The Spigot Closes....
leading up to Thanksgiving
November 24, 2020
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Pratt's Store continues curbside & local delivery
Grocers: Keep on keeping on
In this uncertain week. producers & stores across the state navigate all the challenges. Our Department of Health with guidance from the Governor, suggests small household gatherings & no intermingling among household. Unfortunately we have yet to learn what percentage of Vermonters are subscribing to these suggestions.
In the meantime, producers & stores are doing their absolute best to help keep their staff safe. Reintroducing safety measures takes time & redirection of staff.
Many stores have reintroduced curbside pick-up & special in-store priority shopping times for vulnerable shoppers. Additionally to divert shopping times, pre-made Thanksgiving dinners are offered in many stores & have been sold out for days. All this to help keep Vermont #1 in safety & low positivity rates.
For all, keep doing the good work to stay safe.
Since March, Mountain Energy Market in Londonderry has exclusively offered pre-order curbside pick-up. Online orders are picked by the owner, Donna who has  gotten to know her customers' habits & can easily make curated product recommendations. However, trying to keep the community safe has required a continuation of covid safety modifications. We received this update from Donna & just have to share what this small store has done!
“We designed & built an alcove inside the store from primarily repurposed materials. The alcove has windows on 3 sides so that customers can view our rearranged shelving for a better view of merchandise. The credit card processor is in there so I do not have to handle credit cards; there is a chair for people to make themselves comfortable while waiting & a cabinet behind which there is a sliding door for me to place orders into the alcove. The fabric ceiling is almost complete & we have a hepa air filter running as well. I just ordered an intercom system which should bring us to completion. There is also room for me to place a few items demo containers to display new products. We have received a lot of positive feedback & I am having fun with it.”
Shoppers see this as another value-add to the high-service store geared to upholding the state guidance & recommendations for safety. 
Product Highlights
Nutty Life, made in Woodstock, VT, is a plant based dairy substitute. They are made with cashew, almond or oats. In the winter it is the foundation for dairy-free cocoa, a creamy addition to hot cereals like oatmeal or incorporated in many types of baking. Check out the stores already selling Nutty Life. Distribution is diverse including locally through Black River Produce & regionally through Albert's, among others. 
MOCO, a 2020 SOFI New Product Winner! Vermont's own small batch organic gluten & dairy-free coco. Hmmm, seems like it might pair well with Nutty Life & can even bump up the morning coffee routine too.
The Middlebury Natural Foods Coop has a dedicated marketing team that has perfected the formula for upholding category margins while increasing sales of local food. They reduce margin themselves while working to minimally reducing producer margins. All this is done with an eye to influencing shoppers to "specials" geared for Thanksgiving & holiday cooking.
A discount to members of Elmer Farm produce is part of the November formula. Elmer grows what is widely considered the BEST leeks in Vermont, along with their preeminent root crops they are a staple for with coop shoppers all year long. With baking season full-tilt-boogie- Nitty Gritty Grain flour is given a prominent place. Displayed at the store entrance are Understory Farm bouquets which soothe the mind for holiday errands. The front display is selected, organized & laid out to help shoppers grab & go the Thanksgiving basics from several departments with a banner & basics like Joe's Kitchen Bone Broth for gravy & soups. Well done MNFC!
A must read & listen: The Secret Life of Groceries
Distribution: Trucking
Once in a while, an investigative writer pegs the intricacies of an industry. That has happened with Benjamin Lorr's recently released book, The Secret Life of Groceries. This insightful, selectively inclusive approach to the supply chain is informative, at times heartbreaking, at other times inspirational. There are podcasts with the author that dive into many differing sections of the book. There are additional print & radio resources which would benefit producers, distributors & of course us all as shoppers. For that reason, we give a major thumbs up for this book!

