Week 3 of Critical Decision Making
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.
They got super innovative putting into place a virtual 3-D tour of the store to assist in their new curbside pickup. Utilizing a platform used by realtors, this helps customers see product availability & make shopping easier & more efficient- while being just plain cool! "Genny" has also altered their buying to offer larger pack sizes & new products through multiple distributors & local suppliers to meet customer needs. They are also encouraging shoppers to make requests for products they may not have carried before C-19.

Matterport.com is the platform for any stores interested. It may be great to work with your local realtor to "borrow" their technology for your use as a temporary measure.
Independent stores, often the center of a community, are taking on new importance & value.

Across Vermont, stories of community owned stores are being showcased & publicly appreciated as captured in the above picture, by Lincoln resident Beth Duquette.

Shoppers want to refrain from the larger stores to reduce exposure while also wanting to spend their dollars locally. More & more across Vermont shoppers are seeing the impact of where & how they spend their money. In Norwich, the value & importance of Dan & Whit's was a feature on WCAX.
VT specialty products have taken a hit losing many national restaurant & out of state specialty food accounts.

Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick which helps food businesses grow, is reaching out to stores asking to support Vermont producers "beyond the basics".

Our food producers sell to many restaurants & specialty stores across the nation. The immediate loss of these outlets & impending recession will have an extended deleterious impact. Many producers' sales came to a screeching stop. Award winning cheese, such as The Cellars at Jasper Hill are seeking new local outlets & were featured along with other producers in a recent article.

CAE has created a push to help our businesses find markets & new promotional opportunities at your store. This is a way to help support our local producers, across categories.
Farm Connex , part of the VT Food Hub Network is helping make VT food available to retailers across the state. They have a robust and ever expanding distribution range & partnerships with other distributors. Check out their deliver days ...and products that you may want in your store. See also Green Mountain Farm Direct for getting VT products into your store using an online ordering platform.
Producer Update: from our friends at Snug Valley Farm:
"Our retail/grocer accounts are continuing to change things up and pivot day-by-day. For example, the Roots Market in Middlesex is making more and more updates to their new online ordering website each day. They are now fulfilling orders and leaving them in paper bags outside for people to pick up. Willey’s in Greensboro has moved to ordering by phone and now is also asking for orders via email where they will fulfill an order and then email back with a pickup time. Our orders for Roots and other retailers has been steady. We are continuing to move pasture raised pork through Hunger Mountain Coop and have not seen an increase in orders from them. We are continuing to check in with these accounts every couple days to see if they need anything from us. I am thinking that once we have people’s freezers fully stocked up with meat, the demand will drop slightly but will still be higher than normal since people are cooking at home. We continue to worry about our grocery worker friends and hope they can be allowed to wear masks and have other measures in place to protect themselves from exposure." 
Black River Produce donated food-service pack sizes that would have been sold to restaurants. Skinny Pancake in Burlington, a well known community-based local food aligned restaurant group, is using the donation at their commissary kitchen to prepare meals. They are using their trucks to distribute these meals to area food shelves & charitable outlets.
Next week I hope to have a comprehensive list of options for farm-stores selling direct to customers. Since losing their farmers markets opportunities, many farms are scrambling to sell from their farm using email, online platforms, phone calls for curbside pick-ups & delivery services. Stay tuned!
Be sure to have the sound on, Trust me you will feel better!
A laundry list of retail happenings this week:
WIC expanding products of approved foods, r educing in store shoppers to minimize contact, more plexi guards at registers, "social distance signs" at registers, PSA over incomes for safe practices, reduced shopping hours, increased curbside service, supermarkets limiting number of shoppers & redirecting shopping flow, increases for hazard staff pay, emphasis on staff safety, focus on curbside for most vulnerable & new this week promotion of "Shopper Code of Conducts"
Vermont food coops , known for their engaged customer base, are working non-stop to convey pertinent info; from changes in shopping hours to new protocols for curbside ordering & pickup.
Brattleboro Coop  posts updates regularly.  The Middlebury Coop is actively answering questions, informing the public of system changes.
The Plainfield Coop , a small community store has put into place a " Saint Corona Fund" , (YES! there is a patron saint of protection against plagues & epidemics) to help their community members who might otherwise not be able to afford food. A weekly allowance helps those most in need & anyone who is willing can contribute to the fund.
Vermont Roots a distributor based in Rutland working within the VT specialty food category, services independent & supermarket chains. They have seen a number of changes including store closings, primarily those that serve the tourism sector. The Warren Store, the Cabot Stores, JK Adams are examples of lost markets for a number of our producers & of course lost sales for Vermont Roots. Covid-19 is without a doubt a domino effect with wide reaching implications.

On the bright side, Vermont Roots reports that pancake & muffin along with maple syrup are flying off the shelf with all our children home. Easy to make, & easy to enjoy healthy Vermont foods.

Distribution issues continue; King Arthur is more widely available direct to larger stores & not through VT Roots. Throughout the distribution chain, preferential service is often given to larger accounts.
Other trends & insights

VRGA & VSFA are posting daily updates of excellent resources
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


Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund