The Farmers’ Truck started as a way to bring healthy local produce to the people of Moncton, New Brunswick. We wanted to reconnect people with their food. To get them excited about choosing local food again.
Equally as important to us, was to make sure that everyone had access to that fresh food. And part of that was working with a local food bank to help us accomplish our mission.
Looking back, it really has been quite the journey for our company. A lot of excitement, a lot of growth, and a lot of learning. With all of that came a lot of changes, too.
In 2018, three years into The Farmers’ Truck, we reached a point where we had two trucks and an online store to serve the area around Moncton. We’ve always wanted to make food more accessible and affordable, and that’s one thing that’ll never change.
But, we were still struggling financially. Then we had an opportunity, another path to take, where we could really make a difference for a lot of people. That pivot is the one we’re most excited about.1 It’s what got us to where we are today.
Trying to Do Too Much at Once
The Farmers’ Truck was, and always will be, a social enterprise.2 And in the beginning, we were focused on being one hundred percent local, too. Our goal was to increase fresh food access and support local farmers while at the same time trying to be a sustainable business.
“We wanted to do good and be good at the same time.”
We tried to make it all work. But, in hindsight, we were fighting too many battles at the same time. Working with a large number of small local suppliers, handling perishables, and keeping prices low while trying to reduce waste. It wasn’t easy. We found ourselves just barely treading water.
We learned a heck of a lot over those first three years. But, we reached a point where the road to financial sustainability was getting further away. Funding for social enterprises in our region is almost non-existent.
By the end of 2017, we were out of money and we had to make some tough decisions.
“We started liquidating assets.”
Heartbreaking Choices and Second Chances for The Farmers’ Truck
It was a sad day when we decided to put our mobile farmers’ markets up for sale. But, what else could we do? At the time, we didn’t see any other options for us as a business.
Then out of nowhere, in early 2018, we got a phone call from a food bank in Pennsylvania. The Chester County Food Bank3 said they loved our truck and wanted to buy one.
Their food bank already had a mobile market, and so they knew what they were getting into. They saw our farmers’ market truck design and said it was the best design they’d ever seen!
They loved that it had a huge side door and lots of display shelves that gave it a market feel when you’re standing under the roof. Plus, it was easy to operate in terms of keeping everything clean, and keeping the produce fresh and cool.
We were (and still are) an active member of the mobile market online community. And we did get a lot of compliments on our second truck design from the community. So, naturally, we wondered, are we onto something here?
The Ultimate Farmers’ Market Truck
We thought, maybe there is something more we can do with the business. After all, we’ve learned so much over the years. Maybe we can share our knowledge and expertise, and turn that into our new business model.
Oh, and by the way, Chester County Food Bank did buy our truck.4 And to this day, they’re still using it as their Fresh2You Mobile Market.5
So, back to 2018 now…
In August, we went to our truck manufacturer to see if it was even possible. You know, to see if we could design the ultimate mobile market vehicle. They said yes, it is.
And just like that, the next chapter of The Farmers’ Truck was born.
We got to work rendering a new design, the third iteration of The Farmers’ Truck. We called it the A-Model. The “A” being for apple, of course. After all, it was shiny, red, and the apple of our eye.
Eagerly, we spread the word to the mobile market community – the idea of selling our trucks – in the Fall of 2018. By December, we had been in touch with over one hundred organizations and presented to them our new mobile market truck.
The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“We quickly realized that everyone is struggling with the same issues.”
Mobile Farmers’ Market Operators All Face the Same Challenges
Once we pivoted to selling the trucks, we quickly realized that most other organizations were struggling with the same issues.
Handling perishables, figuring out where to park, trying to do a ton of marketing, and other hands-on work, and just simply having a retail store on wheels. Operating a mobile farmers’ market is not an easy undertaking.
The idea of a mobile farmers’ market isn’t a new one. Food carts in one form or another have been around since the wheel was invented.
But the idea of using a mobile market to increase healthy, fresh food access, provide cooking demos, recipes, and education on creating healthy habits? Now, that’s a whole new idea.
That’s the movement we want to empower – and the mobile market vehicle is one piece of that puzzle.
The biggest pain point that we had was in designing the mobile market vehicle itself. And through sharing our new business idea with the community, we realized that almost every mobile market operator across North America felt the same way.
The trucks that they were using weren’t suitable for their needs.
All of these mobile market initiatives come from a good place. They come from a place of social justice and love for their community.
None of them have a background in product design, manufacturing, welding, or engineering. We realized that’s where we could come in.
We had the expertise, years of knowledge, and a tried-and-true truck design. Removing that barrier for these community organizations was going to be our new starting point.
“That was our new starting point: removing that barrier.”
How Can We Help You? Hint: We’re So Much More Than Trucks
Listening to the mobile market community, we know there is still a lot to do. We know that people in the mobile market community have been looking for help for a while. Not just with vehicle design, but also with marketing, a solid business model, and so much more.
We’re proud to say we’ve expanded again to try and meet those needs. We are working on a plethora of products and services, like:
- Custom mobile market designs
- Designing inclusive marketing tools and services
- Point-of-sale systems
- Logistic tools
- Staff training
- Grant writing & applications
- Custom websites; and
- Community engagement tools
“We’re helping the community to build economies of scale. We want to give these food security champions a key-in-hand solution to empower their movements.”
The reality is that most mobile market operators struggle financially. It’s a real challenge to balance fresh, accessible food and remain sustainable at the same time.
Our goal is to make these initiatives more resilient and closer to financial sustainability. We provide the tools to help you launch and, more importantly, to remain a thriving operation for years to come.
“At the end of the day, we’re still on the same mission.”
Making Fresh Food More Accessible for Everyone Is Still Our Goal
At the end of the day, we’re still on the same mission: fresh, accessible food in every community.
In the beginning, our focus was on local food. But the goal of keeping food affordable competed with the higher cost of supporting local. We do still believe that it’s important, and possible, to balance these goals.
Promoting food security is at the heart of what we do. And we want to show other organizations that they, too, can do good things and be good at operating a sustainable business.
After all, the stronger your business model, the more people you can help.
We’re so proud to say that Fred, our CEO, was a keynote speaker at the very first Mobile Market Summit in 2019. His passion for, and knowledge of, the industry has made him a speaker at the summit ever since.6
And as for our trucks, the “apple” of our eye? We keep making them better, and better.
In 2020-21 we designed our B- (“Banana”) Model, which a lot of organizations found very appealing (get it?). We can’t wait to show you our newest model, the C- (“Cantaloupe”) Model, later this year!
To date, we’ve sold 22 vehicles and counting. We’re fulfilling a need within the industry, and have been able to help so many community organizations with the products and services they need to make an impact.
Are you a food security champion in your community? Whether or not you’re thinking of a mobile market, we’re here to help you with whatever challenges you face.
Get in touch with us today to see how The Farmers’ Truck can help you increase fresh food access in your community.
4 Replies to “The Farmers’ Truck Journey: The Road to Fresh, Accessible…”
Awe!! That is my fur baby in front of your truck! I remember that day! She was excited to get a treat and a drink! ❤ Thank you for the precious memories!
Thank you for your support!
Is your furbaby a pugzu? She is soooooo cute 😍
She’s the cutest! 🙂