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Photo contributed by Trisha Smith / Consumers can order a variety of locally produced and grown products and produce and have it delivered to their front door via a new program called Market Wagon.

In addition to dealing with weather issues and getting the most yield out of the acres they have, today's independent farmer has to deal with finding ways to get their produce to the consumer.

"No family farmer is driving his truck up to the back of a Walmart today," said Nick Carter, CEO of Market Wagon, an Indianapolis-based company he founded five years ago to create an eCommerce tool for farmers like himself.

Consumers can go to the Market Wagon website and order produce or artisanal foods from growers and producers in six surrounding counties in Tennessee and seven in Georgia, and once a week those products will be delivered direct to the consumer's door.

It gives the producers one more avenue for selling what they produce and it gives the consumer who wants fresh food and who wants to support local farmers a way to participate.

Carter is a fourth-generation farmer and said the program is complementary to what is happening at weekend farmer's markets such as the Chattanooga Market at First Horizon Pavilion.

"It's very addictive because people who enjoy going to a farmer's market will still go, but there are people who can't," Carter said. "Maybe they have a kid's ballgame on the weekend, or they are just not able. The people who use Market Wagon come in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing they have in common is an activist's mindset."

Carter said Market Wagon allows people to buy more than calories.

"They are buying healthy foods and they are supporting local farmers who they know," he said. "Maybe they live down the street and go to school with your kids. But, the other thing is you know where that dollar you take out of your wallet is going."

The big grocery store chains today are working on a vendor consolidation model that limits the number of food suppliers to large, commercial farms.

"It's about efficiency and volume for them," Carter said.

He also said the challenge for the independent farmer is not about growing enough food. It's about getting what they grow to the buyer, and for him, Market Wagon is about growing the demand and therefore the supply.

"Once this market exists, how many more farmers can start up and how can existing farmers grow their farms," he said. "There is not a shortage of land. It's about market access."

Trish Smith, marketing manager for the company, said for most Market Vendors, the eCommerce option has become a big part of their income or will become so in a short time. She added that if demand increases, deliveries can be made more than once a week.

More than 190 local products – local farm-fresh eggs, dairy, meat, produce, baked goods and more — are available to choose from in the Chattanooga area, and shopping requires no upfront fees or long-term subscriptions.

Market Wagon's local food hub in Chattanooga is its third market launch in the state of Tennessee. It is also in 30 other cities around the country, and Carter said there are 120 more that it could go into in the future.

The delivery area in this region includes: Marion, Hamilton, Bradley, Sequatchie, Rhea, Meigs, and McMinn in Tennessee; and Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Chattooga, and Gordon in Georgia.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com.

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