May 20 Still Flexing in Week 10 of Covid 19:
Local Donut: making dough in a changing landscape (gosh they look goooood!)
What we are hearing from the
front line at stores
Creativity & flexing is still the name of the game for retailers & producers! The lead up to Memorial Day Weekend sales is obviously not business as usual. But, promotions & info sharing are still important & fully engaged by stores.

  • Winhall Market in the heart of Stratton country, has been serving those who never left from ski season, new arrivals for a "long weekend" & of course year round locals. Promotions are focused on pre-ordered, guaranteed delivery & curbside pick up on standard holiday weekend items including steaks, burgers & dogs, buns & rolls, pre-made salads & corn products
  • Maple Corner Community-Owned Market in Calais is open to their shoppers for curbside pre-order only. They likely hold the title for the only store offering zoom dance parties to maintain engagement from their infamous Whammy Bar
  • Local Donut in Woodbury, premium producer of hand- crafted sweet & savory donuts has select weekend pre-ordered direct-to-farmstand & store deliveries (including Maple Corner!) bringing much comfort to families in this time of much discomfort. Check out their recent Anson Tebbet's featured video too!
  • Families are more & more interested in labor saving dinners. Buffalo Mountain Coop is reopening the deli to provide family style meals, a healthy selection of comfort-food salads freshly baked desserts
  • Craftsbury General Store has moved their curbside to an online store through their Catapult POS system. Having an up-to- date inventory system already in place increases efficiency for online ordering with curbside pickup. As a small store, they will continue curbside service. Check out "The Genny's" online store & see for yourself
  • Keep staff & customers safe: masks for customer use (Butcher & Pantry had success ordering)
  • On-going sanitizing & continued curbside service continues to increase labor costs, the impact is still elusive for many stores focused on revenue & service
  • Baking ingredients including flour & pie crusts are still in high demand. Local producer Mirabelle's makes one of the best take & bake pie crusts & is flying out of the freezers at Mehuron's in Waitsfield. Check out Lesser Distribution for the routes & delivery to your store
  • Peterson has retail-size freshly ground flour available for local food enthusiasts & bakers, filling the well-articulated need for local flour to fit national gaps
From Peterson's FB page: We are making as much flour as we can to have in nearby stores & farm stands. If times are tough right now, please stop by & pick up a bag on us. Happy baking!
"Some staff are stepping out, then more people are getting hired as new employees. Its been amazing to help staff take care of each other in what ever needs they have."
-Emily GM at Buffalo Mountain Coop
The spigot opens cautiously to non-essential retail operations but some of this is good for essential retail too :
  • Cashless/touch-less transactions strongly preferred
  • Curbside pickup remains the preferred method of operation 
  • When possible, retailers should take steps to schedule or stage customer visits, such as waiting in cars or outside, to ensure lower contact operations.
  • VRGA reopening checklist
1000 Stone Farm in Brookfield, combining fabulous growing with retailing. Adapting to C-19 with early crops- even including
(& Local Donuts delivered weekly!)
Brownesville Butcher & Pantry has invested in a new 4 line cloud-based phone system through Key Communications enhancing the service for call-in orders. It has been a huge positive change & great set-up service. BBP is opening the store up to in-store shopping requiring all customers wear a face covering & gloves/sanitizer (provided to those who come ill-prepared). They saw the mask link posted last in weeks' Small Bites & received a quick order. Three check-out germ guards were installed from Claremont Glassworks for $184 each. They will continue offering online/phone orders for curbside or delivery, with the understanding that many of their customers are not comfortable entering public spaces. 

As many stores are finding out now, digital marketing is time consuming but they have dedicated one staff person to overseeing orders, website ordering forms & social media marketing. It is said that the social media marketing pays for his salary. They notice immediate response to the posts within minutes.  Staying nimble & flexible to customer needs, they have added dozens of newly requested items throughout COVID-19. This includes new vegetarian options posted on Facebook with 750 new interactions, proving listening to your customers is important & so valuable.

BBP had to close down its 45 member meat CSA program quickly as it reached its ceiling. This is more than double their largest previous sign up. As is clearly the case with our rural independent & coop stores, BBP engages with their shoppers providing responsive, safe, full-service options.
In the past two months, the VT Food Bank has seen an 83 % increase in use; 1 in 4 Vermonters are now food insecure. The Farmers to Family food box program with delivery dates across the state & the school lunch programs are here to help our communities where your store cannot meet needs. Please share these food resources within your community.
If you have created any programs supporting food security efforts-such as community coupons, "round-up for change" or partnerships please share your ideas & effort with me to pass along. Many Vermonters are in need.
Specialty Food Association Wednesday webinar series
J oin VSFA June 3rd from 1:00-3:00 for a Virtual Spring Meeting! With two presentations focused on business resiliency, strategy, & adaptation through the current crisis. Geared to Vermont’s specialty food & beverage producers & supportive industries. Open to all businesses, with a $10 non-member fee. This year’s virtual event continues to strengthen & support businesses during these challenging times. To learn more & register
Cere's Greens widely available in Vermont
Myer's Produce: contact-free, safety-first delivery service to VT, Boston & NYC photo: Jeb Wallace Brodeur
What we are hearing from the distribution & supply side
Myers Produce is hired by growers & other food producers to truck food from their places of production to destinations within the Myers' existing distribution radius. In this scenario, they do not purchase the product, but charge a fee for service to safely travel at correct temperatures from Point A to Point B. Opportunity exists for farmers to use this service to transport product to the region

