You may have heard of Instacart or Amazon shopping, but there is a new service in town that connects you directly with local farmers and businesses. It’s called MarketWagon, and the company’s founder Nick Carter is using it to get back to his Wisconsin farming roots by helping out the little guy and making shopping for groceries more sustainable. With hubs in almost every major city in the U.S., it is a fast-growing company, and you don’t need a subscription.
Through the service, you can take your pick of food and peruse the vendors. If there is a farmer or artisan you prefer, just click on their profile and shop their products. The idea is to take the knowledge of where your food comes from to the next level. “If you ask a question, there’s a farmer on a tractor somewhere and they are going to chat back with you,” Carter said.
Carter wanted MarketWagon to have sustainability as a central part of the company, which paired perfectly with buying local. Many local farmers use regenerative practices, meaning cleaner surrounding waters, better soil and less erosion. Also, because the food source is closer, less gas is used to bring the groceries to you.
“We cannot sustain the way we are farming in America,” Carter said. Mega-farms and industrialized agriculture are worse for the environment and worse for your personal health according to an Environmental Health Perspectives study.
While buying local, your groceries will always be fresh because they are always in-season. “We are unapologetically seasonal,” said Carter. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get your favorite foods. MarketWagon did not just sell products that came from traditional farms, they also sold goods that grew in greenhouses – which grow in any season. Just in case you were worried, meat and dairy are year-round products, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on that juicy tenderloin or that slice of cheese.
MarketWagon uses reusable packaging, which you can return to the delivery person, or they can come and pick it up the following week. This cuts down on single-use packaging and further reduces the company’s carbon footprint.
It was a long journey for Carter to get where he is today. Carter’s family farmed about 400 acres while he grew up on their Wisconsin farm in the ’80s. “And that was large for the time,” said Carter. “Today the average farm is about 1,600 acres and many of the larger ones are in the thousands and thousands.” Because their farm did not get any bigger, they had a hard time competing with industrial farms.
Carter’s family found out how quickly everything can go south if you do not expand. In the early ’80s, his father was running the family farm full-time, but by the end of the decade he was working a second job and farming only part time. The final blow came around the time Carter graduated high school. His father was working a full-time job at night and only farming as a hobby because there was no way it could pay the bills anymore.
“Industrializing our nation’s agriculture forced farms to get big or get out,” said Carter.
Carter set out and joined the world of tech start-ups in Indiana, knowing there was not a future in the family farm. His first was simply running a customer database service that did very well in Indianapolis. He then began a wide range of other tech companies and even invested in multiple butcher shops.
In 2012 Carter’s wife went into premature labor with their twins who had grave health problems. They are now happy and healthy after a long and turbulent first year of life. But because of the significant burden of care placed on his wife, Carter decided to help by staying home for the year to take care of their oldest daughter. “I was fortunate to have the ability to do that, but it also gave me a chance to think about what I am really passionate about,” Carter said. He felt some resentment for how things had gone for his family farm and other small farmers, so he began to investigate what the food market looks like today.
First, he tried to set up local farmers with grocery stores, but soon discovered the store fronts are not equipped to take on locally farmed products. Adjusting his idea, he decided to bring the products right to the consumer. “It allows us control the consumer experience all the way from producer to being dropped at their doorstep,” said Carter.
Two years ago, everything began to come around. MarketWagon was up and running and he started a new farm for his family. Carter also regenerated his father’s land back at his childhood Wisconsin. They turned the fields into pastures and raised cattle. “The important thing is I am back farming,” said Carter.