From Bakersfield down through the Northshire
Week 27 of Covid-19, September 16, 2020
Vermont updates for grocers, distributors & producers across all food categories
Click "view entire message" at the bottom of the page to see all the content
Brattleboro Coop continues taking online orders for curbside pickup-ensuring VT stays safe
Grocery Nibbles
The Brattleboro Coop is having fun with videos in promoting local food! Long known for their support of Scott Farm Orchard, the Coop is promoting them at the store entrance with a video clip. No its not a TikTok production, though it is helping to promote their Producer of the Month. Selling widely throughout the region via Black River Produce , the orchard specializes in hard to find varieties that make the best pie, eating out of hand. Actually, they grow varieties for any conceivable reason & flavor palate. Early in 2020, staff changes took place at the orchard & under this change in leadership, the trees continue to produce the varieties the orchard is well known for & long time workers continue to pick, pack & ship.

It has been challenging these past six months for stores to lock into promotions & sales because of supply & distribution disruptions. BFC has come up with a game plan that works for them. They are running two week sales on select produce, dairy, cheese, deli & seafood. September's Producer of the Month promotion is exactly what helps increase produce department sales & which ties in so well with the Rooted in Vermont theme of apples.
Using various marketing tactics, they are getting the word out & moving products that customers are seeking & transition their purchases to seasonal changes.
You know we have our pride here in Vermont; for our farmers, food manufacturers & the stores that sell them. We love a good shout out, so once again we mention the 2020 SOFI award winners. With the change of season upon us, we give a big YAY to Hillside Lane Farm (a division of Freedom Foods) for their Bronze Award winning Gluten Free Pizza Crust. It also contains no eggs, dairy, soy or nuts, making it a perfect addition to your Frozen category & for allergen sensitive shoppers.
Nationally, the frozen category remains very strong as we wind down 3rd quarter sales. It has seen Sustained growth & new shopping patterns throughout the pandemic. Because they can help drive sales, do you have Global Village Samosa's in your freezer? Available in bulk or retail packaged.
Food Manufacturers Take Note!
You have learned that selling your products to prospective buyers is aspirational. You work hard building your sales pitch, creating a comprehensive & well branded spec sheet, make calls to arrange meetings. But still find it hard to either meet buyers or get follow-up calls. It was hard prior to covid. It still is. Buyers need a reason to change out products. Dedicating time for inventory review requires reallocation of time for product mix evaluation & decisions. Which has been hard with stores operating in a new landscape during covid. Other times buyers are on the pulse for trends & the next it product for their category. Your products are in competition with not only national companies, but also time & space. Knowing the constraints & predilections of buyers can help you craft your message of why they should have YOUR product & make the best use of your limited time with buyers. It can also help you as you build your relationships for steady, repeat orders. Stores want the sales in their categories as much as you do.
The National Specialty Food Assoc is hosting a 4 day virtual trade show September 21-24 where buyers meet producers.
Calling all stores!
It's hiking season. Big time. Just announced & how fortuitous that it is fall...Good Mix has launched 2 new trail mixes. Prior to covid, samples & product demos were a primary marketing opportunity at stores of all types. Well things have changed & we want you to know about this new roll-out. Available DSD. Check out the full line here. The Spice Trail Mix is sure to hit the spot on chilly, hill climbing days. Promote outside activities & so-di gathering & stock your hiking display with Good Mix.

Speaking of getting outside, your store has a chance to cross promote with our tourism sector. We have so many trails to build upon in your store (or farm) marketing programs. Have your cheese crew promote your local producers with a cheese trail. Or consider promoting if the Vermont African American Heritage Trail. Or craft your social media around how folks can make their own food trails with DigInVermont.
There is the new Farm Walk Trail, a collaboration of food, farming & agritourism organizations. The walks are listed on Dig In featuring trails on or adjacent to working or historic farms. Have fun promoting your store with local farms & producers.
Hunger Mountain Coop supports local cheese producers with clear signage, a wide selection & a knowledge staff. A trifecta for sales. Want to sell your products at the coop?
photo credit: Hunger Mountain Coop
Farm to Plate has resources designed for store staff training on purchasing local foods, improving merchandising, in-store promotion & operations. The suite of services can also be used by food manufacturers & farmers to better understand store buyers decision making & plethora of variables. We call it The Retail Collection, but really it is much more than that. NEW this week, it is now the home of archived Small Bites.
For the past 6 months, we as a state have positioned ourselves well regarding covid infection rates. It prepares us for a positive outcome for our fall foliage season which includes sales of specialty foods in our locally owned stores. As was mentioned in today's press conference with Dr Fauci he reminded us that the coronavirus is a "formidable foe" that will seize any opportunity to spread. Let's keep being focused on safety so we can keep opening up economy. Also, the state has new coronavirus pop-up testing sites.
This week Representative Peter Welch visited AALV.Inc. farmers in Burlington, who recently received a $300,000 grant from the USDA for their project, ‘New Farms for New Americans.’ Many of the program participants have a rich farming experience but no access to land or capital to continue growing their traditional & familiar crops. The farms foster community, grow exciting new crops while reinforcing local nutrition programs. Thank you Congressman Welch for helping make this happen.
VT Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets has a regular e-news that provides critical information on many topics including covid related grants & services. The current issue has important info for farmers & producers. Sign up here to receive it
Photo Credit: Champlain Orchards
Thomas Dairy will take its last trip around the date on September 30th.
Distribution/Supply-side Nuggets
Nationally there is a lot going on impacting supply & demand. Locally, we don't have wildfires but we do have the impact of covid. Thomas Dairy has announced it is closing down its 99 year old business. When colleges, schools & restaurants closed in March, the business lost valuable customers. Taking advantage of every possible resource, the dairy was not able able to make more adaptations to stay viable. The challenges of covid & the current dairy & beverage categories were insurmountable. Thomas has been a mainstay at Vermont grocers distributing with the highest quality service & shipping other perishable products including Cabot & Green Mountain Yogurt. The impact to the three dairies selling to them under the Thomas brand is yet another blow to our dairy industry. Please read the letter from the Thomas family announcing their decision to retire; it is an honest evaluation of their situation & market variables. The Farm to Plate Network wishes all the best to the entire Thomas family & we thank you for your history of excellent products & service.

