A New Hybrid: Locally Grown Food Meets Online Shopping

Online shopping’s a breeze – like popping a prepackaged dinner in the microwave. The trouble is: Internet sales keep taking a bigger bite from local business’ plates. (Similar to how frozen dinners shortchange our health.)

However, in Champaign County, Ohio, a fresh new, locally grown approach to online shopping will soon dish out more money to our local economy.

The new virtual farmers' market will bring the convenience of online shopping to the realm of locally grown food, but there's still nothing like communing with neighbors, farmers and fresh produce at one of Champaign County's open air markets.

Offering products that may look out of place among the clothing, electronics, media and imported gewgaws typically packed into online shopping carts, the Champaign County Virtual Farmers’ Market will allow shoppers to click and pick tomatoes, other veggies, fruits, meats, and value-added food products like baked goods – all grown or made in and around Champaign County.

The virtual market is an idea germinated and cultivated by the Local Food Council of the Champaign County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) and Activate Champaign County (ACC). And it’s being started with a Pioneering Healthy Communities grant obtained by the Champaign Family YMCA through the YMCA of the USA. (Sorry for the alphabet soup.)

Heather Tiefenthaler, a member of the CIC, Local Food Council and ACC, is preparing the virtual market for opening the first week of May (check back here for updates). She’s recruiting vendors to join the market. Vendors can register on the market’s website – www.champaignoh.locallygrown.net (click on “create an account” near the bottom of the “Our Vendors” page).

If you have questions, you may contact Heather at mctief@frontier.com. A market manager will be appointed soon.

Does this mean traditional farmers’ markets are being replaced?

Not at all!

Champaign County’s three farmers’ markets, in Urbana, Mechanicsburg and St. Paris, will reopen for the season in May.

The virtual market is simply a convenience for busy shoppers who can’t always get to the markets. It will make it possible for more people to discover and enjoy the just-picked freshness and good taste of locally grown food – food that hasn’t grown weary from hundreds of miles in a truck.

The virtual market promises great advantages, but nothing can replace the neighborly, community-building charm of a farmers’ market, where people renew acquaintances, catch up on news, meet the growers, and thump melons.

How will the virtual market work?

Beginning the week of May 6:

  • Participating vendors will post their available inventory on the market website each Sunday.
  • Customers who register on the site will be notified by email when the inventory is posted and they can begin shopping. They will have until 8 p.m. that Tuesday to place their orders at www.champaignoh.locallygrown.net.
  • The vendors will prepare the orders and bring them on Thursday to the Champaign Family YMCA, where customers will pick them up between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Payment is due at time of pickup.

Next up at Champaign Uncorked!: I’ll offer you a look at a new brochure published by the CIC, Local Food Council and their partners – a guide to where you can find locally grown and made food products throughout the county. And as we lead up to the new farm market season, I’ll whet your appetite by featuring some local growers and the fruits of their labor.

And please take a moment, if you will, to share with me what your favorite locally grown or made food product is.


  1. Heather Tiefenthaler says:

    Gary…you are so talented! I think your writings are beautiful! Love the humor and can’t thank you enough for putting this together so well!

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