An online farmers market has launched in Nova Scotia for busy people who have an appetite for more locally grown food.
The Hive Market is starting this summer as a pilot project in the Halifax area. Food is dropped off weekly in eight locations in Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford for pickup by those who placed an online order.
The plan is to expand the technology, starting in the fall, to allow buying groups to be formed in other neighbourhoods and parts of Nova Scotia.
Founder Giselle Bryan said Wednesday the portal will make it easier for food consumers and local producers to connect.
“For the majority of people, it’s really hard to get to the farmers market on a regular basis,” she said in an interview. “What we aim to do is make it more convenient for people to get that food, and also more convenient for vendors to be able to fill that demand.”
Owen Barnhill signed up for the market three weeks ago after hearing about it during a promotional event in Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park.
The Bedford resident said he and his wife enjoy farmers markets, but find it difficult to get around the space, or even find time to go on a weekend, with children.
“The Hive Market offers the farmers market benefits with added convenience,” he said. “I can place the orders online at a time that suits me. And pick-up is close by at a convenient time.”
Being able to support local farmers is also appealing, Barnhill added.
The Hive Market’s website officially launches Thursday but has been operational for three weeks. Seven farm operations are selling seasonal produce via the portal.
They include The Pork Shop, based in Denmark, Colchester County; Whippletree Farm in Annapolis Royal; Julien’s Bakery of Chester; and Aylesford’s Ran-Cher Acres. Offerings range from fresh fruit and vegetables to meat, cheese, bread and eggs.
Delivery is co-ordinated by food distributor Beet Rouge.
The service, which will be available year-round, is free of charge for consumers and there is no minimum order amount.
The Hive Market receives a portion of the proceeds from farmers' sales. Bryan’s share will also fund a reward program for groups or individuals who organize a market in their area.
The program could be used as a fundraiser for schools or other organizations, she said.
“We’ll definitely be targeting schools and workplaces, especially workplaces that are aligned in the health industry, looking to support almost a health and wellness benefit for their employees,” the Hive Market founder said.
A single mother of four, Bryan was motivated to start the service as her grocery bill climbed in recent years while food quality didn’t improve. She’s also had consumer experience with the neighbourhood delivery model, which she used to buy specialty pet food.
Another motivator is the fact she’s an IT project manager, interested in using technology to build communities.
“Food is not a one-person event. It’s a social event. We’re meant to ‘break bread’ together.”
While making it easier for consumers to buy local, the Hive Market is also less labour-intensive for farmers than other direct sales models, Bryan said.
“They spend more of their time on the farm, building out the supply. Right now, the demand for local is much greater than the supply.”
The online farmers market could also make the food chain more efficient and mean less waste, she added.
Bryan is working with Blue Spurs Consulting, a Fredericton-based IT firm, on the project. The plan is to add more vendors as demand grows and the technology is enhanced.
The Hive Market founder also hopes the portal will grow beyond Nova Scotia to offer service in other regions.