Signs of the times: Middlebury Coop closed down its food service operation
What we are hearing from the
front line at stores
Farm to Plate through
, has helped steer new ideas & distribution/supply-side updates. We appreciate all the input from our readers to help keep our stores operating safely.
Two months into
, how are food stores doing? Independent stores are flexing, reflexing, relying on owner & staff creative ingenuity to keep open. Coops have the
Neighboring Food Coop Network
to help promote new policies & practicums while also utilizing staff ideas to streamline safe shopping.
What are we hearing from stores? Information, products, systems & safety measures remain in flux. Stores that have closed their food service operations want to resume. Marketing folks have been redirected to help navigate
quick-response curbside operations.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
We have done everything we can to prioritize staff safety above all else. Still, it is mentally and physically exhausting to continue to work in a store that is intermittently extremely busy or extremely empty, dealing with working in facial coverings all day, adhering to social distancing, and changes in roles can all be morale-crushing.
-Karin Mott Middlebury Natural Foods Coop
As retail shops & restaurants have cut back on sales or closed their doors for the unforeseen future, animals that produce milk just keep on producing.
Our dairy farmers & cheese makers still need to sell their cheese to keep their doors open.
VT Cheese Council
has created an online store with plenty of options to help move cheese out of their aging space & onto your table.
Use the online Sales Directory.
Many farms will ship direct; Vermonters are encouraged to buy from retail stores while shipping to friends & family. Remember to buy local- like
Ice House Farm
grass fed goat dairy products.
Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA) required training
All employees, including those already working
except healthcare workers, first responders, and others already trained in infection control, personal protection & universal precautions)
must complete, and employers must document, this training
on mandatory health & safety requirements, or another training program that meets or exceeds this VOSHA-provided training.
These guidelines are the law and agriculture is not exempt from these orders.
Producers are working with our regional distributors to access retail & expanding farmstands. Despite uncertainty across the board, increased access to VT products help retailers fill their shelves.
What we are hearing from the distribution & supply side
Again meat safety rises in the national dialogue. Headlines across all media are focused on industrial scale agriculture & processing. Employees in chicken, pork & beef facilities are
infected at high rates
. Projections abound this week of future supply issues. Some large national supermarkets are limiting purchases.
Locally our thirteen
slaughter houses are busy
keeping up with distribution-buyer & consumer increased demand.
Green Mountain Farm Direct
a regional food hub & its distribution partner
are seeing an uptick in meat sales & Spring-grown produce along with diminishing root crops-as expected this time of year.
- Some larger distributors have run out of product which results in stores & school lunch programs coming back to GMFD to service them.
- This has been super helpful for Kingdom Creamery which had lost sales to institutions in the northeast. The dairy has also established the ol' Milkman Route . This service sells local meat, cheese, eggs from other producers direct to families
- Rise & Shine in Charlotte, selling VT products direct to consumer with the "milkman model" has seen sales sky rocket & is buying in products from Lesser Distribution
- Nothin' But Curd, a small batch cheese curd producer has lost a number of accounts; they are now selling direct to through online store sales. This family friendly product is perfect for snacking and salads. Best of all they include recipes like deep fried curds ready in only two minutes!
Bear Roots Farm cool-weather seedlings, a harbinger of Spring which customers are loving!
Roots Market Farm
in Middlesex are just shy of a year old. Who knew they would have to respond to a global pandemic in year 1.
Long known as exemplary large scale organic growers they are fast becoming equally known for their support & allegiance to local producers across ALL categories. In less than a year, they have become a key account for
buying many Vermont products. As farmers- & now as retailers
they are well versed in unexpected variables. They are responding to our unprecedented turn of events at their farm & in their store.
Most of the vegetables sold are from their own
Bear Roots Farm
in Williamstown. All of vegetables are grown, harvested, washed, packed & merchandised with love & care.
What we are hearing from the farmer / producer side
Just like at stores & distributors farmers are making quick, creative decisions to serve current & future sales with attention to safety.
- VT Cheese makers are still seeking outlets. As a consumer, consider sending a gift for Mother's Day -or as a pick me up-isolation gift. Cheese, it's what Vermont does
- Check out the new USDA CARES Act Program Farmer to Families Food Boxes FAQ
- Many farms are planning for pre-bagged product. Just like in retailing, farmers are quick to adapt to the unpredictable
- Farms are turning to online sales at a high rate. Unknown are the associated costs to the sales. PA Dept of Ag resources are helpful for on-farm retail. toher resources available through Working Lands & VHCB
- UVM Extension Covid farmer webinar series, be better a farmer/retailer: May 6 Retailing for Farmers in the Age of Covid Sign up Now
- Across the state H2A workers have arrived & are wrapping up two weeks in quarantine to work in greenhouses & fields
- Bedding plant sales usually are a cash-cow in spring. This year has challenges; social distancing will be the norm for selling. Bunker Farm in Brattleboro will be ready with safety-first practices.
- Farm Preparing for PYO: including PYO risk reduction; Please become a member of VVBGA to support Vern & the entire Ext team's work!
- Farmers' markets opened May 1, because of excellent adherence to the guidelines, in only 1 week the state is relaxing the rules to include non-edible farm-based products like goat milk soap, fiber, homemade sanitizer (among other products). Cheers & shout-outs to all the farmers, market managers & shoppers. This is great news!
- Many farms are purchasing portable hand-washing stations rather than subscribing to hand sanitizer stay tuned for more info on types
- For optimal safety, farmers are deep cleaning their coolers using this UVM Ext checklist
- Links & enormous support from a great team at VAAFM
- Is your Upper Valley business listed int the Vital communities local farm & food guide?
- People are taking on gardening for the first time-as the season progresses, will it showcase all the knowledge farmers hold?
Equinox Food Brokers
of Vermont works with a number of VT food producers & distributors throughout the northeast. They have seen food companies pivot quickly to try to maintain sales outlets. Businesses that already had online capacity are capturing greater market share with direct to consumer relations.
They recommend producers focus on their tops sellers to reduce costs of production & labor by limiting SKU's. Distributors want top sellers at this time because they too are looking to cost-save.
Across the board, the impact of C-19 on cash flow is unknown. With cash tight & labor expenses shifting, it is important to watch & record the financial impacts on your business.
is intended to connect & share your valued work. We at
Farm to Plate
know producers, distributors & stores are front & center in helping keep communities safely connected to meet immediate, pressing & ever changing needs in this uncertain time.
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.