Those who would like to purchase locally grown produce and handmade products now have an opportunity to shop from the convenience of their computers.
St. Matthews United Methodist Church and Friendship United Methodist Church of Morganton applied for a grant from Resourceful Communities to develop an online farmers’ market, the Foothills Online Hub, which can be found at www.foothillsonlinehub.org.
Madelyn Russ, a member of St. Matthews and bakery team lead for the Open Hearts Bakery, a ministry of St. Matthews, is facilitating the new website that will serve Burke County and the surrounding counties.
“At the bakery, we were trying to think of another way that we could not only partner with people, but also give us another source to sell all of what we’re doing,” Russ said. “That’s one of the goals of Resourceful Communities — to bring local people together doing good things for food, people or jobs.”
She explained how the site will benefit both vendors and shoppers.
“We have two goals,” Russ said. “One is to have another outlet for locally, fresh-grown food and artisan products, and the second goal is for us to have another resource for vendors. They have more business, and people have more fresh food.”
The grant paid for the creation of the website and maintenance on the site for one year. After the first year, the maintenance fee will be split by the vendors.
When Russ originally put the word out to local farmers and craftspeople about the site, she was surprised to find significant interest from vendors outside of Burke County.
“At the very first meeting we had a farmer from Cleveland County, one from Burke and one from McDowell, so we immediately said, ‘Let’s do it for Burke and surrounding counties,’” she said.
Russ explained how the site works.
“It’s set up kind of like Amazon,” she said. “Each vendor has a storefront (where) they put pictures and prices and everything. You can buy from one vendor or all vendors. You will shop from Saturday to Wednesday, and then the orders go directly to the individual vendors. They will make or gather what has been ordered, and then our church, St. Matthews United Methodist Church, is the hub. All of the vendors will bring everything that’s been ordered to our church, and then the customers pick it up on Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.”
The church is located at 201 Shady Rest Road in Morganton. The first pick up day will take place on Friday, March 15.
The website will go live on Monday, March 11, but 15 vendors already have signed up and have their products on display.
Russ said people will be able to shop on the website all year long, a model she found already in place in a similar online hub in Watauga County.
“It encouraged the farmers to start growing things that would grow all year round,” Russ said.
In preparation for the website going live, the church will host a “Meet the Vendors” event from 3-5 p.m. on Sunday, March 10. Vendors who are participating in the online hub will be onsite offering samples of their products and sharing information about their businesses.
“So far we’ve got meat farmers, goat farmers, metal and wood products, a lady that makes quilts and a lady that makes kettle corn,” she said. “There are a couple of bakeries already on the hub. All of these people will display their items at this Meet the Vendors day.”
Russ said the hub can host an unlimited amount of vendors, so any local farmers or vendors who would like sign up to sell their products on the website can visit the site and apply.
“That will go directly to either my computer guy or me, and then we’ve got a form to send them to fill out,” she said. “We’re not trying to exclude anyone, but we still want a little bit of information about what they’re selling. And then we’ll help them set up a storefront. This can be done any time of the year.”
She said the only qualification that must be met is that farmers who sell meat must have a license from the state to do so. The church has a license to store meat safely on pick-up days.
“It’s free,” Russ said of the meat-handling licensing process. “It’s just paperwork and an inspection.”
She encouraged people explore the website.
“Go check it out,” Russ said. “This is meant to be another option offered in our area for customers and another venue for our local people to sell their particular products or goods.”
For more information, contact Russ at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at email@example.com.
VENDORS ON THE HUB
Following is a list of local farmers and vendors who have already set up a storefront on the Foothills Online Hub:
» Alan Darveaux
» Alvin Lytle
» Baba's Bakery
» Baking Creations by Dana
» Berry's Brand Farm
» Blue Ridge View Farm
» Curbside Composting
» Highlands Family Farm
» Joseph Carswell
» Leisa's Kettle Corn LLC
» North Carolina Farm Bureau
» Open Hearts Bakery
» Skydance Farm
» TLC Creations