INDIANAPOLIS — As many local businesses close their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the stay-at-home order and social distancing, other essential businesses are ramping up duties and in some cases hiring.
Market Wagon is an online farmers market that connects consumers to local farmers and artisans through an online portal and then distributes the local goods to the doorsteps of Hoosiers in 18 counties across Central Indiana.
Co-founder and CEO Nick Carter said business over the past three weeks has grown by 400% due to the global pandemic. The company has taken steps to keep up with the demand by upgrading equipment and hiring more than 100 temporary employees, but they still need more help.
"The vast majority of the people we have been hiring has been in the service industry," Carter said. "They are excellent, you know, they take really good care of our customers."
For customers, the food choices are online. All options are à la carte, as there are no subscription fees, and they deliver the items twice a week. Many Hoosiers who are limiting grocery trips to better social distance are turning to the online source for the first time. And as grocery stores keep up with demand for certain items, Market Wagon works directly with their local supply chain that is still strong and they carry many items that can be more difficult to find at area groceries.
"We have a lot of the foods, the staple foods, like milk, and eggs that are harder to find now in grocery stores," Carter said. "It's been a really great fit for the farmers who have a need to get things moving and consumers have a need to get food to their doorstep."
Carter said many of the local farmers they work with normally do business with a number of colleges and cafeterias that are now closed. Those farmers still have the supply and are working to shift their procedures to meet the demands of grocery chains. And so they have also been able to connect workers with area farmers.
"As we've hired drivers here, we've also had farmers saying, 'Hey, we also need hands to help us with packing or picking up and driving routes of our own. Can we share employees?' Or, 'Can we also give hours to those people who have been a lot of times out of work restaurant workers?' and things like that. So it's been really great for everybody involved," Carter said.
One of those workers newly hired by Market Wagon is a former product specialist for an audio visual company.
Troy Hanna's workday looks a little different now than it did a few weeks ago.
"Yeah, I was unfortunately laid off," Hanna said. "It makes your head spin. I've never personally been laid off from a job, or even let go from a job before, so it's a very, very new experience for me. And it was one of those it took a while to sink in."
Hanna spends time in the warehouse preparing the goods to be shipped out to homes across Central Indiana.
"I get to put headphones in and listen to music and that helps me get my day going a little faster, which is fun and kind of takes your mind off of things, for sure," Hanna said. "Then, typically what my day looks like is I walk in here we put the bags on the shelf first, then we put the, we call them order tags, we put the order tags on the bags. That's typically a Monday or a Wednesday. And then Thursday is the chaos, which is fun. That's when the farmers show up."
Even though losing his job was a shock to Hanna, he didn't let that stop him. In fact, he was let go on a Friday and immediately started working the next Saturday morning hauling mulch with a friend who works in landscaping.
Now, at Market Wagon, his best advice to others who may find themselves in a similar situation is to reach out to your network of friends and family for support. He knew Carter prior to working here and reached out to him for a job. He also says staying busy during this time is helpful.
"It helps take your mind off of things and keeps you busy," Hanna said.
Market Wagon is still looking for people to help in their warehouse preparing orders and work as delivery drivers.
You can contact them by going to MarketWagon.com and click on the button on the top left corner of your screen. When the drop down list appears, click more info and contact us. There you can leave them a note that you are interested in working for them.
If you are interested in shopping with Market Wagon, go to their website and enter your zip code. You can browse local items and put them in your virtual cart from there.