Farmers and direct marketers interested in selling their products online will be able to do so more easily thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant.
The grant allows the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability, also known as VA FAIRS, to market Lulus Local Food, an innovative sales and marketing tool for farmers and food hubs. Using the secure, cloud-based software, farmers can make sales directly to individuals or through local food hubs.
Numerous individual farms, CSAs, farmers’ markets and more than a dozen food hubs currently use the product. “The software allows farmers and businesses to get started or to grow their programs,” said Molly Harris, who created Lulus Local Food with the help of VA FAIRS in 2008.
Chris Cook, executive director for VA FAIRS and assistant director of rural development for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said the grant is allowing the organization to market the program across the state. “It’s very exciting,” he said.
Cook and Harris noted they are focused on marketing the program in south Central Virginia, Southside, Southwest and the Virginia Shenandoah Valley as another way to promote access to local foods.
“The growth of this program allows fundamental change to take place in how food is sourced in local communities,” Harris explained. “We’re hoping to see an increase in direct marketing sales, especially in areas that may not have access to local foods. The software allows farmers or direct marketers to have an online inventory, and it is very easy to update and manage.”
Additionally, the software processes credit card payments, collects sales tax and provides financial reporting.
Cook said the program helps promote local food and product sales year-round, especially during months when farmers’ markets traditionally are closed.
“We hope this will help increase employment in the areas where Lulus is used and become an economic development driver,” he said. “We look forward to connecting consumers and locally grown products through the use of this software.”
For more information visit vafairs.com/lulus.