The local distributor Upper Valley Produce , is moving Ceres Greens to retail stores & farmstands. The greenhouse grown mixes are selling well for quick salads & adding flavor to family-friendly vegie wraps. This is an all-season growing operation able to fill gaps in supply from other more localized suppliers.
Grocery sales are undergoing purchasing shifts as habits change with the length of time & impacts from Covid-19. Analysts are watching the growth of private labels in the center of the store categories. " Typically lower in price compared with national brands, sales of store brands are growing at a faster pace than national brands during the pandemic — though sales have surged for both ." -Krishnakumar Davey, IRI Analytics

While both national & private label were up over last year from the beginning of April to the beginning of May, private-label sales were up 19%. National brand sales were up 12%. Keeping distributor & house brand staple items stocked will become more of a challenge, especially as production & processing manufacturing continues to be impacted by plant closings due to the impact of the pandemic.

Consumer shopping patterns are changing, we have passed the "panic" buying phase; shoppers are now looking to stretch their dollars as unemployment & an unsteady economy are forcing a shift to the longer term mindset of "recessionary behavior". This will impact supply & distribution.

First Waitsfield (Covid) Market of the Season
What we are hearing from the farmer / producer side

Farmers Markets have been going since May 1st when restrictions were lifted & guidelines were put in place. Ice House Farm reports a fantastic experience with shoppers at the Waitsfield Market; with a sale-conversation rate of over 80% despite all the changes to how one shops.
  • At farmers' markets keeping things simple makes a difference & without customer engagement displays are not playing the same role as before
  • Waitsfield had an excellent market manager helping streamline the experience for shoppers & farmers with lots of positive signage in place
  • NOFA is offering one-on-one farmer & small group coaching for safely selling at farmers markets
  • New at several markets is an increase for pre-order sales & CSA type pick-ups to reduce contact
  • Coupon codes are being used by producers to encourage weekly repeat sales & loyal customers; do you have an example to share?
  • Farmers! Are you selling to new customers? Are you capturing their contact info to encourage future, long term relationships
  • CSA farms are creating all sorts of partnerships to get food to customers. Snug Valley Farm distributes for many farms
  • Looking for Vermont products to round out your farm-stand? Check out Lesser Distribution, a hyper local distributor
  • Masks are a hot item to have on hand as stores, farmstands & staff seek to keep up safety standards
  • Easy to print on-farm signage to promote safety, social distancing & bio security through through UVM Ext AgTourism
  • Shifting to online sales? Things to think about from Sara Donegan's compilation at the Intervale
  • Hand washing stations for PYO & at farmstands. Kittridge Supply: cold-water portable stations
  • Info for Farms Preparing for PYO: including PYO risk reduction
  • Meat slaughtering & processing is getting tighter with increased demand. It has been going full tilt with much more of the busy season yet to come. Slaughter facilities are already booked until into 2021. There is concern about future potential backlogs for small producers
  • Use the UVM Ext checklist for deep cleaning walk-in coolers
  • VAAFM links & support from our great team
  • Greenhouses are busting with gorgeous plants, cut flowers & ready to plant seedlings.
Limited safety signage available for farms! Contact
Three Chimney Farm in Charlotte, has had to make significant changes to its CSA program (which has sold out!) After working with the 2019-2020 Windham Grows Farm Business Accelerator they knew some business efficiency decisions were in order. But a pandemic altered even those ideas.

Having had a custom-made online ordering platform in place allowed for easy customer interfacing. Their delivery had been targeted to Chittenden county brewery customers & staff. The closing of these businesses has forced them to shift to expanding on-boarding of families & to a house to house delivery service. Using Map Quest's Multi-stop Route Planning Tool t o help design their routes has been a key to efficiency. If you are also doing a delivery service- Tim says to definitely look into using it! 
 We are happy to see that some of our restaurant accounts are opening back up for takeout service and have started placing small orders. This provides a bit of hope for us that they will make it through this.

Our online sales are still going strong & we’ve started to figure out better fulfillment & route mapping techniques. In the last couple weeks, we’ve added Patchwork Farm & Bakery Bread & Babette’s Table Salami to our offerings & started running a free maple cream promotion with $100 purchase. We’ve never done anything like that but our maple farmer friends wanted to give it a try & they’d like to get people hooked on their delicious maple cream . I think these new offerings & promotion will maybe add a sense of fun to our ordering in the land of boredom with staying at home.
From the Vermont Occupational Safety & Health Administration. All employees must complete required training & employers must document staff training . The guidelines are
the law & agriculture is not exempt from
these orders. Questions?
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~

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

Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund