Nick Carter grew up on a farm and moved to Indianapolis at age 21 to start a career in software. But in many ways, his heart never left the farm.
At age 23, Carter – now 38 — launched his own tech startup company that became a finalist for several Mira Awards. Presented by TechPoint, a growth accelerator for Indiana’s tech ecosystem, the Mira Awards are the state’s most prestigious awards for technology.
At age 30, Carter left the company and redirected his passion to something closer to his heart – saving the family farm. He said farm profits per unit were decreasing, and the only way to make more money was to grow the farm.
“The problem with that is, there are winners and losers. Massive giant corporate farms are buying up smaller family farms,” Carter said. “When I was a kid, my dad was a full-time farmer. By the time I graduated high school, he was working third shift at a factory and farming as a hobby. Family farms in the U.S. are a dying breed. In order to (save the family farm), I needed to create a market where we could get our products to consumers at a higher margin and scale up a direct-to-consumer channel.”
Carter co-founded a company called Husk, which processed and preserved locally grown vegetables, in Greenfield that eventually failed. In 2016, Carter co-founded Market Wagon. Six years later, Market Wagon is a well-known company among farmers and consumers across the Midwest.
“I brought on a co-founder (Dan Brunner), who’s a logistics engineer, and we built an online farmers market software and logistics system,” Carter said.
Founded in Indianapolis in 2016, Market Wagon is an online ordering and delivery service for produce, meat, dairy and prepared foods from local farmers and artisan food producers. As of last year, it had multiple delivery hubs throughout the Midwest and Tennessee.
Market Wagon has expanded to 33 cities in 15 states, with nearly 2,000 farmers using the service to sell products to consumers. In central Indiana, 200 farms participate in the service.
Carter’s entrepreneurial journey came full circle April 23 when Market Wagon received the MIRA Award for Scale-Up of the Year.
Carter’s family’s farm, Honey Creek Farm, is still in business and raises grass-fed beef and pastured pork. Carter’s father is back to farming full time. Three years ago, Carter moved to the Geist area and purchased 20 acres with his wife, Kendra, and started their own agriculture endeavor, Mud Creek Farm.
“We are right on the corner of Sargent (Road) and 86th (Street), and we had to get it rezoned because it’s an Indianapolis area,” Carter said. “We got it rezoned for agricultural (use), so we can have chickens laying eggs, and we have a herd of goats that graze and 2 acres of produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and sweet corn.”
Cicero resident Rich Adams, co-owner of Juniper Farms, is one of the hundreds of central Indiana farmers who sells produce through Market Wagon. His son, James, wanted to start a Christmas tree farm, so Adams purchased 32 acres of land. But the trees only grow one foot a year, so the process takes seven years. In the meantime, Juniper Farms started growing microgreens in 2019 and selling them through Market Wagon.
“It’s a benefit because Market Wagon does the marketing, so they are already bringing in a pool of customers,” Adams said. “The orders just come in versus when we work at a farmers market, you have to get up at 5:30 (a.m.) and get there and set up. It’s quite a big production to lug all your stuff around, so it’s really great to have one avenue for sales.
“(Market Wagon) tells me what the orders are, and I can pack them up.”
Adams said much of the produce offered by Market Wagon is organic and pesticide-free.
“When you go to a big grocery store, you have no idea what’s been done to bring that produce to the store,” he said. “So, to me, that’s a very awesome benefit of Market Wagon. In our family, we are not only a vendor but we also are customers. We do a Market Wagon order every single week. It has an amazing variety.”
For more, visit marketwagon.com.
Market Wagon by the numbers
- 33: Cities that Market Wagon serves
- 15: States Market Wagon serves
- 2,000: Farmers using Market Wagon throughout the Midwest
- $6.95: Flat delivery rate for Market Wagon, regardless of items purchased
- 185: Central Indiana farmers using Market Wagon
- 3,500: Local food options for customers