NOCO Virtual Farmers Market – Our Humble Beginnings

As winter farmers markets across northern Colorado shut down in March of 2020, Alexa Vasquez began to worry about what spring and summer would look like. She wondered how she would make a living since she relied on those markets to sell her products. Not only was Ms. Vasquez worried, but so were other market vendors. That concern is what drew Alexa Vasquez to brainstorm new ideas.

“I saw a Facebook post from another vendor friend of mine when things started shutting down who was like, ‘Oh my God, what do we do?’” “I responded and told her, ‘I have this idea.’”

While sitting at her kitchen table on March 17, Vasquez created a Facebook page called NOCO Virtual Farmers Market.Her goal was to digitally connect vendors with people who want to buy locally made products – just like a typical farmers market, except without being physically at the market. Vasquez opened up the group page to the public on a Wednesday night. By Thursday, the orders started rolling in.

“We had 10 orders that weekend,” she said. “I delivered them with my kids in the car and was just like woohoo, people are interested in this!”

Then it started to really take off and the next weekend, the Facebook page had more than 1,000 members, Vasquez said, and they filled about 100 orders. People paid with Venmo, and Vasquez spent her days typing orders into a spreadsheet to keep it all straight. The vendor list also grew, going from a few vendors to over 55.

The Facebook group continues to grow and currently has 8,700 members. Vasquez is running a campaign to grow it even further with a goal of reaching 10,000 members. She is asking all members, customers and vendors to invite their friends and family to the group, the person who invites the most new members when the 10,000 mark is reached will receive a $100.00 gift card to shop on the online store.

Though the whole thing started in response to COVID, Vasquez said NOCO Virtual Farmers Market is now permanent and sustainable and is a “year round market” so members of Northern Colorado can continue to receive wholesome, healthy foods, artisan products and local business services each week with their orders being delivered to their doors or customers may pick up at the downtown location every Saturday between 12 noon and 2 pm.

Vasquez, has not given up on her goal; her dream is slowly becoming reality, since that day in March when the group began, the NOCO Virtual Farmers Market went from Facebook to a multi-vendor website with a streamlined ordering system. That means fewer late nights in front of a spreadsheet for Vasquez and a more convenient, organized process for customers and our vendors.

Vasquez said she knows the format may not work for every vendor or customer, but so far she’s heard encouraging feedback from vendors, customers and the community.

“People were really freaking out about the supply chain when (COVID) first started,” Vasquez said. “I think that’s why everyone flocked to the stores. The NOCO Virtual Farmers Market came in at the right time – there’s a new supply chain, a local supply chain, that won’t leave the shelves empty and customers worried.”

How does it work?
To place an order, become a customer or to register as a vendor, go to: https://nocovirtualfarmersmarket.com/.

For delivery on Saturdays, order between 6 pm Saturday through Wednesday until 6 pm when the online store is open for taking orders and closes at 6 pm each Wednesday to give the farmers and vendors time to harvest your fresh food and prep your orders for delivery each Saturday.

Delivery will occur each Saturday between 12 noon and 4 pm. You may also pick up your orders if you wish, at the downtown Fort Collins location between 12 noon and 2 pm. Information about pickups are posted on the website.
NOCO Virtual Farmers Market delivers customer’s orders to several northern Colorado cities with varying delivery fees depending each customer’s location.

If you are a customer and wish to give this new concept a chance, feel free to reach out to the owners through their website, they will respond to your requests or questions in a timely manner and they welcome communicating with their customers.

If you are a vendor with a product that you would to see if it could be accepted on the website platform, please reach out to Candida Marques at: candida@nocovirtualfarmersmarket.com or register directly on the website at: https://nocovirtualfarmersmarket.com/vendors/ currently the market is accepting applications for new vendors that supply farm produce and farm products all year long, as well all food vendors, beverage vendors, cottage food vendors and local artists and crafters. Keep in mind that with the holiday season fast approaching, food and gifts will be on everyone’s mind. Join us, join our growing team of committed vendors and artisans, and most importantly join a committed online ecommerce platform that is women owned and family run. NOCO Virtual Farmers Market cares for the community and the people they serve.
Sincerely,
Candida and Alexa

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