With gratitude, pride & very heavy hearts, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to close Thomas Dairy at the ed of this month."
- The Thomas Dairy Family
photo credit: Thomas Dairy
Outside of our region, there are significant impacts to ag & production & processing. It has been a month since the 20,000 lightning strikes hit the produce region of California. Many of the fires were in the hills surrounding rich ag lands with significant impacts on the health of farm workers. With no safety nets in place, laborers are forced into conditions deleterious to their well being. As she has done before her collaboration with Caesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta continues to work to ensure the well-being of farm workers. The 2.1 million acres of burned lands in California continue to spew ash & create hazardous breathing conditions. Smoke is so dense, during the day workers have even had to wear headlights & lack sufficient PPE. This week Oregon & other western ag states are also facing these types of conditions. Fire is disrupting supply by limiting harvest labor hours & forcing workers to perform in conditions with insufficient protections.
What we are hearing from farmers...
Well here we are, mid September. The time of year many animals head to slaughter houses or have the benefit of on-farm processing. This year will definitely have some unique scheduling variables due to increased small scale producers & long established farm operations.

Boneyard in Bakersfield, up north in Franklin County, has two more poultry batches to process which wraps up soon at their homestead-farm. This is sold through their direct to customer covid-adjusted pre-order with curbside delivery along with their produce. Like operations of all sizes, they adapted to maintaining sales revenue while adhering to all the safety measures so successful in Vermont. This modification has helped them offer exactly what is pre-sold, talking efficiency to a new level. There is no longer post-farmers' market surplus of unsold product. This helps save on labor hours too. “There have been adjustments, but overall it is mostly a win-win-win so far: customers don’t have to leave the comfort and safety of their homes, I’m harvesting exactly what has sold (no waste!), and I don’t have to wrestle with a tent /table /banner /toddler at a market." -Hannah Doyle Boneyard Farm

Further afield & across the state, dry conditions due to lack of rain & the draining of irrigation ponds is impacting the growth of some fall crops. Vermont has seen its share of dry days this year & it's not over yet.

It is now officially pumpkin season. And mum season. And donut season. And winter squash season. And of apple season. AND cider season! (& warmer clothes season) BUT it is still melon season, AND salsa season with peppers & tomatoes at Trillium Hill Farm in Hinesburg. photo credit Trillium Hill
Along the southwestern corridor, Northshire Grown Direct is back at it selling CSA curbside pick up. After a recess in August, this covid-response CSA is still helping farmers & food producers access markets to make up for lost restaurant sales. The products available are impressive. It's (almost!) like a small grocery store with a wide selection across all categories. This program out of Merck Farm & Forest, has been fully supported by farmers of produce, eggs, meat, milk, cheese & value added products. Shoppers love the ease & safety of this service. The economic impact of products sold prior to its August recess was impressive: $115,000 of local products AND their customer fueled philanthropy provided 290 CSA boxes to the Neighbor in Need program. NGD looks forward to hearty fall season of impact & fine home cooked meals for its customers. Please read the Edible Green Mountains pages 26-32 for more of their story.
Women farmers take note!
Personal coaching is available for your farm-based business through the Women's Ag Network. Three free sessions address anything that you would like to improve with your business, career, family, finances or anything in the world! sign up for the free coaching here Photo credit WAgN
All farmers take note!
CARES Act funding is available for many types of farm operations that are struggling due to covid. Deadlines are fast approaching; please check out the updates & consultation services from VHCB
This & That
Farm to Plate has a crowd sourced document to increase awareness of BIPOC businesses.

Farm to Plate invites businesses to the Aggregation & Distribution Working Group. Let's all work together to make local food more logistically accessible within the state & the region. For more info & to join us in our virtual meeting Oct 2nd meeting.

3 squares or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) paid out an extra $16M since covid to cover the increased need to feed families. This federal relief bill, pushed by Bernie, provides eligible families with food assistance.

Across the state, farms & restaurants are participating in the Everyone Eats program. Funded by $5M from CARES Act it is highly supported by our federal & state legislators.
Unless otherwise noted, photo credits are from company social media, websites or Annie Harlow,

Contact Annie H Harlow
to share your info & seek retailing business resources

Grateful for the funding support provided by High Meadows Fund