel, Zionsville and Indianapolis. Plans are in the works to add Greenfield to the roster soon.
Currently, the site offers goods produced by dozens of farmers and small-scale producers across Indiana, offering everything from artisanal soap to freshly roasted coffee. Baggott, co-founder of the website, said he eventually hopes to make everyday items from grocery stores – like hot sauce, dish soap and deodorant – available through the site, too, by establishing partnerships with regional grocery stores.
Baggott established a national reputation after co-founding ExactTarget, a software company that sold for $2.5 billion in 2013. He then shifted his focus to sustainable farming with the creation of Tyner Pond Farm.
The website is the next step in connecting consumers with the means to buy local products; Baggott said he sees huge potential for the venture.
In recent years, Baggott has noticed an uptick in the number of consumers seeking food from local producers, he said. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly turning toward the convenience of online shopping, he said.
“People don’t want to spend 45 minutes grocery shopping,” Baggott said. “It’s a broken model.”
Though Baggott didn’t disclose any specific projections for the company’s growth, he said he anticipates having at least 100 vendors after its first year.
As the company adds vendors, it also will continue to build on its existing network of food hubs — stores or organizations where consumers can pick up the orders they place online, Baggott said. Current hubs include butcher shops and health food stores, he said.
Baggott co-founded the website with Nick Carter, an entrepreneur from Indianapolis. Baggott and Carter also launched Husk, which produced and distributed frozen vegetables produced by Indiana farmers to hundreds of grocery stores. Three weeks ago, Husk, which was founded in 2013, was sold to Lifeline Farms, an organic vegetable producer in Connersville, for an undisclosed amount.
In addition to Baggott and Carter, the website has a workforce of six part-time developers, Baggott said.
Baggott said he expects to add features to the website as the service gains popularity, he said. He’d like to add a function allowing consumers to review vendors, which would provide a degree of transparency to food safety that most grocery stores can’t offer, he said.
“Most people don’t know anything about the meat they buy from the grocery,” he said. “But if someone has a problem with a vendor on an online marketplace, everyone’s going to know about it.”
One of the keys to making the website successful, Carter said, will be establishing partnerships with vendors who are willing to update their offerings regularly based on what they have in stock.
Once the service arrives in Greenfield, it will duplicate the services of the Hoosier Harvest Council, a cooperative of local farmers organized by the Hancock County 4-H Extension office. The operation connects local farmers with central Indiana residents, who can pay for items online and pick them up from the 4-H office on Thursday evenings.
Roy Ballard, 4-H educator and a coordinator for the co-op, said he’s unsure what the introduction of the website might mean for the Hoosier Harvest Council but added that he’s hopeful the services could co-exist.