Week 4 of Critical Decision Making
What we are hearing from the
´╗┐front line at stores
Buffalo Mountain showing a lighter side of their service with their super-human staff.

This week some of the challenges & opportunities at stores are around limiting shopping hours, increased services to those in need, refining curbside order taking (and issues around efficiency & safety) MOCO closed for a week to give staff a well needed break & allow time for thorough cleaning, inventory & procurement management. Reopening for curbside pick up is Monday.
  • Nature's Market in Manchester, VT is doing a fantastic job informing their shoppers of the supply-side dynamics of product availability. Take their lead if you need to.
  • Across the state were decreased sales on Mondays & Tuesday
  • Larger sales overall: increase in "basket" size at least twice normal sales were standard
  • Vermonters are rediscovering home baking. Hunger Mountain Coop has reported sales of flour & yeast are off the charts
  • Prepared foods are down, but stores are doing well with steadily increasing "family size" portions steering away from smaller single serve
  • Staffing is getting lighter at some stores as pressure for self isolation or family support increases at times leading to shorter hours
  • Inventory shortages are still an issue especially in center of the store & paper products which are hard to find substitutes
  • Along with delivery services & curbside, Brownesville Butcher & Pantry are still offering custom-cut local meat with a 2 hour special order window, what service!
  • Budgets are tight for everyone with stores focused on high demand items, that said, some are working hard to keep VT products in the mix and even expanding them.
  • Reduced hours & discontinued breakfasts has freed up valuable staff time for operations & online curbside pick at Willey's, including video "landscaping" their produce for online sales
  • EXPANDED WIC ITEMS are being given premium product placement for stores still allowing in-store shopping
  • Larger stores are limiting shoppers & mandating traffic flow with some aisles near registers blocked off to ensure 6 foot physical distancing & many have publicized a "Shopper Code of Conducts"
Nature's Market: doing what it takes & customers love the hard work & inspiring messages they share
Bon Appetite successfully
boosted online sales of VT kitchen pantry staples. You can too!
VT Tortilla
Jasper Hill
Ploughgate Creamery
Shelburne Farms Cheese
....each saw immediate online sales increase this week
By Request! Re-posting earlier links:

Matterport.com helping stores showcase products with video-scaping

Center for an Agricultural Economy supporting Vermont producers "beyond the basics" creating new promotional opportunities at your store.
Farm Connex: supplying local producers with retail outlets Check out their deliver days & Green Mountain Farm Direct online ordering platform.
Products available through Mable, the online ordering  Mable's products from Vermont
Willey's in Greensboro, long know as the hub of the town, has benefited well from its stature in the community. Volunteers have joined the store to help deliver to those in need. Online orders & shopper support is the key to many of our rural & small town independent stores navigating Covid-19.
New this week: partnerships among distributors have resulted to help move food from the food service sector to retail. One example this week, Shaw's is partnering with Sysco to sell their food service packs at the retail level.
Quote of the week?
"If this farming thing doesn't work out, by the end of this year we are all going to be expert grocery baggers. Second round of bagged CSA shares heading out today. ­čĺÜ" from Footprint Farm in Starksboro
A big shout out to the VT Specialty Food & Retail Grocer Associations for sharing the ever chaning resources to help sustain our producers & sellers. VRGA & VSFA are posting daily updates of excellent resources. Thank you to the team juggling so much incoming info!
Photo Credit: KATHLEEN MASTERSON  
What we are hearing from the national & regional supply side
Supply side issues are flexing with national impacts. Anticipated issues around produce supply & distribution are floating to the top of concern. With the loss of the restaurant & cruise ship industry growers in Florida are dumping massive amounts of fresh produce. Some is making it to the charitable food system. Retail cannot absorb all of the produce, resulting in astronomical losses. Retooling processing for retail packages is not always an easy transition & requires resources not necessarily available at this time.

"Many growers already reeling from huge losses in sales arenÔÇÖt able to further eat the cost of harvesting, packing and transporting crops to needy food banks without any financial aid." 

"Roughly half the food grown in the US was previously destined for restaurants, schools, stadiums, theme parks and cruise ships."

Produce & dairy have been hit especially hard this last week. There is a disconnect at the retail level: some stores have limited milk purchases- if you are please stop! There is plenty of milk & processing -our farmers need the retail outlets. Between decreasing milk prices at the farm and lost outlets (foodservice etc) our farmers need the retail support. Listen to an informative interview on VPR for more details.

Upcoming challenges are expected in the processing of meat for the national market. They too have lost the same food-service accounts along with increasing pressure for worker-safety & physical distancing issues on processing lines.

There will be major issues with the over supply of animals no longer meeting a market demand. Thus becoming a huge cash-flow impact as producers are feeding animals with no market. Again, the volume cannot be assimilated into the retail sector. For more info read this great article from the Guardian is well worth the quick read.
Associated Buyers a regional distributor based in NH has shared insights on how they are safely selling to their stores. Inventory can be variable on their end, they too are being shorted product from suppliers. They purchase from a wide range of international suppliers & they are working hard to substitute products from around the globe. For safety & reduced warehouse handling they, like many distributors have eliminated split cases and repacks, all in an effort to reduce potential exposure & uphold new safety practices.
What we are hearing from the farmer / producer side
C-19 has intensified all manner of farm operations with new opportunities for sales with quick responses. Shoppers are clamoring for access beyond supermarkets. Farm-stands are expanding products from neighboring farmers. New collaborations have emerged this past week.

Local food is in high demand across categories, eggs are a huge seller & the flavor of spring free range local eggs is like none other!

It's been a very dynamic week for our local vegetable producers. March & April are huge seeding in times for greenhouse operations while selling down the last of storage crops. Now there is the new added dimension impacting everything.

Livestock producers are always busy with the spring birthing season.
Local meat sales are off the charts across the state in stores & at farms. Some shoppers have stocked up their freezer a couple of weeks ago so there may be another wave coming up at many farms. VT Family Farms has reached out to retail stores selling their food service packs to retailers who then sell full cases to shoppers via online ordering.

Beyond the farmstand, farmers are organizing online ordering platforms in collaboration with organizations such as ACORN for delivery drop spots & shared resources such as financial relief through the American Farmland Trust Farmer Relief matchmaking .

Being in compliance with state retail licenses has come up. Purchasing the required retail license & having coverage for meat & dairy handling should not be over looked.

Online platforms are a hot topic & UVM & a team of advocates have created a list of online ordering & inventory management platforms that may be useful to farmers looking to streamline the ordering & curbside pick up process and/or aggregation.

Hannaford's Supermarket has sent out a request for local/regional produce & other products. They are looking to enhance their product SKU's of Vermont products.

Small Bites is intended to connect & share your valued work as retailers. We at Farm to Plate know stores are front & center in helping keep communities safely connected to meet immediate, pressing & ever changing needs.
Thank you to all the farmers, food manufacturers, distributors & suppliers who spoke with us providing first hand information for this update. Your insider-view has been so helpful in this uncertain time.

Contact Annie H Harlow for info, support inquiries,
or to share your retail tips
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´╗┐annieharlowahh@gmail.com
802-922-7060
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Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund