Headed to the e-market

ChicoButter offers newest way to shop online for local foods

Saturday mornings are pretty sacred in my house. After a long week of typically not enough sleep, I try to stay in bed as long as humanly possible. So, while I love going to the farmers’ market to socialize and peruse the produce and other pretty things, I must confess that I rarely make it there.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I believe strongly in supporting local businesses, and I buy local foods as often as my wallet allows. And on those rare occasions when I do wake up in the a.m. on Saturdays, I make it a point to head downtown. Other times, I rely on area grocers to stock their shelves with local goodies. Now, there’s a third option …

Enter the Internet. OK, e-commerce is nothing new. But there’s been a recent influx in online retail sites specifically dedicated to local foods and other goods. In April, the CN&R interviewed Valerie Miller, co-owner of Orland Farmstead Creamery, about her new venture with the North State Producers Network (see “High-tech farmers’ market,” Greenways, April 14). The new kid on the block is ChicoButter.com, an online “farmers’ marketplace” developed by Chico State alum Susan Rebecca Brown, a self-described serial entrepreneur living in the Bay Area.

“The idea is to provide a platform for every farmer who ever put up a farmstand along the side of the highway,” Brown told me. “Urban and suburban dwellers can conveniently buy their goodies, when the urge strikes them, without going for a drive in the country. (Much as I love driving in the country!)”

So, while she may have signed on large operations like Chaffin Family Orchards and Chico Chai, she also has smaller sellers like Sunflower Family Farms in Bangor, which may only have four dozen eggs for sale at any one time.

The main difference between ChicoButter and North State Producers Network seems to be the immediacy of delivery. NSPN, for instance, takes orders throughout the week—until Wednesday at midnight—and makes deliveries on Fridays. ChicoButter works with designated “drop spots” for pickups (although they just added local delivery), and the ordering process is more akin to Etsy or Craigslist, Brown explained. “I am creating a completely open marketplace where customers can shop the same way they do their local grocer,” she said, “buying exactly what they want, when they want it ….”

The site launched May 9, so it’s still working out kinks. ChicoButter is continually adding new sellers, which include crafters as well as growers, though Brown hopes to concentrate mainly on edibles.

I have my eye on yet another online market making inroads in Butte County—stay tuned for more on that soon.