Drive-Thru Markets: Innovation to Keep Communities Safe

By: Ethel Recinos       Posted On: September 14, 2020

Market leaders are familiar with daily crisis control, but when the crisis is a global pandemic, the resilience and innovation of farmers market operators is vital. One way markets have adapted to COVID-19 has been by implementing drive-thru and curbside delivery and online purchasing methods. 

Although diversifying sales and delivery methods have been effective ways for markets to serve their communities, implementing a new program can be a large and seemingly overwhelming project for small markets, especially for markets administering SNAP sales and nutrition incentives.  Yet, market managers across the US have turned to reduced contact delivery models to increase sales and protect their communities. FMC and Ecology Center teamed up to ask four market leaders why they implemented curbside/drive-thru models at their market and what makes the extra work and logistics “worth it” for them. 

Angie Warkentin — Fresh Farm Box
Manager, Visalia Farmers Market Association
Visalia, CA

Angie was inspired to start the Farm Fresh Box program to keep the community safe and mitigate sales loss. Public health was the top priority as they pivoted to keep their community fed.

“Farm Fresh Box program was a direct response to COVID-19. The grocery stores in our area had empty shelves while our farmers were having to dump produce they were not allowed to sell. A contactless drive-thru was written into our health and safety plan to reopen.”


Ruth Arhleger – Online Market
Market Manager, Rochester Farmers Market
Rochester, MN, 

Ruth knew that to connect the community to produce, the market would need to embrace technology as a tool. Online Market was developed to offer an online purchasing option and increase accessibility during the pandemic, and to last afterward as well. 

“Online Market allows the segment of the population who would not normally shop at a market to participate in fresh, local food in a way grocery chains cannot provide. Additionally Online Market allows access for those who are unable to get to the market, providing access to those who need it most,” Arhleger said. “The internet is here to stay and we should be leveraging all the tools we can to help our farmers and our community succeed.”

Megan Kenney
Harvest Box Program Coordinator,  North Coast Growers Association
Arcata, CA

Megan is part of a team running a successful harvest box program in Arcata, California. Her biggest tool for success? The strength of the Arcata community.

“One of my favorite and most surprising outcomes from our Harvest Box program is the large number of community partners who have stepped up to place bulk box orders for the clients they serve — like low income families and seniors, new mothers, and the houseless community,” says Kenney. “I hope that this type of collaboration can continue beyond the pandemic.” 

Cristina Berthelot
Market Manager, Market Umbrella’s Crescent City Farmers Market
New Orleans, LA

Building a resilient community has motivated Cristina to implement the market’s new home delivery box and drive-thru model despite extra logistics and steps.

“Our markets bridge the gap between farmers and food producers to the consumers in and around New Orleans which is vital to the environment and our local economy,” says Berthelot. “We never said these transitions were going to be easy, but we did say we were going to make the safety of our community our top priority.”


Want to learn more from these experienced market managers? Watch a recording of the September 3rd webinar Thinking Inside the Box – Making Healthy Food Accessible with Curbside/Drive-Thru (Contactless) Models at Farmers Markets During COVID-19. They shared their challenges, successes, advice, insight into the logistical aspects of these programs, and tips on how you can implement alternative models at your market. 

This webinar is part of a collection covering COVID-19 Mitigation and Safety. Other webinars include: 


Additional COVID-19 response resources for markets: 
Blog Post: FMC Helps Markets Mitigate the Impacts of COVID-19
Daily Updates and Announcements: Farmers Markets Respond to COVID-19
Best Practices, Examples and Resources: Farmers Markets Respond to COVID-19
FMC Resource Library: COVID-19 Resources