Finding even ground
Week 24 of Covid-19, August 27
Keeler Bay Variety, stocking tons of produce for summer campers, boaters & of course locals
Grocery Nibbles
What we are hearing from grocers: curbside pre-order pickup still has a place with shoppers & the conveniences may likely continue as a "new normal". For many stores there have been alterations in scheduling due to changes in shopping habits, influx of summer traffic & staffing efficiencies. Across the state, each store with curbside has had to adjust many staffing variables to service in this new era. Keeping food ordered, received & stocked has been trying; the additional curbside service increases labor costs while offering the best service possible. Keeler Bay, in a high summer traffic area continues to offer this service which helps with social distancing in a busy, crowded store. Local shoppers who purchase the same products weekly are loving the convenience finding this service valuable & reassuring for their safety amid covid.
At JJ Hapgood, their online sales are a true concierge personal shopping service where products are selected with staff recommendations. Orders can be placed online or over the phone. On the ordering platform, products are arranged by category with many search capacities making it easy to peruse. Daily specials from their exemplary take-out remain popular for their customers. Specials & the personal sales help promote sales whether shopping online or over the phone.
Healthy Living Market in Burlington is a store with a large inventory. They are juggling occasional product availability variables from national distributors while always standing 100% with local producers. Their online orders allow for substitutions. This provides appropriate swaps for products in stock. Their successful online ordering program Healthy Living To Go continues to drive sales & provide the community a valuable service. Their customer base is often looking to shop for specific dietary needs & HL ToGo makes is easy to identify foods using dietary icons. 
Vermont Artisan Village is a working community of artisans & food producers that is becoming one of the top food & tourist destinations in Vermont. Located on the busy Middlebury-to-Burlington Route 7 corridor in Shelburne near some of the most visited attractions in the state, VAV brings together the best in sustainable local food production & artisan craftsmanship in a combined production-retail facility. Some of the businesses include Douglas Sweets, VT Tortilla Company, & Wild Hart Distillers. Specialty food producers who are looking to expand beyond their home kitchen should reach out as VAV has space available for businesses with needs of 2000 square foot. Contact:
802-734-3431 for more details
Wayside Country Store in West Arlington, right on the edge of NY, supports food producers including VT Spatlz & fresh local produce to make quick dinners. This historic store is a must stop while staycationing in Vermont! There is something very special about this store with its scent & creaking front door, stop by & pay them a visit.
Calling all Vermont sweet & savory sauce makers!
Sauce King NYC is hosting a not your average sauce competition. It’s not about finding the hottest sauce that will blow your head off. Sauce King™ is about showcasing the wide range of top quality, all natural, barbecue sauces, hot sauces, & beyond that are perfect for backyard barbecue, grilling, & home cooking. They are accepting a wide range of submissions with the opportunity for people to submit their own categories. Submit your sauce, marinade or condiment by August 30, 2020. The awards aim to promote top sauces in a wide range of categories. Category winners and awards will be announced by October. Come on Vermont-Let's lean in!
Crisis at the USPS is causing havoc among VT specialty food producers. The impact crosses all aspects of small & rural businesses- from buying labels, supplies etc. to shipping their products. Disruptions at are threatening the viability of already struggling businesses. Many businesses are increasingly relying on Amazon & other online outlets because their sales sky rocketed with the onset of covid-19.

We have heard from VSFA producers of late shipments, from the usual 2 days to as much as 8 days. This is problematic as businesses built their budgets with USPS rates & are now being forced to consider shipping at significantly higher rates. Additional costs have included product replacement due to delays. Frozen & cold-shipped perishable products are under enormous stress. Lost orders have been significantly reported by our Vermont producers. "I have several orders in the pipeline & think I will be forced to use a more expensive commercial service, which I personally think is the underlying goal of this fiasco." -VSFA member

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan Getty images
Though not a Vermont company, this is an interesting story regarding scale of operation, funding & watching food tech/venture capital. Listen & find out why.
If you haven't read/seen these, they are worth it; recent WAPO article & WSJ video highlight supply side variables, trends & uncertainties; while a WAPO article covers grocery workers stress as an "essential job".
Covid continues to impact large scale meat processing. reports that 400 meatpacking plants have had outbreaks of COVID-19 as of Aug. 19. Roughly only half of the plants have been publicly identified, despite calls for companies & government officials to identify them all. Tyson, Smithfield, JBS & Cargill refuse to provide outbreak data to Senators Elizabeth Warren & Cory Booker. Documenting infection rates remains nebulous & impacts the nation. photo credit: Center for Midwest Reporting
Pin Up Pickles grows into pallet distribution! Here is the first pallet shipped. Congratulations!
Distribution/Supply-side Nuggets
Once again it is time to remind folks the importance of local distribution. Especially through covid, Vermont made products are keeping store shelves & farm stands stocked. Producer -distributor-grocer partnerships have been expanding among our food hubs & in distinct regions through independent distributors with local food advocates informing consumers' understanding of their purchasing power.

