Small Bites June 30, 2021
dedicated to the VT food system supply chain-
creating opportunities to sell more VT products to more buyers

Scheduling to Meet Needs
What happens when covid restrictions get lifted & it is hard to staff your store because there just aren't any people responding to your need? Sales at stores remain strong with travelers coming to Vermont the ever-expanding gatherings of friends & family. Staffing is tight across the state (as well as other places). Especially hard hit are areas of high tourist traffic. Often high school & college kids would take "summer jobs" however many are forgoing these types of positions for jobs at summer camps & other venues that provide a more socially engaging environment. After 15 months of trying times, socializing has become a "job requirement."
Covid 19 as a disruptor is still in place. And it is happening across our food system as regards employment & keeping shelves stocked to make sales. It is definitely challenging for stores to schedule staff when a multiplier effect of short-staffing at distributors takes place across the supply chain. 10:00 PM deliveries cannot become the "new normal."
SORO has a new produce cooler which more prominently highlights local
growers. Our state has more coops per capita showcasing our commitment to
taking care of each other economically. We have a business network that supports purchasing local. For stores it starts with an ethos & mission as is done at the coop to enhance the multiplier effect & buy VT products across all categories, including fresh produce from Luna Bleu Farm.
Summer Product Highlights
Some may think BBQ sauce is a "southern thing”, but we can compete for the best! Highlight our fabulous products to highlight this weekend & all summer long.
Sugar Bob's Smoked Maple BBQ Sauce award winning & available from Lesser Distribution & DSD
Sugarbush Farm makers of maple BBQ sauce sold direct
Cross promote Potlicker Strawberry Chipotle Jam or Raspberry Smoked Maple as a glaze with your favorite grilling meat. Available DSD
Mountbrook Farm Beefalo, raised in Dorset is available to restaurants & stores in the Manchester & Mountains area. They are ample producers of Tenderloin, Porterhouse, Sirloin, Roasts & of course Ground Beef - just to name a few of their premium cuts. Looking for a lean summer meat to sell for all the summer grilling? Contact Greg for shipping details. Sold direct to consumers through the Northshire Grown Direct online platform a covid-19 response that continues to serve the greater Mettowee Valley community in southwestern Vermont.
This week's beverage brought to you by Venetian Ginger Ale.
This is one of our favorite summer beverages for its robust flavors & ability to be a mixer for cocktails & mocktails. Made in Burlington it is a fabulous blend of ingredients. If you are not familiar with Venetian- it is time to get on board. It is truly a remarkable beverage with a rich history in our brave little state! Available through Baker & Associated Buyers (for folks in NY & NH).
When it is this hot, we love our ice creams, sorbets, gelato & refreshing novelties in the cooler.
Blue Moon Sorbet, is a Vermont favorite that has a wider distribution range as a new product sold to stores in the NE through AGNE. Blue Moon was recently featured as a Producer of the Month by the Brattleboro Coop & it is a perfect complement to our berry season .
Sisters of Anarchy continues to sell to retail food stores within a distinct DSD range. All their ice cream is made with farm grown flavoring ingredients. Enjoy the farm to cone experience when you are in their neck of the woods & catch their Friday Night Food Truck too! SoA is all about connecting producers & having fun in the summer! 
Edible Vermont is an independently owned, community-based publication. The summer issue has landed! The magazine & digital content promotes the local food culture & economy with editorial integrity, authenticity & exceptional photography. Local farm & food businesses can advertise to the local & statewide traveler. 
Award winning Cobb Hill Cheese available to stores across the state & the nation through Provisions International, Black River Producer, Seacrest Foods, Mable & DSD.
Keeping Up: Summer Demand

