Vermont is busy, people are thirsty
Week 17 of Covid-19, July 9
Staytripping in Vermont & posting the Ripton Country Store stop on social media
Grocery Nibbles
What did we hear from stores about the July 4th weekend?

Well, people were thirsty. Beverages of all types were flying off the shelves. VT small crafted sodas are always enjoyed in the summer: Savoure , Sap! , Venetian & VT Sweetwater to name a few. At Keeler Bay Variety in South Hero, a state liquor store, they were BUSY selling everything liquid! Farrell & Baker are just two beverage distributors super busy this year shipping thousands of cases to meet beverage needs across the state.

Overall tourist traffic is being reported by stores as down from last year. Keeler's Bay Variety tells us that fewer shoppers came through the doors, but sales remained strong with healthy "basket sizes" . Less people, has not meant less sales. As reported nationally , consumers have shifted shopping habits in how, & what they are buying. In Vermont (contrary to other states) we subscribe to lessening personal contact with more time between shopping & with more dollars spent per shop.

Since March, shopping patterns have changed & continue to for Vermonters. Tourists & summer folks shopping at Keeler's Bay are sincerely appreciative of all the (now) standard safety measures. Families coming to the Islands were preparing for self isolation using pre-ordered curbside pick-up. We have heard similar stories from other tourist areas such as around Stratton Mountain.

  • Perhaps, we as a state are getting the message out: come to Vermont but abide by all our safety measures
  • Grocery delivery & curbside are very popular for out of staters hunkering down at camps & condos
  • New terms are creeping into the marketing of Vermont for Vermonters. The ol' "Staycation" is morphing into Staytripping & Travel by Taste Bud is a new summer rave making our Vermont summer count
  • Statewide single-use Plastic bag ban went into effect July 1. Stores have relaxed restrictions on customers reuse of their own bags. Shoppers are bringing their own, purchasing store-branded bags, or being charged 10 cents for paper bags.
  • Remember: Display insulated cold-bags in ready-to-grab locations, including at the register especially with the heat index shooting up this week.
Nice 'n Spice, in Bennington is ready for the plastic bag ban with a new line of totes. Customers are filling them with fine Vermont products.
With prepared foods picking up at the Putney Coop , they jumped on the Grab & Go category with perfect classic picnic foods for small group gatherings, lunch in a boat, or an al fresco dinner on the porch. When paired with VT beverages like VT Sweetwater available through local distributor Vermont Roots, it completes the sale!
July = Picnics
DSD or next day shipping available from many of these fabulous Vermont producers.
VT Summer food to promote:
  • Pin Up Pickles, small batch, hand crafted Vermont pickles made with local ingredients by a trained scientist-foodie. Conveniently selling to stores through VT Roots, via online platforms Mable, Faire & also selling DSD. Wholesale info
  • The ultimate non-luxury summer staple for picnics is Stewart Maple Cream. It is a non-dairy creamy spread for bread, crackers, or as a sweet frosting. Try their other maple products, -including kid-friendly maple popcorn for locals & tourists
  • Lyman's Specialties country style sweet jams & jellies or savory pickles & relishes are sourced from VT farms. Available throughout Vermont via DSD. Cross merchandise with other Vermont producers - for breakfast, lunch or dinner promotions!
  • OH MY GOUDA! If you haven't ordered this it is definitely time to bring it into your store! Cobb Hill award winning cheese seeks to increase sales during the summer season to new accounts. Support this local producer's specialty: Vermont Gouda
  • It is salad season! Your produce department is flush with local greens, cucumbers, tomatoes & tons of summer vegies. Cross promote one of Vermont's best loved & nationally respected specialty food brands: Olivia's Croutons. Available through many distributors or shipped direct
Goodwill & Good Bites
Stores, distributors, food producers & communities are stepping up their social missions & goodwill actions.
"If you can't pronounce it you won't find it in our products."
- Lyman Powers of Lyman Specialties
Happy Bird Poultry Farm in beautiful Isle LaMotte is worth a staytripping adventure. More than chicken, their retail store has unique products sold only on the farm including a full line of smoked products & world class St Louis style ribs. Products are available through select outlets.
Reminder: Little Bottles Spice Company's full line is now available for shipping to stores & retail farm-stands. Perfect for up-selling with quality Vermont meat, rounding out the flavors of chicken, homemade potato salads, or grilled vegetables.
Michael Lesser d oing what he does so well: road-tripping taking Vermont products to stores
Distribution/Supply-side Nuggets
We all know how hard distributors work around holidays because holidays =food = families=sharing, even with a pandemic. Drivers, like cashiers, can have it rough. Each loading dock is unique, stress levels at stores can be unpredictable in "everyday life". The pandemic adds a layer of caution, service needs, & extra attentiveness when store staffing is challenged.

