Jasmyn Reddicks, owner of VTasteCakes, stands in front of her stall at the West Broad Farmers Market in Athens, Georgia in November 2018. (Photo Courtesy/Jasmyn Reddicks)

Athens Farmers Market Offers Customers Online Shopping Experience

The Athens Farmers Market was scheduled to open in March this year, drumming up excitement on their Facebook page with shots of patrons perusing fresh produce and updates about the presence of crowd-favorite vendors. Yet almost as soon as it started, the open-air market was forced to close due to the onset of COVID-19 and social distancing measures. However, this doesn’t mean that Athens residents will have to go without their favorite local produce and prepared foods—they’ll just be doing their shopping online. 

 Why It’s Newsworthy: While nonessential businesses are closed and social distancing is advised, small businesses must develop new ways to get their products to customers.  

 

One of the vendors offering online ordering is Jasmyn Reddicks, owner of VTasteCakes, a vegan bakery. 

“With their quick thinking, they’ve created an innovative and seamless way for us to continue doing what we do,” Reddicks said. “We’re very grateful for their assistance.”

The online marketplace, dubbed the Farm Stand, isn’t new. Several farmers have already been working with Collective Harvest, a community-supported agriculture organization, to offer weekly produce pickup and delivery to its members. However, with the current situation, Collective Harvest has partnered with the Athens Farmers Market to take on an even greater variety of businesses, including vendors of prepared foods like VTasteCakes. Customers can add items from various businesses to a single cart, then choose to pick up items or receive delivery on a scheduled date.

Listen: Ordering through Collective Harvest

While VTasteCakes has always offered online ordering, they previously made most of their sales in person. Reddicks notes that while overall sales are down for the time of the year, online orders have dramatically increased.

 

Not all farmers markets have the same resources behind them. For many, the most reasonable step was to shut down as long as social distancing measures are in place. One of these is the Alpharetta Farmers Market, which planned to open on April 4, but has closed indefinitely. While the market still encourages its patrons to shop online for products from local vendors, it doesn’t offer a method of consolidating orders. If a customer wishes to order from more than one business, they must place multiple orders, reaching the delivery minimum or paying shipping for each one. 

Reddicks and her colleagues are working through the current situation, but they’re ready to return to normal operations when the market reopens on May 9. 

“One of the biggest disadvantages is the lack of face-to-face interactions with new customers and not being able to give out samples,” Reddicks said. “As a small and new company, we were working hard to make a presence prior to the pandemic.”

VTasteCakes is also suffering from another loss of income; while restaurants and cafes are closed, they’re unable to sell wholesale. For now, they’re forced to try to continue building their following online, and traveling between multiple customer bases in Athens and Atlanta.

The situation is difficult for Reddicks as a small business owner, but she’s willing to adapt to change. 

“Things are different and we’re not sure where they’re going since this pandemic has begun, but we’re hanging on for the ride,” she said. 

Janani Rammohan is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia. 

 

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