Lee Branch MarketPlace offering new online ordering

HOOVER – A new online ordering and pickup system at The MarketPlace at Lee Branch should benefit both customers and farmers.

The system was unveiled this year, according to Mike Betz with the MarketPlace.

“What we noticed about the market was a lot of our shoppers, when we would have a rain day, folks would pull up, run to a farm stand and go right back to their car,” Betz said. “They knew exactly what they wanted. We said, ‘What if we could automate that process and it could benefit the farms because they could continue to sell their goods throughout the year.’”

The MarketPlace invested in software to facilitate online ordering, and customers can now search through and order fresh, seasonal, locally-grown produce at TheMarketPlaceatLeeBranch.com.

Producers enter what they have available on their farms and set prices. Customers then can place orders from Sundays through noon on Thursdays, and pick up their orders at the market on Saturdays.

Items available online will change on a weekly basis.

Prices are the same online as they are at the market, Betz said, except for a $5 convenience fee added for the work necessary to package the orders.

There is no cost for registration for the service.

In addition to convenience, online ordering ensures availability for customers. A good that is just coming into season, for example, can be in high demand, and customers unable to visit the market until the later hours may miss out.

But online ordering ensures customers get what they want—and that they can enjoy fresh produce.

“Research shows nutritional value decreases the longer after produce has been picked,” Betz said. “That’s something that most people shopping in a big box store probably don’t think about.”

About 50 people have already signed up for the service, Betz said and added that he thinks more will register once they become familiar with the process.

“We did a market survey and found that 80 percent of responses were positive,” he said.

The system is beneficial for farmers because they know exactly how much of a crop to harvest to fill orders, and Betz said the idea is for the online orders to represent additional sales.

“The goal is to sell more local produce and help our local farms,” Betz said. “Without our local farms, we don’t have a market.”

Now in its fourth year of serving Shelby County with a goal of helping people eat healthier, the MarketPlace at Lee Branch works with about 15 farms and 50 artisans and other vendors.

Visit the website for more information.