June 24, Serving up Summer!
Week 15 of Covid-19
MKT Grafton, is all about summer outdoor eating, picnic baskets & convenient online ordering
Grocery Nibbles
This has been a week of full on heat, the kind that feels like the dog days of summer. Shoppers looking to be hydrated have reached for everything liquid! Stores have been stocking beverages like - well, like its 90 all week. Vermont Produce has been growing & getting harvested.

Some recent changes at stores: longer hours & more prepared foods departments are open. Meanwhile pre-ordering & curbside pick up continues . The governor has extended stay safe orders to July 15th. We continue to see " loosening the spigot" with state parks opening meaning more tourists arriving.

The new normal: small gatherings while eating al fresco on patios & balconies, picnics along rivers & lazily meandering on our lakes. Lite meals are all the rage. Now we have an opportunity to encourage new covid initiated home-cooks the joys of Vermont summer eating for quick, nourishing picnics & lite meals.

You, our local grocers have been on the front lines of service throughout covid. Staff focus is on health & safety often limiting merchandising capacity. Simple displays will help drive sales while accommodating social distancing. Marketing & merchandising "displays" can be actualized both in-store & through your online stores with ideas & pictures of bundled products.

Vermonters are staying close to home, "isolated explorations" are going to be big. Our National Forest welcomes us as do cool water river camping & quiet rail trails. These are perfect platforms for promoting easy meals. You can help your customers pack their coolers with Vermont products. We all know covid has been hard for our food businesses with different impact; your promotions help our local economy.

Many stores still have limited deli or food prep service, others are focused on simple salads & sandwiches. The Putney Coop has re-opened their deli for picnic foods while D & K Jamaica Grocery actively promotes their deli salads & meats for locals & now campers. Promote VT beverages from distributors Farrell & Baker to increase basket size. Check out the VT non-alcohol beverages when buying your craft beer.

The Governor's messages are being supported loud & clear in the retail food stores sector. Masks are often required to enter a store. Sanitizing stations are strategically placed at store entrances & near cooler doors for additional assurance.

A few other bites for grocers....

  • Main Street Market LLC is assuming ownership of the Vista Market in Richford on June 26. This is a wonderful collaboration with the community health center NOTCH. They will be a customer / member of AGNE while weaving in new VT products. Congratulations!
  • New Federal FDA nutrition labeling laws are coming up. Food manufacturers will be updating their labels & may take this time to update or re-brand their products. Read more from Cassandra LaRae-Perez a regulations specialist with the law firm Gravel & Shea
  • Governor Phil Scott asked VRGA to poll its members about customers wearing cloth face coverings: Grocers please take the survey
  • Safety-first at JJHapgood in Peru which has a fantastic online menu for take out along with a curbside pick up. Sticking with curbside exclusively, they are serving their mixed customers: locals, skiers who never really left in March & new summer traffic. Grocery with fabulous pre-ordered take out is their go-to summer plan.
Babbette's Table an old world charcuterie in Waitfield, is the premium producer of hand crafted salami, for the ultimate Vermont picnic. Catch their video (take note it was made pre-covid, hence the intimacy of the gathering). Small batch, quality products made from the meat of local suppliers including Snug Valley Farm. This may be the ultimate picnic food, along with some crusty bread & great Vermont berries.

"Northshire & Mettowee Valley farms are full of talent, commitment & tenacity. Their willingness to jump into this new pop-up market channel was been nothing short of remarkable. Equally amazing is the incredible energy and commitment of our growing team of volunteers, local businesses and community connectors. Because of them, Northshire Grown: Direct has been able to grow quickly & nimbly, & make a difference."
-Liz Ruffa of N o rthshire Grown
Goodwill & Good Bites
Stores, distributors, food producers & communities are stepping up their social missions & goodwill actions.
Soul Fire Farm   is committed to ending racism injustice in our food system.   Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC ( Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) centered community farm in NY.
For the last days of June celebrating Rooted in Vermont Dairy: we feature from the Northshire, Larson Farm & Creamery . 100% grass fed 100% organic 100% love from Jersey cows tested 100% A2A2. Milk, Yogurt, Gelato, Skyr & Butter (a golden color & flavor you won't believe!). Wonderful products from the gorgeous land of Larson. Some products available only at their farm store, or through Black River Produce & DSD .
King Arthur Flour: Rising to the needs of bakers & their processors meeting the demand
Distribution/Supply-side Nuggets
There continues to be production gaps across categories. Paul Greenhan VP of Sales at Associated Grocers of New England sees long term impact on several categories including center of the store items & sanitizers in all pack sizes & formats.

" On many center store packaged products, there are still significant shortages, and it appears that it will be many months, possibly into the new year before normal returns. There are significant shortages."

King Arthur Flour, based in Norwich, Vermont has worked hard to keep their supply chain functional throughout covid market-uncertainty. The mills they work with stepped up to increase production & modify pack sizes. This was an easy step for all involved as the relationships are strong & flexible. KAF had nearly triple sales in March as stay home, stay safe encouraged home baking to heat up. Read the informative supply-side article from Bloomberg on this well-known Vermont business, respected since it started in 1790. ( above PHOTO credit: GRETA RYBUS; BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK)

“As of now, the company plans to keep retail production ramped up through the end of the year. Carlton, the co-CEO, predicts that even as the pandemic risk recedes and more activities resume outside the home, people newly initiated to the joys of baking will continue with it.”

Other notable supply-side nuggets:
  • Virtual pitches & online trade shows are becoming the new normal for buyers meeting food manufacturers. Find out about the Good Food virtual trade show, perfect for buyers of all scales & food operations
  • With some exceptions, distributors are trying to share limited supplies in an equitable manner. That being said, stores that pay within terms generally receive better service than those running long with outstanding payments.
  • Brokers & technical advisers know all too well that businesses can get behind on payments. The service level is altered when payments are not made.
  • Covid has placed a huge burden on all businesses in the food sector. Since March, stores rushed to maintain service as essential businesses, the costs have been uncertain.
  • Markets for produce are expected to be erratic all summer due to uncertainties including the health of workers & covid outbreaks.
  • Migrant workers in Immokalee Florida, a covid hot spot, are leaving to head to other produce areas. They likely risk spreading covid to communities in other states.
  • AGNE shares national produce trends & overview
  • Restaurants are opening up at 50% capacity, often with limited menus to keep plate costs down. Vermont products are on menus, however, changes in supply & demand are yet to be determined
Dahlia weathering the heat at Understory Farm
Farm Fresh Morsels

Throughout the state, farmers have been forced to deal with unusually dry, super hot spell for June. From Understory Farm Sudbury , "These days Gregory runs around all day switching waters from one area to another, drawing from three different water sources.  This has been an incredibly hot and dry spring."
Last Resort Farm adapting to all the safety measures
fresh carrots & potatoes with whole raw flax, sunflower & sesame seeds, oats, short grain brown rice. Soy free, nut free, vegan, wood-fired beauties
Grocers & Farmers Take Note!
DCF: has a new SNAP benefit ! Vermont DCF is reimbursing retailers the cost of wireless EBT machines plus a one-year subscription service.  This offer applies to grocery stores & farm stand retailers Please email Leslie Wisdom , Food and Nutrition Program Director, for more information. For farm stand retailers, find more information here
Farm to Plate hosts meetings of technical advisers, non-profits, government & businesses to address current issues. The meetings are recorded & in the Covid-collection
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 the farmers, producers, distributors & suppliers for providing first hand information for this update.

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


Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund