Sowing the seeds

Digital farmers market crops up in Austin for local gardeners and artisans

Digital farmers market crops up in Austin for local gardeners and more

Vinder Austin veggies
Vinder cultivates relationships between gardeners, small scale farmers, and local cooks. Photo courtesy of Vinder

Every Austinite with a green thumb has the same problem. Even after delivering baskets to friends and relatives, it can be difficult for a gardener to get rid of all those cherry tomatoes when they are blessed with a bumper crop. But like so many other dilemmas in the Capital City, there is a now technological solution.

On March 25, a community marketplace officially launched in Austin that allows micro-farmers and cottage artisan food producers to sell their wares online. Founded by local entrepreneur Sam Lillie, Vinder hopes to promote sustainable agriculture and strengthen local food systems.

The company was founded in Port Townsend, Washington, after Lillie attended a town hall meeting on access to local produce. With the topic fresh in his mind, he has an aha moment.

“As I walked home from the meeting, I saw produce growing in people's yards and thought, ‘Why can't we just buy from our neighbors?'” explains Lillie in a release. “So I knocked on my neighbor's door and asked if I could sell their produce. I purchased veggies from that neighbor with cash and delivered to customers on my bicycle.”

After doing so much literal legwork, the business eventually began operating online as Vinder in 2017. After Lillie relocated to Austin in 2018, the Capital City became the new company headquarters.

A sort of digital farmers market, Vinder allows users to post available produce and small batch foods like breads and jams online at a desired price. Buyers handle the pick-up directly to keep the transactions personal.

“To me Vinder is really exciting because, as I think we have seen the last five years, people are ordering food more and more online,” said Vinder grower Steven Cornett in the release. “The hardest part about farming is how do I sell it? This opens a way for people to do that very easily. Small farming to me is a way to change the world.”

Those equally enamored with shrunken scale agriculture can support the business as customers or buy shares in the company before a WeFunder campaign expires on April 12. The goal is to take the concept international.

“From the U.S. to Argentina to Switzerland, people have stood up in support of what we are doing,” said Lillie. Today the home garden, tomorrow the world.