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Farmers market for the digital age
Sid Maroney continues connecting the local community with his version of an online farmers market.
Sequim Locally Grown Mercantile offers farmers, growers and producers an outlet to sell various local products to customers. The advantage is that farmers don’t have to take a chance on picking a lot of their prime product; instead, they wait until someone orders.
“I knew a lot of farms out there who might not have enough to sell at a farmers market and I know some might have just enough extra to sell through a system like this,” Maroney said. “This lets smaller growers get into the game.”
About 60 vendors, more than 25 of which are farms, remain active through the marketplace selling fresh, chemical-free produce, eggs, chocolate, honey, red wine vinegar, and wood products such as bat houses.
The system piggybacks on the original Locally Grown created by Eric Wagoner in Athens, Ga. Hundreds of local online markets like Sequim’s exist across the nation. Maroney started Sequim’s market in 2008 and now has about 400 members. He said only a fraction remain active buyers, though.
Customers begin by logging onto www.sequim.locallygrown.net. They can order items from 8 a.m. Fridays through 8 p.m. Tuesdays. On Thursdays, merchants drop off orders behind the Sequim Prairie Grange, 290 Macleay Road, an hour before customer pick-up time, 4:30-5:45 p.m. Maroney said he can deliver to customers if need be.
Maroney accepts payments of cash and check, if pre-approved, in person. Online payments are not accepted because some items may become unexpectedly unavailable. Account balances can be established and customers can try out the process twice before becoming members but must pay in cash. Customers pay no membership fees but are charged 8 percent extra for the market and the Locally Grown web host.
Merchants pay a lifetime membership of $40 but can set their own prices. They receive 95 percent of their asking price with the rest going to the market.
Maroney said he didn’t start the market to cut into the business of local farmers markets like the Sequim Open Aire Market but to work in conjunction with them.
He said many farmers have those markets down to a science of what sells and doesn’t sell; his online market allows farmers to harvest only what’s sold.
His main motivation was creating more local food options for the community. Maroney said he’s scared by the fact that businesses are not required to label whether or not food is genetically modified. Most foods are becoming year-round goods because of modern transportation, but as fuel prices climb, food prices do, too, he said.
“Now you can ship things all over the world and can eat strawberries anytime. This eats up fuel and hurts the local economy,” he said.
“I think it’s important people buy locally and learn to eat seasonally. My motto is local, organic and seasonal. If we did that, our food system would get back right again.”
Customers and farmers come back every week. Victoria Reddick, of Sequim, buys and sells products through the market and said she can buy pretty much everything she needs.
Christie Johnston, of Johnston Farms in Agnew, has sold fresh produce, flowers, seeds and more since 2008 when the online market started.
“I love it because what to pull isn’t guesswork — I pick the very best,” Johnston said. “It’s just a great way for people to access so many venues.”
Maroney plans to continue the market. He lived in Seattle for19 years before moving to Sequim in 2002. He worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for 17 years and as a chemical engineer. The market is a hobby to him but a lot closer to home, Maroney said.
As a full-time job, he is the farm share coordinator, cares for pigs and chickens, and coordinates USDA pork sales for Nash’s Organic Produce.
Contact Maroney at 360-808-7300 and visit the market at www.sequim.locallygrown.net.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.