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Local News: Homegrown Farmers’ Online Marketplace Adapts to COVID and Thrives (5/20/22)

Paula and Chris Sandberg, along with six of their daughters (front row from left: Emma, ​​Olivia and Alice; back row from left: Abby, Aimee and Alaina) hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and announced that the online farmer’s market business is expanding to other communities in Nebraska and will be known as the Heritage Local Co.

Shary Skiles/McCook Gazette

McCOOK, Neb. – The McCook Chamber honored Heritage Acres during a ribbon cutting held at the McCook Christian Church on Thursday afternoon. Owner Paula Sandberg announced at the rally that the Farmer’s Market portion of Heritage Acres will become Heritage Local Co and expand to serve other communities in 2022.

The company is an online farmer’s market launched about two years ago. She said when COVID hit they were already selling eggs online every week. But then consumers started to worry about where their food was coming from and they saw a surge in demand for their beef products. “We sold beef on our little website for an entire year within 24 hours of setting it up,” Paula said.

So she decided to ask other growers if they would like to join the family operation by selling their produce online for delivery each week. Working from the back of two vehicles, the operation grew. Winning the Hormel Business Competition in 2021 has helped inject capital investment into the business.

The online platform allows consumers to “shop” weekly for local produce, meat, eggs and artisan products from Friday to Tuesday evening. Sellers have already uploaded the product they will have. Sales end at midnight on Tuesday, then consumers can pick up their order Thursday afternoon at the McCook Christian parking lot. And then the cycle begins again. Paula said there will be approximately 42 weeks in the 2022 season.

This has many benefits for sellers, Paula said, because they don’t have to guess how much product to load and get to market, they don’t have to waste an entire Saturday waiting for customers in a hot car park, and they are able to keep perishable products in an appropriate environment until they are sold.

Another benefit is that it extends the season, as traditional farmers’ markets usually only last from around June to September.

Paula said the decision to expand came in part because of the tremendous support they had in southwest Nebraska.

They plan to expand across Nebraska and create truly resilient local food networks in every community they serve.

“If we hadn’t had so much support, we probably would have quit by now,” Paula said. “Everyone knows how hard it is to start a business.”

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