Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market is helping to connect its 48 vendors and its customers online as well as at the market.

The advance orders for Saturday morning pickup guarantee sales for growers who might drive more than an hour to market. Sales also ensure shoppers won’t miss out on their favorite specialties, or allow them to secure larger amounts. The fast alternative to extended crowd exposure is proving even more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Market coordinator Leigh Rowan said vendors’ links on allow shoppers to complete payment online. It’s just one way the market is working to support the vendors, Rowan said.

Indoor, winter market hours are 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at Parkview Field. The market will return to an outdoor location in the spring.

“A lot of vendors already had moved toward the online process before COVID hit, but we’re just trying to shore that up and help them,” Rowan said. “You can go to the vendor page and email them and then you can just come and pick up. Some of them are even delivering to people’s homes now.”

“We’re just trying to help the vendors expand their business however we could help them,” Rowan said.

FWFM also handles payments for Small Acres Specialty Farms, Mishawaka, where vendor Joe Troyer operates a cash-only business with no charge cards. “When people order online for cheese or fresh milk we take the orders and we just give him the money for them,” Rowan said.

Troyer said one vendor orders online every week. “It gives me a pre-order and I know that’s sold. I definitely promote that,” Troyer said.

Small Acres deals in organic dairy products, grassfed hamburger and pasteurized non-GMO chicken meat. Troyer said the certified organic whole milk is known for its digestibility.

Woods Edge Family Farm occupied the first booth on the left at the Oct. 24 market. Tristen Willard had filled several plastic bins with advance orders, keeping them separate from the fresh produce arrayed on a shelf. He said Woods Edge is on DeKalb County Road 19, about a half-hour north of Fort Wayne.

That farm has an established online market but continues expanding its client base through the physical market. “It’s a place where we can meet new people and get them signed up,” he said. “They’re coming to the market anyway and this is a preorder for them. I’m able to have it all in one place.”

Some customers find it easier to pick up their orders at the farm. Willard said the COVID-19 pandemic might be an added incentive for some people to travel to Woods Edge.

“For other people it’s the convenience of ordering online,” he said. “They can get exactly what they want. They don’t have to come here and find it sold out. The farm may also be closer to them. Sometimes they just don’t want to drive downtown. There are a lot of factors involved, but it’s worked out.

“It does take a lot of work to pack the orders. It takes an entire day to get everything organized. We do everything customized.”

Willard’s son Seth, 8, helped him tend the booth at the Oct. 24 market. Willard’s older son Soren, 10, also helps at the market.

Elizabeth Wood watched the family booth for Wood Farms FW, 11402 Indianapolis Road. Wood Farms is taking names of customers interested in having boxes of meat delivered to their homes each month. The box would include the specialty Angus beef and Berkshire pork. The amount and price have yet to be determined. “It’s a work in progress,” Wood said.

Find FWFM vendors inside the Lincoln Financial Event Center at Parkview Field through the winter. Enter off Douglas Street.

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