Demand takes many forms. At this point, distributors are hoping their demand for workers quickly gains pace with needs to get food into the warehouse, slotted correctly, & loaded onto pallets & /or stacking for delivery with a team of conscientious workers.
Demand for food remains extremely high at our local independent stores, coops & restaurants. Regionally restaurants are back open & travelers are on the road, but folks are still spending their food dollars across all grocery categories.
When a large distributor acquires smaller ones, the consolidation inevitably reduces product availability & vendor options for buyers. Looking at the regional impact, what does that mean? Way back when Black River Produce was independently owned, they acquired local businesses to help increase their assets. Once they landed at a their desired position the company was sold to Reinhart Distribution a much larger national operation also seeking to widen their assets. It wasn't long before an even larger buyer came along & acquired both BRP & Reinhart now doing business under the Performance Food Group brand. They are one of the top three distributors in the country & are on track to acquire Core Mark; the transaction is expected to close in the first half of calendar 2022. 
Expand that scenario to every region in the country & you have a fragile food distribution system. Take for instance, what happened last week in Maine when thousands hit the road for vacation.
Picture this.
It is the week before July 4th. Maine has seen an unprecedented increase in visitor traffic (up 68% over 2020 & well over June 2019). Due to a number of staffing gaps, PFG was unable to send any trucks out of their North Center Distribution Warehouse in Augusta. With over 75 trucks parked no deliveries went out on Friday to restaurants, delis & food stores. Additionally their operation was closed to cross docking regional distributors. Owners, chefs & managers were shocked into the reality of food consolidation. There were in essence no alternative suppliers & unprecedented number of people dining out or buying food at local stores.
As an industry & food system insider, just imagine the emotional turmoil that took place. No food deliveries on a Friday in June in a high tourist area. Here in Vermont, we too have the PFG consolidation variables, but we also have been expanding capacity through the non-profit food hub network focused on local producers selling to local buyers. It surely would not have saved the day if a similar episode happened here, but it is great to know local food is still handled & delivered by local businesses. 
Even Coca Cola cannot deliver. Across the region & across the grocery sector, staffing is not in place at levels needed to meet demand & even perform the basic function of delivery.
In a recent chat, a store owner expressed disbelief when for two weeks Coca Cola was not able to deliver their order. How was she to get through the early days of increased summer visitors without the full line of beverages? She, like all store managers, build their staffing for efficiency but when expected deliveries don’t happen there is a lot of juggling. With some substitutions of non-alcohol beverages from Farrell she was able to meet some needs. However- it wasn't until two sales reps delivered close to closing hours in their own pick-up trucks that she had Coca Cola product to stock. (It was a lot of squeaking to get her two orders, but the reps finally came through)
File Under Keeping Things Local

Clearly staffing is a hot button issue. Two interesting professional positions have come to our attention.
SORO Coop in Royalton is seeking a beverage buyer. This position is a great opportunity for professional growth & teamwork with excellent benefits. Details here.
Deep Root Organic Cooperative in Johnson is seeking a motivated person to join their team as the operations manager. Great potential for career advancement.
Quote of the Week

"I hate paying bills, but I like that most of the money goes to local businesses. Last I checked, a little over 90% of my dollars go to Vermont zip codes and >80% to Orleans County zip codes. Plus, most of the out-of-state vendors have local employees that I do business with." -Andy, Chandler Farm
Cherry Festival hosted at
 Douglas Orchards on June 27th
Vermont Produce Highlights

The beauty of seasonal produce: some things come on while others fade away. The heat this week is good for some crops & not so good for others.
If your produce buyer & staff are not familiar with VT crop scheduling, growing calendars help clarify the harvest season & are helpful in training (here is another one). However, know that many growing variables extend crop harvesting schedules.
Here are a few of this week’s highlights from across the state:
YAY Fruit!
See our produce tips for improving sales with some display basics.

Local produce available through many distributors including Upper Valley Produce, Food Connects, & Farm Connex
Travelers & store buyers are using the EAT LOCAL app, an easy way to find producers in the Champlain Valley. ACORN anticipates this going statewide & formatting for desk tops. Douglas Orchards is listed & the app helped folks find the Cherry Festival!
Don't miss these links
The connected farm & community at Black Dirt Farm is knitting together their farm system to mimic an ecosystem: where all compost & all decisions matter. This short Elizabeth Rossano film is worth a watch & touches base on the extractive ag-food-economic-cultural system.
Real Organic Project has a podcast! Check it out. Think of it as an education on smaller scale producers supporting the land, health of animals, changed climate impacts & production practices.