Organizations working to support producers educate their community members with updates. ACORN in Addison County has had its fundraising greatly impacted by covid. That has not stopped them from keeping locals informed on how to purchase or connect with area farmers & food producers. The recent ACORN newsletter showcases their varied community-oriented activities & promotion of farmstands, which are bursting with produce AND are having exceptional sales. Meanwhile down in Brattleboro, Food Connects has written an informative article on the value of & need for H2A workers from Jamaica. It helps frame the landscape of farming in our state & educate shoppers on farming.

This week VT Digger published an editorial by Gaye Symington on our local food system during covid, though issues have been long standing. Included in her view are the enormous challenges facing farmers & food manufacturers but does not ignore the transportation & distribution variables nor the land access, racial constructs or water & environmental challenges. All of these play a role in our local food system. Covid has illuminated many of the interconnections in new ways.
"Carrying this adaptability forward will reward us with a more resilient food system. But to do that will require even greater public, private and philanthropic investment in infrastructure, network support, and innovation across the local food supply chain."- Gaye Simington High Meadows Fund
Rachel Smith has perfected her pitch for wholesale selling online! Don't know about her? It's time to follow her business, Pin Up Pickles!
Did you know? Yet another covid pivot is underway for specialty food producers. Covid has forced new ways for businesses to pitch their products to buyers. Vermonters have been quick to adapt to the new virtual format. Good Food Mercantile has hosted several in the past few weeks providing an opportunity for our businesses to hone their sales pitch, while offering up pre-arranged shipments for the buyers to taste in real time!
The National Specialty Food Association is hosting a 4 day virtual trade show September 21-24 where buyers will meet producers. Grants are available for producers for upcoming virtual events.
Farm Fresh Bites
Across the state farmstands are bursting with sales & many have expanded product selections beyond their farm-produced items. Shoppers have benefited from expanded awareness & are trying new products. Categories include local gateway** bakers, cheese, meat & of course pickles & jams (**made & sold locally from within communities). photo credit Lindsey Berk
August in Vermont
What we are hearing from shoppers are spending at their local farmstands while new CSA shoppers who responded quickly to covid, are loving their new home cooking routines. Farmers are providing high quality, fresh foods with a host of recipes & VT marketing resources. Harvest of the Month, designed to feature one item per month, farmers have discovered that archived recipes can easily be shared online & are helping their customers learn about produce & new ways to cook.
Disruptions at the US Post Office have impacted farmers in ways you may have not even thought of. Beyond sending accounts payable or account receivable checks, farmers rely on the mail for equipment parts, & to ship live chicks to replenish their flocks. Sugar Feather Farm, historically relies on the USPS & is concerned about the viability of shipping chicks. USPS is critical to rural businesses which are deleteriously impacted by the current trends; other shipping services do not ship to rural parts of the country or are costly alternatives. “This is an attack on a tried-and-true service that rural America depends on,” said Chris Gibbs, a farmer in western Ohio who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, but this year he started an advocacy group  arguing that the president has failed rural America. “It pulls one more piece of stability, predictability & reliability from rural America. People don’t like that.”
UVM has co-authored a report in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems & Community Development looking at CSA subsidies as a way to counter market saturation & improve access of fresh foods to low income populations. A recent project of VT Farm to Plate is
local food resiliency stories, check out what the state has going on for food & community development projects.
Real Organic Project announces the 2021 virtual symposium. The 2019 Forum at Dartmouth was spectacular, the 2020 had to be canceled due to covid, BUT things have moved ahead- every Sunday in January will have farmers supporting family farms.
Calling all farm & food manufacturers...
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Thank you to the farmers, producers, distributors & suppliers for providing information for this update.
Photo credits from company social media, websites or Annie Harlow, unless otherwise noted

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Funding support provided by High Meadows Fund