An online farmers market that provides fresh, local produce to area establishments is now open for business.
The Virtual Veggie Mobile, an endeavor of Capital District Community Gardens, offers day-care centers, schools, group homes, hospitals, restaurants, convenience stores and other local wholesale consumers the opportunity to order low-cost fruit, vegetables and farm-produced products online. In the future, the virtual market will also be open to low-income families.
The online market, which debuted Wednesday, draws stock from farmers in 12 counties and delivers orders to businesses in Saratoga, Schenectady, Albany and Rensselaer counties. Participating local growers include Buhrmaster Farms and Indian Ladder Farms. CDCG is seeking additional farmers to join the virtual market.
Virtual Veggie Mobile offerings range from meat, vegetables and eggs to kimchi, maple syrup and bread. In addition to local products, tropical fruits are also for sale, along with produce not yet in season locally.
Based in Troy, the nonprofit CDCG has produced and distributed food in the Capital Region for 39 years. The organization partners with more than 50 local farms and produce businesses to provide more than 100,000 residents with 162 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables a year. The Virtual Veggie Mobile will allow the organization to double the number of people its food access program serves, said Amy Klein, CDCG’s executive director.
The virtual market will be of great benefit to local farmers, predicted state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball, who owns and operates Schoharie Valley Farms in Schoharie.
“No matter how good we get on our farms at putting the seed in the ground at the right time and the right depth and taking care of it and doing it in a good way, if we don’t display that product correctly and we don’t market that product correctly to our customers, we’re kind of wasting our time,” he said. “This is a great example of how we can connect the dots better.”
The online farmers market will also benefit low-income people who live in “food deserts” — neighborhoods with no grocery store or farmers market. Once The Virtual Veggie Mobile is opened to that clientele, centrally located food pickup points will be established in Albany, Schenectady and Troy.
The online farmers market is not meant to compete with established farm food delivery services that cater to customers with higher incomes, Klein noted.
“We’re looking to augment and enhance the opportunities for more customers to be able to take advantage of local produce and food access,” she said.
Ball said he doesn’t think online offerings like The Virtual Veggie Mobile will ever take the place of eye contact with a farmer, but predicted such services will continue to grow and will help eliminate food deserts.
CDCG also runs a Veggie Mobile truck and a Veggie Mobile Sprout van. The traveling markets deliver fresh, affordable produce to low-income neighborhoods, childcare centers and senior residences in Schenectady, Albany and Rensselaer counties.
Next year, CDCG plans to open an Urban Grow Center in Troy that will have loading bays and 3,000 square feet of storage. The new facility will increase the organization’s distribution capacity.
Visit The Virtual Veggie Mobile at www.market.cdcg.org.