June 10, "Opening the Spigot" increases in-store shopping
Week 13 of Covid-19
Customers are happy to be back shopping in-store at the Brownesville Butcher & Pantry
What we are hearing from the
front line at stores
June is traditionally Vermont's "feel good month". Even with Covid-19 still having a prominent impact there is a joyful summer feeling brewing.

Restaurants are opening, stores are offering new prepared foods on their menus incorporating seasonal produce.

Seasonal highlights this week include strawberries & asparagus with direct to store deliveries just getting started. Stores & retail farmstands are beginning to gear up for summer traffic. Ice cream sales are off the charts for all Vermont producers including Wilcox , which lost all its institutional sales but is doing very well with retail store sales.

This is going to be the summer of picnics & easy take-out menus. On-line shopping helps generate sales with customers able to shop from out of state. MKT Grafton has great picnic products curated for quick sales. This is the summer for stores to focus on bundled products that are easy to shop & promote for small gatherings.

Vermont Artisan Cheese deserves support. Stores are stepping up & doing their part to offer specials & promotions, premium displays & a variety of sizes for shoppers to try new cheese. As you know that portion of our economy was severely impacted when the restaurant sector closed in March.

  • Customers are continuing to change their shopping habits. Supermarkets are seeing an uptick in shopper counts though shoppers are still limiting trips to the store
  • Everything takes longer! We are still hearing frustrations from staff & shoppers that our "new normal" requires adding more time to do shopping
  • Preferred method of payment continues continues to be electronic; cash requires more handling throughout the transaction & at end of shift cash out
  • We are hearing new local / regional products are being on-boarded by distributors. They are back in the businesses of managing their categories with a new emphasis we love.
  • Woodstock Farmers Market reopened with lots of new protocols to keep shoppers, staff & vendors safe while maintaining curbside pick up. As with so many of our community stores, safety comes first at WFM. Read their letter on "Phase 1 Re-opening of the spigot"
  • Managing sales & promotions are tricky business right now. Some stores are reducing their sales or not actively promoting distributor specials as the products were locked in prior to Covid-19 & may not be that relevant to shoppers now
  • Fresh local eggs, meat dairy & cheese are still gaining traction at stores with local meat is hard to keep in stock at some stores. Vermont Food Collaborative in New Haven has plenty of meat available
MKT Grafton : Pizza meal kits make cooking for families an engaging activity, everything is included to make a fun dinner!
What we are hearing for goodwill & community gestures
George Floyd's death has heightened Black Lives Matter here in Vermont, along with other social justice issues. Farmers, food manufacturers, stores & distributors have made public statements while offering resources
HANDS co-created “Support Buddies” which matches volunteers with seniors isolated because of Covid-19. The partnership provides grocery & meal delivery, phone call check-ins, & love. This is an on-going partnership program with Jake’s ONE Market and is making great strides helping people in need.

Initially, volunteers did the grocery shopping, concerns over Covid exposure they switched to purchasing most groceries in bulk. Jake's ordered store-brand items at a discount. Owner James Kerrigan & Manager Martin Bromirski have been flexible & generous to meet the changing needs. As we know, this is continues to be a stressful time at stores. The community market is fully invested in all its members & working with HANDS getting food to needy seniors matches their philosophy.
" It has been so lovely seeing everyone come in over the last couple of weeks, we’re so glad to have our doors open once more. You - our community, family, friends, and new friends - are who we do this for. You keep us smiling at work, and a roof over our heads, and we can’t thank you enough for all of your support" -Lauren & Peter owners , Brownesville Butcher & Pantry
Reopening at Woodstock Farmers Market
By Request! Re-posting hot links

Please promote VT dairy at your store, in your farm stand or, in your distribution promotions. Our farms are counting on us working together, this of course includes our artisan cheese makers
James Gordon, President UVP proud of the teamwork tackling the current & future challenges
What we are hearing from the distribution & supply side
Upper Valley Produce in White River Junction has responded strongly to the challenges of food distribution during Covid-19. They have made several significant changes operationally to serve all their customers & the needs of food insecure Vermonters through participation in the Farmers to Family program.

The shortage of meat nationally due to high infection rates at processing plants is driving up commodity meat pricing. UVP has a great relationship with Robie Farm & have adapted to the impacts of Covid by working with their processor to establish retail cuts for higher end primal cuts, such as sirloin, ribeye & tenderloins. This has allowed them to offer retail partners a greater selection of products. Robie is now offering a new line of poultry products to meet increasing demand. Locally produced meat sales have been strong at retail stores of all sizes across the state. Read about UVP projects & responses to Covid in the current Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund newsletter.

