FreshFinder and Seattle’s best farmers markets

28 Jul

FreshFinder is an iPhone app that connects locals with the information they need to better explore Seattle’s thriving farmers market community. Who has the best produce and fruit? Which local growers and artisans are at each farmers market? What are they selling and at what times during the year? When are the markets open? Where are they located? How do I get there? FreshFinder is a utility app that provides locals with a mobile guide to farmers markets in Seattle. It’s mobile because it can be referenced at any time, from anywhere. On your couch or at the bus stop, whenever you need to plan your next trip to a farmers market just fire up the FreshFinder app and see what’s in season.

They call Seattle the Emerald City, and that was before the metropolis of 617,000 went “green” with environmental civic pride. Ours is a community united in sustainable practices—from compostable coffee cups to the nation’s most expansive recycling program. It’s not just the people, either. It’s the politics. Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment works to make the area a healthier place to live, and Mayor Mike McGinn (as pro-green as they come) recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept the city’s $20 million grant for energy efficiency and conservation programs.

Whew! That’s a lot to take in. But it’s a quick and necessary snapshot of the lives we live as Seattleites. Even if we aren’t “green” ourselves, we certainly know some people who are. There is so much to be proud of here, and our passion for local food and fresh produce is evident in Seattle’s robust farmers market community. There are at least a dozen weekly farmers markets in the greater Seattle area, not including iconic Pike Place Market downtown. Many of the city’s farmers markets pop up on the weekends and have been located in the same spot for years. They are part of the city’s fabric, and they are growing still.

Say you want rhubarb. Well, not everyone sells rhubarb and some growers sell better rhubarb than others. FreshFinder, with its easy-to-navigate interface and trusted user reviews, can point you to the best rhubarb in town. If it’s the Fremont Farmers Market you’re headed to, tap the directions tab and off you go. You can even save the market’s schedule to your iPhone calendar and set up a push alert to remind you that it’s coming up. Currently, there is nowhere to go on the iPhone for this information. Most of the farmers markets apps I researched only include the name and location of each market. Farmers’ Markets is a brand new app (released July 27, 2010) that goes one step further and includes the products available at each market, but it only caters to California, Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington, D.C. I was unable to locate any apps for Seattle-area farmers markets, and none of the apps I did explore included the level of detail FreshFinder is proposing. We definitely have an opportunity to create an app for a niche market and do it better than the competition.

There also is an opportunity for FreshFinder to utilize the iTunes Affiliate Program. An app titled Farmers’ Market Companion, for example, lists tips and tricks for poring through local farmers markets as well as on how to properly store the foods you purchase. Partnering with the companion app, which costs $0.99 in the App Store, would give our users more information and enhance our credibility as a trusted source. It would also bring in a few extra dollars for our cause, and that’s a win-win for everyone.

Many people use farmers markets to do their weekly grocery shopping, the target audience for FreshFinder is moms and local chefs. Moms are traditionally the household shoppers, while chefs are increasingly relying on local produce and sustainable products to use in their kitchens. FreshFinder provides Seattleites and chefs a place to locate, browse and review farmers markets in our area. No one else is doing this right now, and in addition to the standard geo-location features found in other farmers market apps we’ll list the vendors, their products and what is currently in season.

FreshFinder will also introduce a social element to the mix by allowing users to leave comments and reviews about certain markets and/or vendors. Let’s say you met a nice couple selling homemade soap at the West Seattle Farmers Market. The soap is blowing your mind each and every morning. You can leave a review about the soap, the vendors or the market, and users can take this recommendation to heart if they’re looking for soap. Heck, even if they’re not looking for soap this type of user-generated feedback can entice one to buy. Over time, FreshFinder’s comments and reviews could be used to create a “Best of…” feature that lists the top farmers markets to find certain fruits, vegetables, arts, crafts, trinkets and more.

Chris Curtis, a 1973 UW graduate, has been called the mother of Seattle’s farmers market craze. She planted the seed that’s grown into the flourishing Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, which I am proposing sponsor the FreshFinder app. Her organization oversees seven farmers markets in our area and Curtis herself is a major player in this particular field. She even worked on a task force with the Seattle-King County Health Department to develop the best practices to get dairy, meats, eggs, chicken, beef, salmon and other perishables into farmers markets without mechanical refrigeration, which according to a 2008 Columns magazine profile made for a more diverse range of products at the market. “Markets add value to the community on so many levels,” Curtis told Columns magazine in a 2008 interview. “They’re such a great way to support local farmers, a place to go see your neighbors. To slow down a little bit.”

Curtis and the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance and FreshFinder seem like a natural fit. Or should I say organic?

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2 Responses to “FreshFinder and Seattle’s best farmers markets”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Week 6 : App Selection, UI | MCDM Smartphone Class - 30 July 2010

    […] Derek: Fresh Finder […]

  2. Our Projects | MCDM Smartphone Class - 31 July 2010

    […] Derek, Nicole & Sam : Fresh Finder […]

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