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Shopping for fresh produce year round made a little easier- local farmer's markets go online.

Families in the West Island of Montreal and western off island communities will soon have an online market to shop for fresh produce year round. 

Le Marche Gourmet (Marche de solidarite de Vaudreuil-Soulanges) held an information evening for producers last Tuesday evening at the Saint Lazare community centre to promote a new business model that would create a portal for local producers to sell produce via the internet. The initiative comes from a need to give producers opportunity for year round sales, as well as to give consumers access to producers outside of the typical "summer" season.
"Producers need to earn a living year round, not just in the summer," Lyne Pelchat, president of the Marche Gourmet start up committee told the Hudson Gazette. "The needs of the consumer don't disappear after the season, just the access is limited."
Support for the project has been forthcoming from the MRC and local townships. First order of business to make the site a success is to get the producers on board.
Despite some concerns voiced by local market coordinators concerned with losing producers to the online marketplace, the response to the initiative has been positive.
"We insist the key to success depends on a local presence in the market place," says Pelchat, underlining the importance of visibility. "Producers need to continue to cultivate relationships with local consumers to build demand."
On average, produce travels 2600km before settling on someone's plate. An online market featuring local producers has the potential to reach 60,000 consumers within a 10km radius from the pick up location. Online access means reaching consumers who would not normally travel out of their way to get to a local market.
Local online markets already up and running include Sherbrooke (39 produceres, 1297 products), Quebec (23 producers, 615 products), Outaouais (32 producers, 1935 products), Victoriaville (25 producers, 1079 products), Beloeil (34 producers, 512 products), Beauce (launching) and Trois-Rivieres (20 producers, 400 products).  Marche de Sherbrooke, the pioneer site, is in its 4th year of operation with 2200 members, $500,000 in annual sales and total sales of 1.8 million to date," says Pelchat. "The average purchase per member is $50 once every two weeks. In its first year of operation, Trois-Rivieres had 200 members and sold for $80,000. In its second year membership increased to 400." The main objective insists Pelchat is to offer consumers access to producers on a year round basis.
The site, still in the construction phase, will require members to pay a $25 annual fee and producers a $100 membership fee plus 15% of sales. All proceeds go to the operational costs of maintaining the website and compensating the coordinator at the pick up location(s).
"A member can go online, place an order and go pick up the order at the designated pick up location Tuesdays before noon," ¨Pelchat explained. The producers agree to input inventory levels on a weekly basis, allowing for fluctuations in supply.
The site marchegourmet.ca is scheduled to be launched in June.

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