Market Wagon is helping East TN farmers expand

Chelsea West

Chelsea and Kyle West’s farming adventures began in 2016 with a backyard garden. As many gardeners do, they ended up with more produce than they could eat. So they took their bounty to a little farmers market in Harriman and sold it. Two years later, they moved to Sweetwater and a 20-acre farm they dubbed Dirt Poor Farm. They continued to sell what they grew and raised at local markets. 

Fast forward to 2022. Now the Wests are part of Market Wagon, an online market that connects consumers with local and regional food producers. They’re selling their produce and meats online in both the Knoxville and Chattanooga markets. And their sales have skyrocketed. 

“It’s gone really well,” says Chelsea. “We’ve shifted almost all our sales to Market Wagon. We went from being able to cover a couple of counties to 29 counties. We went from using eight acres of land for produce to 12 acres this year. Pretty much what we list on Market Wagon, we sell.”

For the uninitiated, Market Wagon started in the Indianapolis area six years ago. The service allows customers to place weekly orders for local food online — from meat, dairy and eggs to produce and baked goods — and have them delivered to their door. Local food producers list on the Market Wagon website what they have available for sale that week, and then fill orders and deliver them to the hub location (Knoxville’s is off the Strawberry Plains exit), where they are sorted by customer and sent out for delivery. 

“Orders have to be placed by the end of Tuesday,” Chelsea says, ”and once orders are cut off, we get a pick list. The produce gets picked on Wednesday and delivered on Thursday. We set our own prices and pay a commission to Market Wagon.” 

Consumers who opt for home delivery pay a fee of $6.95 for delivery, though they can also choose to pick up at the hub location for no additional charge. There is no subscription. Customers only order when they want to. It seems we have a new and different way to support East Tennessee’s farm economy.

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