For Lewis County residents in search of fresh fruits, vegetables, baked treats and other goodies sourced nearby, the Community Farmers Market of Chehalis provides an opportunity to support local businesses in one stop. Vendors normally fill the entire section of Boistfort Street between Market Boulevard and Pacific Avenue in downtown Chehalis every Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. June through October.
However, going into the market’s 16th season amidst the waves of COVID-19, the board of directors reconsidered the market’s business model. In addition to spacing booths further apart and other safety precautions, they recently started offering many products online, through a platform called Local Line.
Providing an online shopping option with no additional fees benefits customers in multiple ways. Those who want to conduct low-contact shopping can order in advance, then pick up at the market. Instead of perusing each booth, customers only interact with one person. Another benefit is the ability to plan ahead.
Deborah Collins of Buckleberry Farm not only sells her produce through Local Line, but she also takes advantage of shopping via the platform for her own consumption. “It’s very helpful to view what’s available in advance,” Collins says. “I like being able to see my options in order to look up recipes and make a meal plan for the week.” She also appreciates not having to worry about popular items running out before she arrives at the market.
As someone who regularly supports local farmers and producers, Karen McSwain of Shakespeare and Company: Coffee and Used Books uses market ingredients in many of her drool-worthy takeaway lunch options. She values the addition of online ordering, as it allows her to work around her busy schedule.
“I love having the option to order market items online, especially during these uncertain times. The site is easy to navigate, and I’m able to choose a variety of products from a variety of vendors,” McSwain says. “Everything is prepaid, bagged and labeled, so on the day of the market, I just run in and grab the bag with my name on it from the Local Line table. I’m excited to see this option expand.”
Community Farmers Market’s online ordering also sustains the market vendors, helping them keep their businesses afloat amidst an abnormal economy. With fewer booths at the market, less vendors are able to participate in person each week. Local Line provides the option to sell their goods anyway for pickup. Even when regular spacing returns, some vendors still might not have room to have a booth. During last year’s season, the market was completely full.
In fact, the Community Farmers Market has already brought in new vendors, including two popular local businesses that plan to sell online exclusively. Burnt Ridge Nursery and Orchards in Onalaska are known for their excellent trees, berries, vines and other plants. Pacific Northwest Cookie Company makes delicious cookies that aren’t even noticeable as vegan and gluten-free. Other producers are opting to only sell online, as the pre-orders help them plan their harvests more accurately. For others, they find value in not giving up a full day of farming to operate a booth.
While the Chehalis market only started using Local Line in the second half of June, the Toledo Thursday Market jumped online back in March. Carol Berch, who is running the Thursday market for a few weeks, loves being online for River House Bake Shop.
“Toledo pivoted to online in March, right when the lockdown started,” Berch says. “Local Line made it possible to continue to bring quality produce and baked goods to our customers, including those that were quarantined for age or health reasons.” Berch has been selling her tasty treats, including her husband Steve’s killer palmiers, online through Toledo’s Local Line shop and now with the Chehalis one.
If the online sales continue to increase, as they have over the first few weeks, the Local Line option could continue beyond the market season. Having a venue to purchase real, local food for a longer season would be a great addition to the community for customers and vendors alike.
Please note that online orders must be placed by midnight on Sunday for pick-up at the following Tuesday market in Chehalis between noon and 3:30 p.m.
Community Farmer’s Market of Chehalis
N.E. Boistfort St.