Organize a group of local households as a virtual community for exchanging products, services, and ideas. The community should be made up of “good neighbor” households of people. Big enough to have a large variety of offerings, but small enough that you know the members or know another member who knows them. I think the ideal size is probably 50-250 households. The community will be cultivated to encourage reliability, fairness, and active participation.
The main sections of the market would be:
Store: Create a kind of online farmers market that operates year-round. Ideally most members would both buy and sell here (we make it easy to list your products on our website!). Most products are those that members produce for sale or have in quantity for sale. These would normally be purchased on the site in a weekly cycle so different items can be prepared and distributed easily. An organized weekly distribution would work with something like a Saturday pickup. Order cutoffs would be on Thursday or Friday to give sellers time to prepare and deliver items to the pickup site (before Saturday pickup hours)
Services: Categorized services offered or wanted. Could also include rental items or equipment. Most of these transactions would be negotiated and paid directly, not on the website.
Yard Sale: Advertise your unused, unwanted, and surplus. Like Craigslist, but with a much better idea of who you are dealing with. Items here can be purchased on the website or separately. Also can be picked up directly or through the weekly coordinated pickup.
We would like to have events throughout the year. These would range from classroom type sessions (like tax preparation for farms), to working session (like cider pressing), to things in between (like salsa making class). Most events would be free or low cost, and held at the pickup location during pickup hours.
Just like the market is a central website to find things, the venue is a central place to exchange. The venue is where product is delivered and orders are stored for pickup. The normal cycle would be a Saturday pickup, where sellers would drop off any items for the week before pickup hours. Pickup can be fast grab and go, or members can stay to meet others or attend events. We are setting up the venue at 420 Rutherglen Drive in Longview (The Rutherglen Mansion). There is a lot of parking, and we are working on setting up a small commercial kitchen area for processing and classes.
Financing the website has a lot of considerations. The main goals being considered are:
- Allow easy exchange without paying a lot of transactions fees to banks
- Funds the development and maintenance of the website and venue without becoming a huge cost to the seller
- Encourage members to re-use funds in the group
- Be cheaper and easier than committing to a farmer’s market.
- Be scalable from selling 100 products to just bringing in some bags of extra beets during the harvest.
- Don’t lock members into using the website where they prefer to make exchanges on their own terms.
Members list their own sale items and keep the inventory updated. There are no minimums or maximums, and we don’t try to prevent you from also selling other places.
The website keeps your wallet online, and proceeds from any sale will go into the wallet. You can also add funds to the wallet through a Credit Card, or by bringing cash or check. You can get money back out of the wallet the same way.
For transactions on the site, sellers pay a fee of 20%. This is on par with many farmers markets, without the need to handle every transaction or payment. We plan to make this fee less for high cost items, but won’t add a minimum, so even selling $1 packets of seed would be encouraged.
Membership fees are currently $0, and we would try to keep it that way.
Ideas for the future:
- Delivery: Can pickup and delivery be added into the model and coordinated with pickup day? Also can deliveries be made out of region to reach more customers for products?
- Community microloans: Can the community finance small endeavors internally, especially where it relates to bringing products to the market (like help fund my honey separator and get honey back later..)
- Groups bulk buys: Set up volume buys if there are enough buyers (like a pallet of peaches in season, or large bags of garden seeds)
- Other buys like subscriptions and auctions?