Michael Lesser compiles the orders, fills his own truck, makes the delivery himself, & cares for each store on a very personal level. So far, he has not seen too many tough days since March except for a bit of physical injury he overcame.

The relationship between the driver & the store is paramount to the success of the both suppliers & buyer/retailers. Vermont's busy season takes on a new dimension with covid. Take care to take care of your drivers. Teach your staff to be kind & on hot days a cold drink goes a long way for a driver.
The Lamb Farm: sales & service at the Norwich Farmers Market; photo courtesy of Vital Communities
Farm Fresh Bites

Farmers helping farmers, we have that down pat here in Vermont!

The UVM Vegie Berry Grower List Serve is a valuable tool serving its member farmers with camaraderie, enhanced communication & fellowship. During our current drought, a call went out for an emergency need for a water pump. Farmers quickly responded & filled the critical need. Taadaa! Problem solved. It might be an insect issue, packaging sources needed, policy issues or seeking tools; our farmers rise to every occasion!
Socially distant, Scott Farm worker, took a mini break lowering her mask. You can be sure the farm adheres to all the safety measures as expected here in Vermont . This photo grabbed a moment where worker & photographer were six feet apart capturing the joy of their Vermont cherry harvest!
  • Champlain Orchards in Shoreham has purchased the famed Douglas Orchard in Cornwall.
  • Reminder: Is your retail farm stand listed on the NOFA map?
  • Does your farm-stand need help? Reach out to us via the contact info at the bottom of the page & let's see what resources we can get to you.
  • Blueberries! Raspberries! Cherries! Strawberries!
  • Reminder: To add Vermont products to your retail farm stand Check out Lesser Distribution, VT Roots, Farm Connex & Meet Mable as well as DSD or drop ship from the all the producers mentioned in this issue.
From Bill Suhr of Champlain Orchards : "Over the years we have worked hard to not compete with the Douglas family when growing our PYO operation here at Champlain Orchards. We respect that some customers have formed loyalties to each farm, while other folks travel back and forth to experience both. Many companies absorb a competitor and simply overlay their own company traits. However, we see an opportunity to continue to maintain the unique experiences each farm offers, so people can appreciate older trees vs new trellis, traditional apple varieties vs uncommon varieties etc. While staffing two operations will be challenging, we really like the opportunity for visitors to spread out and enjoy the freedom of both orchards."

We wish the Douglas family loads of happiness in retirement & best wishes to the growing Champlain Orchards Family!
Staycationing in Vermont

Did you know? Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets created an ice cream map?
It goes perfectly with the DiginVT Pick Your Own Fruit Guide .

When you get a few days off, make your own staytripping routes to visit farm & food operations (& other grocery & country stores too). Explore all of Vermont using the food trail tool also from DiginVT. Promote these tools to your summer shoppers for them to create trails of their own. It is a great way to support local producers & easy to promote through your social media outlets.
Jed's Maple Mudd (in two flavors) is just what families need right now. Recommended promotions include served with Vermont's Strafford ice cream. It is also good on gelato & yogurt. With sales off the charts for ice cream, delectable "maple mudd" goes great with summer fruits too - Rooted in Vermont, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
Vermont Specialty Food Association: It's not just for food producers! Grocers & farmers with retail operations can gain from their business resources & being exposed to great Vermont products. Their website has tools for searching producers to round out your inventory.
Farm to Plate hosts meetings of technical advisers, non-profits, government & businesses to address current issues. Meetings can be viewed here
Thank you to the farmers, producers, distributors & suppliers for providing first hand information for this update.

VSFA producers, I will add more businesses to link to. A huge thank you to those who responded through the list serve.

Contact Annie H Harlow
to share your info & seek retailing business resources

Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund