For foodies, locavores, and deal-finders, knowing where the nearest (or the newest) farmers market is, when it operates, and what types of food the vendors sell there, is an important part of our weekly shopping and eating experience. And for some of us, with just one local farmers market, it's as simple as showing up with money in hand and a couple of shopping bags. But if you're new to an area, live in an area with multiple markets, or are traveling in a new city, learning where and when the farmers markets are open, and what kinds of food products will be available there, just got a little bit easier.
When I travel, one of the first things I do when I get to town is to look for a food co-op, and the second is to ask about the local farmers market, because good food, and local and sustainably produced food is important to me. And because I know I'm always going to have to eat, which means I know I'm going to have to buy food somewhere anyway, I want to try to shop as close to the source as possible, and support local food systems along the way.
Because it's second nature to me, it's always surprising how many people I meet that don't know where their local farmers market is, or when it runs, or that there's another market on the other side of their town, with different vendors or different hours. Or that they have a misconception about the types of food available at the markets ("I don't really eat that many vegetables"), and so don't think about finding bread, meat, flowers, honey, jerky, or other foods for sale. My experience has found that it mostly means that they've not been to their local farmers market yet, and so haven't discovered the joy of buying their own particular favorite foods direct from the grower, baker, beekeeper, or rancher.
A new app could help make finding farmers markets simpler, and help vendors and market managers attract more customers, by helping to connecting the eaters with the producers through their smartphone. This app, called Foodlander, is still in its early stages for listings, and will need to have a lot more input from market managers and vendors to really flesh it out, but it does have a number of listings for local farmers markets in certain locations already.
At the most basic, Foodlander allows you to search by location (city, state, zip code) and displays an informational listing for each nearby market with the address, a map, the hours and days of operation of a farmers market, as well as a link to the market's website (if available). But some of the market listings already display icons for the different types of foods available there (baked goods, cheese, flowers, nuts, honey, vegetables, plants, soaps, etc), and each listing has the possibility of highlighting any upcoming events at that market, as well as displaying which vendors will be there. A photo section allows for the uploading of pictures of the market, or of products or vendors, which may be a good way for market managers to present their market to the public.
Another function, which I didn't see in action, that could really make this app useful, even for those of us who have only have one farmers market to choose from, would be to post special deals or news (such as case prices for second-quality fruits or veggies for canning, or the arrival of the first crop of peaches of the season, for example) that we could see with the app, before leaving the house, so we don't miss out on those foods. This feature could also really benefit vendors as well, by helping them to promote their recent harvest or highlight sale items.
Like many beta apps, in order for it to be really useful for more people, it's going to take a critical mass of us using and contributing to it, so if you don't see your local farmers market listed in the app, be sure to let the market manager know about it, and to let vendors know about it. Users can sign up with Foodlander as shoppers, as vendors, or as market managers, so it appears as if they can set up their own listings to participate and show up in searches in the app.