Beyond Lorr’s insights on his thoroughly examined topics, we are now bombarded with covid-19 concerns of national supply of food & food packaging issues. As case counts increase in every state, there is expected to be supply side & safety implications on workforce that will have down-river impact. Limits in production of food packaging affects the manufacture sector which leads to distribution gaps & lack of food availability at stores. Additionally, increased safety & food supply concerns among supply chain partners including trucking & warehousing are being highlighted in ‘trade publications’.
Veritable Vegetable, based in California, is the nation's oldest, organic & woman owned distribution company. A recent article in Civil Eats is an interesting interview (appropriately with ties to Benjamin Lorr’s The Secret Life of Groceries). Learning about distribution's complexities in the age of covid with increased examination of an equity ethos is surely something many of our readers can relate to.

Meanwhile regarding current distribution & flexibility, Vermont farmers across many production categories received a great shout out in Seven Days. The informative article touches on many factors that support the Farm to Plate goals while relocalizing our food shed. It features the covid-distribution pivot that has helped many farm-based producers stay engaged with customers. Read the article & learn how Vermont food producers are selling & delivering direct to households (via trucks).
Quote of the Week

"Understand that everything-everything- in your life comes to you on a truck. If you build it yourself, the parts you use for building arrived on a truck. If you grow if, the seeds, organic fertilizer, & baling wire for your compost bin arrived that way too. Trucking as an industry is garganutuan:10.7 billion tons of freight per year get moved around this great land on trucks, which breaks down to 54 million tons day or 350 pounds per man, woman and child. per day. " -Benjamin Lorr,author from page 84 The Secret Life of Groceries
Attention Everyone!
Please take the The Vermont COVID Consumer Survey. This short consumer survey gauges Vermonters’ attitudes & behaviors around travel, dining & grocery shopping during the pandemic. The data & insights will be used to help local businesses determine how best to operate in the coming months.
Farmers Take Note
Super IMPORTANT for farmers
USDA wants to get the word out that there is money available to farmers & agricultural producers who continue to face disruptions & associated costs due to covid 19. The CFAP2 deadline is December 11th. Each county has USDA reps to help navigate the application. Staff will work with you to complete the Farm Operating Plan if necessary. Act now to explore the application process. Find your rep here
VAAFM has a regular e-news of info &
resources for farmers & interested folks. We encourage stores & distributors become informed on agricultural issues & solutions to our vibrant agriculture. Find the current issue & sign up here.
The Farm to Plate annual Gathering was a fantastic success via zoom. All the resources including video recordings of each session are available on the Gathering Landing page. Check it out! There is some fantastic info for all to dig into.
A shoutout of thanks to Hunger Mountain Coop, a sponsor of the 2020 Farm to Plate Gathering. This store has done much to support our communities including local food producers & organizations. It is a valuable resource for our local producers & expansion of shopper education. Thank you
In case you missed it
In poor taste: 'Super Spreader ads'. In light of over 250,000 Americans dying from the coronavirus in less than nine months families are entering into the holidays with sadness while marketing teams have made unconscionable ads. This is indeed egregious.
Improve your numbers
With support from Farm to Plate Retail Services, your store can get a refreshing new look, re-engage staff, assist with inventory management, & review operations using training tools including understanding product life cycles. For training info see contact info below.
USDA Food Boxes Concern
Across the nation, food pantries, food banks, & community meals are under enormous pressure to help meet the extensive need for meals. Covid-19 impacts go beyond unemployment. There is great concern around USDA funding for food programs. At the end of October funds were authorized; far from meeting needs identified by food security organizations across the country. Think of it as half the money for twice the period of time for November & December. This winter has been described as going to be a long, dark period. It has begun.
Many thanks for all the good work to keep our state safe, well fed, & caring for each other. A reminder that we are grateful to everyone who has shared their info, insights, & products with Small Bites during 2020. We are all in this together. In gratitude, Annie
Unless otherwise noted, photo credits are from company social media, websites or Annie Harlow

photo credit: Donna Korpi Mountain Energy Market alcove

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Contact: Annie H Harlow

Grateful for the funding support provided by High Meadows Fund
Week 38 of Covid November 24, 2020