Frederic Laforge, the CEO and co-founder of The Farmers’ Truck, realized he might have entered the online groceries market in Greater Moncton too early.
“The service we’re offering works in bigger cities,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But here, I think people are just not at that stage yet where they buy their groceries online. [For] for a lot of people, it wasn’t natural for them to do it.”
Laforge announced the company was closing down on Facebook Tuesday. The company has sold local produce through a mobile truck in the summer since 2015 and had just started a year-round online service in September.
He recognized that his team had to change consumers’ behaviour to get them to consider buying groceries on the web.
“That’s a battle that’s going to take at least another three-to-five years for our region to change,” he said. “We just don’t have the means to fight that battle plus try to fight the battle for local food. It was just too much,” he said.
He said the seasonal nature of the mobile market model also made it difficult for the business.
This truck was great in the summer,” he said. “We were making good money. But then for the rest of winter, we were trying to survive. It’s really difficult to build a business with three months of operation in a year,” he said.
Although Laforge is sad to close The Farmers’ Truck, he’s excited the team will continue their work to bring local food to consumers through Co-operation Agrifood New Brunswick.
Funded by the federal and provincial governments, the cooperative’s key initiative is to sell produce from local farmers to schools in New Brunswick to ensure more nutritious meals for students.
“We’re sad because we worked really, really hard, we put a lot of energy, a lot of money, and people really liked The Farmers’ Truck,” he said. “But we’re happy that we’ll get to participate in the same mission but on a much larger scale and focus our energy on the schools. That, for us, is a win. It’s continuing our mission, our aspiration, our vision.”
Laforge and two other team members from Farmers’ Truck will join CANB, while one person was let go. Laforge is the director of operations at the cooperative.
Customers disappointed by loss of The Farmers’ Truck
Customers of The Farmers’ Truck expressed sadness, as those who use the online store have become attached to the service. However, many also expressed excitement.
Mario Gautreau and his partner, Sophie Doiron, were regular customers of the mobile market in the summer. The couple tended to spend their money on local products from various stores, so they didn’t buy as much from the Farmers’ Truck this summer. However, Gautreau believes the company successfully promoted local products.
“[Businesses like the Farmers’ Truck are] definitely important for raising awareness and accessibility to local food supplies, to connect farmers with consumers, and to get people excited about what grows in the region,” he said.
As a father of two children entering kindergarten next year, Gautreau is also excited the Farmers’ Truck team will continue with their mission through CANB.
“I love my kids to eat healthily, and we make a concerted effort to buy local when we can,” he said. “They already understand the seasonality of fruits and veggies, and it gets them excited for when those seasons come across. I still don’t know if their school will take part in the [CANB] program, but it’s exciting to see the push to instil healthy eating habits in kids at school.”