Week 2 of Critical Decision Making
The new VT mandate Stay Home, Stay Safe order is in place as of yesterday. Clearly there are new implications for producers, stores & distributors but as 'essential services" these businesses are staying open.

VRGA & VSFA are posting daily updates of excellent resources including the Cleaning & Sanitation for Retailers

We at Farm to Plate know stores are front and center in helping keep communities safely connected to meet immediate, pressing & ever changing needs. This Small Bites is intended to connect & share some of your valued work.
Health & Safety of workers
Stores and suppliers are keeping the shelves stocked during this unprecedented upheaval in what is gen erally considered a well-functioning system

Keeping staff safe is challenging as we are learning about the virus & its transmission. Classified as front line essential workers the jobs they are undertaking requires ongoing interaction with customers.

Every store & each distributor, food manufacturer & farmer are taking the extraordinary steps to ensure safety of their staff & their shopper. We all know this is not easy & that we are unclear on the length of time we are operating at this intense level.

Many supermarkets have added plexi-glass barriers at checkout to help protect staff & the public from spreading the virus. Other pracices include reducing hours, requiring customers & staff to wear gloves & relying exclusively on pre-order, pre-pay curb-side service.
Taylor Mendell of Footprint Farm in Straksboro & of the VT Young Farmer Coalition posted today:

"We have harvested, washed, & sold more spinach in the past two weeks than in the past two months combined, so it felt fitting when the radio announced that today is   #nationalspinachday !"
Fresh local greens are filling gaps from our larger distributors. Ceres Greens in Barre is another producer with increased sales the past two weeks.

Known to food-service providers, they have ramped-up retail pack availability so Vermonters have access to these fresh, healthy local greens at stores.

As of today their products are OFFICIALLY available for purchase through Black River Produce. If you’re a store owner interested in carrying Ceres greens, visit the @blackriverproduce website : Item #105570
With only curbside & pre-pay sales at stores, it can be a challenge for small producers & farmers to move their products. There is no "impulse or promotional sales" capacity. Snug Valley Farm , seller of premium meat to restaurants & stores has shared their insights:

"As our restaurant customers are getting more concerned for the safety of their business and workers, the remaining open ones are going to move through the food they have available and close by this weekend completely so that outlet will be completely gone for the time being. So right now we are really focusing on checking in on our retail accounts every couple days to see if we need to drop off more meat and we are no longer interacting in person with them (leaving deliveries on a loading bay or at the front door so the grocer is having to face our product and check the stock for it). And then we are trying to partner with some of our friend’s farms in the area to round out our home delivery options. Last night we added maple syrup and are hoping to add dairy and some bakery items in the coming days."
Middlebury Coop is helping flatten the curve with info on shopping patterns with traffic flow data
From their Facebook post on March 26th:
"In the interest of adhering to the recommended guidelines for social distancing, we wanted to share this graph to help you plan your shopping time. As you can see, traditional rush hours no longer apply as most of our community is working from home. We hope this helps you plan accordingly! Thanks for being mindful and shifting your shopping until later in the day, if possible."
D&K in Jamaica is meeting the challenges: focus on cooking up family style meals with curbside pickup from their grocery shelves & hand-cut meat. "Community" is always front & center; now with safety & care added to the mix Karen continues to serve to the highest standards in both customer services and now staff & product safety. They are communicating via Facebook for quick updates.
Lesser Distribution out of Waitsfield is hustling to fill the needs of customers while keeping his suppliers with continuous markets. As we are all seeing, some SKUs are flying off the shelf meeting the needs. Goodman's American Pie & Half Baked Pizza both frozen, are super popular right now.
C&S Wholesale'S primary customers are retail & US Food's primary customers are food service. These two companies are joining forces & working together to minimize food waste, meet customer demand & use under-utilized drivers to meet expanded retail demand.
Local Farm sales are taking off
With many consumers frightened of large grocery stores, local farm-stores & farm stands have seen a rapid interest in their products. Farmers are teaming up to help one another in these tough times.

WCAX ran a story story of the support farms are giving to each other in expanding access to new consumers & help those who lost all their restaurant accounts. Maplewind Farm, producer of premium, happy grass-fed meat was featured as was Bread & Butter Farm.
Online ordering has been emerging technology for the past decade. With the arrival of C-19, its need has been amplified. Expedited , online ordering is happening at stores to help streamline sales. Some of these are a hodge-podge of techniques. Farms are also using online platforms to help make up for lost sales from their restaurant accounts.

A platform that has been in use in Vermont is getting a lot of buzz in the past two weeks. Meet Mable.

Mable offers grocery stores, health food stores & food service businesses an easy-to-use web & mobile ordering platform. Simple for stores to order directly from a wide range of brands, & they can add any distributors that retailers use onto their platform.

They also recently launched a mobile app that makes restocking shelves even easier. Buyers can either scan a bar-code or do a quick search to create an order that is sent off to suppliers & distributors in nicely formatted PO.

No more emails, phone calls and texts. Mable has over 200 brands, (not just from Vermont) and growing, on the platform.  Click here for Mable's products from Vermont:
Thank you to all the farmers, food manufacturers, distributors & suppliers who spoke with us today 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


Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund