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FEAST! moves to online marketplace for local businesses



UPDATE: the deadline to order from the online marketplace is extended to Wednesday, Dec. 2.

FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace transitioned from an in-person event to an online experience to help small businesses navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. 

More than 40 food and beverage businesses from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota convened together online to offer items until Nov. 29 for a drive-thru pickup Dec. 6 at Graham Park in Rochester. https://omny.fm/shows/mid-west-farm-report-madison/feast-moves-to-online-midwest-marketplace/embed

In a normal year, the annual FEAST! Local foods Marketplace would invite nearly 100 vendors and welcome hundreds of people to an in-person event. 

“We wanted to do something that would both celebrate small businesses, bring the reality that they’re there and that they’re making these great products to the attention of the wider portion of the public,” Jan Joannides, FEAST! co-founder, said.

Fellow co-founder Brett Olson explained how their original plan was to set up a hybrid model with a smaller marketplace in addition to the online option. 

“Now with the latest spike in Coronavirus cases, it just didn’t seem like the right idea to expose people like that even with masking and social distancing, so we pivoted to an online store.”

The altered experience could help small businesses that have never utilized an online e-commerce experience before the event. 

“There’s a lot to navigate if you’ve never done it before, Joannides said. “We’ve also worked with some of the farmers markets in Minnesota to help them get an online e-commerce option, so we’re able to walk them through the process and help them understand how it works and get their products up.”

She heard vendors say that they always thought having online sales would be convenient, but they never thought it was a necessity until COVID-19 hit. 

“These are generally really small businesses that are just kind of putting it out there and really trying to do something innovative,” Olson said. “These entrepreneurs could really use our support. Not only do these food makers make their foods in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, but we also really highly encourage them to source the ingredients from local farms in those areas too.”

The online marketplace offers more than 400 locally-made and locally-grown products that can be searched by product name, category, or business name.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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