When the coronavirus closed winter farmers markets in March, Mary White lost her only method to sell goods from her business, Honey Bee Bakery.

She knew she wasn’t alone in this problem — many of her friends from various farmers markets in Dane County also feared what could happen without revenue from these public events. White decided to create a way for farmers and other vendors to sell their goods together through an online platform.

Madison Farmers Unite was born shortly after the pandemic started, allowing Honey Bee Bakery and a few other local producers to sell baked goods and produce items together for customers to pick up curbside at a few locations in the city.

“What I learned from this is that you can’t keep all your eggs in one basket,” White said.

Because of its quick and unique approach to solving a business problem in the face of a pandemic, Madison Farmers Unite has been awarded reimbursement funds through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s We’re All Innovating Contest.

The award of $25,000 gives Madison Farmers Unite the ability to keep operating and hope that the online platform will continue selling goods even after the pandemic ends and large gatherings at farmers markets are safe again.

“I hope this will be a permanent fixture,” White said. “This isn’t just about me, it’s about supporting the great community we have.”

The contest, designed to recognize businesses that found innovative solutions to problems relating to COVID-19, awarded 17 first-place awards and 230 awards total to Wisconsin companies. The funds — $3 million in total — are intended to help cover costs incurred since the pandemic began and ranged from $800 to $52,000 for each company.

All of the contest winners “demonstrate that despite the pandemic, Wisconsin’s culture of innovation is thriving,” WEDC Secretary Missy Hughes said.