  • What they are watching at UVP: curbside will continue indefinitely at small & medium stores where customers are savvy & willing to take substitutions as there continues to be gaps in food manufacturing & production.
  • Shipping costs to transport food are going up; FOB is impacted by government food security programs that have purchased food at the same time there is a national ramping up of food service with restaurants reopening thus putting stress on the entire system.
  • Markets for produce are expected to be erratic all summer due to uncertainties in the future market when it was planting time. Corn is expected to be higher priced and unstable availability nationally.
  • VSFA hosted a webinar with Alison Ball, former buyer at Buy-Rite. She is a wealth of info for stores & food manufacturers, Find her podcasts here

Vermont distributors are cross crossing the state in trucks of various sizes to stores of all types. Large internationally owned supermarkets are seeking more local products & farm stands need to round out their selection as more shoppers want to support local. AS things shift, data suggests shoppers are choosing in-store shopping as their preferred method at 79.1 %, online grocery shopping is 34.3% & curbside pick up 33.2%.

Pumpkin Village Foods , based out of Enosburg & Burlington, tells us local products are flying off store selves at Rail City Market & Wood Meadow Market. Though Covid has made it hard on shoppers they are clearly supporting the local economy. PVF has created a unique business that sells VT products in state but also has a New York City route. This crossover allows food manufacturers to expand in Vermont before expanding to NYC.
As a small operation they are filling a distinct need for area stores & producers. Small dairies include: Does Leap Farm goat products, Red Barn, part of the Boucher Dairy & one of the few VT dairies with pasteurized but non-homogenized milk, The Larson Farm producers of A2/A2 milk & gelato from grass fed cows. These products are available for stores, farmstands & CSA's while supporting our small scale dairies.

Seasonal changes bring new opportunities: a new line of fabulous VT beverages are being rolled out at PVF: Savoure in Bristol, the legendary Venetian Ginger Ale, SAP maple water, Shrubbly - not too sweet & not too bubbly. Is your store on their route? If so , bring in the new beverage line which is great for hot weather, cool refreshers perfect for the summer of the picnic!

Associated Buyers , a regional distributor in NH partnered with the platform Mable: wholesale simplified. Stores & farm stands looking to round out product selection with more grocery & cheese have another option with Mable & AB.
Clearfield Farm in Granville encourages pre-orders @waitsfieldfarmersmarket. They drive traffic via facebook & their website to reserve produce for Saturday market pickup.
What we are hearing from the farmer / producer side

  • Does Leap Farm, like so many retail outlets are increasing products from other farms & using local distributor Pumpkin Village to round out product selections & increase sales.They sell online & at the farm store.
  • Blueberry season might seem far away, but Knoll Farm is reaching out to find food manufacturers needing bulk berries for production or to provide for CSA's. If you are a vegetable CSA contact them now to reserve some of their bountiful blueberry crop ready July 10th.
  • PYO restart plans help farmers & customers with safe, vibrant fun on-farm visits ensures this business model remains strong
  • PYO NOFA Webinar
  • Signupgenius online portal to reserve slots for PYO customers
  • Farmers are reporting mixed results for sales at farmers' markets. Overall sales are down for vendors
  • Farmer's Market Scale testing canceled until further notice
  • Mable, online wholesale platform available for stores & farm stands to gain access to local products shipped direct
  • Farm Connex is expanding its delivery routes to more stores & seasonal farmstands
  • Vermont DCF is reimbursing farm-retailers the cost of wireless EBT SNAP machines plus a one-year subscription service. Farmers find more info here
Grocers & Farmers Take Note!
There is a newly expanded program to help our food insecure community in this time of economic crisis. Vermont's Department of Children & Families wants you to sign up for the new SNAP benefit t hough stores must have WIFI capacity & curbside service or delivery.
To assist retailers offering clients curb-side pick-up and/or home delivery, Vermont DCF is reimbursing retailers the cost of wireless EBT machines plus a one-year subscription service.  This offer applies to grocery stores & farm stand retailers . Please email Leslie Wisdom , Food and Nutrition Program Director, for more information about this opportunity. For farm stand retailers, find more information here
Farm to Plate hosts meetings of technical advisers, non-profits, government & businesses to help us address current issues. Topics change but all are associated with supporting our economic viability. The meetings are recorded & in the Covid-collection

Small Bites connects & shares your valued work. Farm to Plate knows producers, distributors & stores are front & center in helping keep communities safely connected to meet immediate, pressing & ever changing needs.
Thank you to all the farmers, producers, distributors & suppliers who spoke with us providing first hand information for this update. Your insider-view has been so helpful in this uncertain time.

~Wear Your Mask, Limit Your Contact, &
Please Keep Washing Your Hands~

Contact Annie H Harlow to share your Covid 19 insights & info


Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund