VT continues as an island of green in a sea of red
December 22, 2020
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We near the end of the year. A year unlike any other. Many of us have lost loved ones, struggle with a multitude of inter-connecting issues while a pandemic rages & we seek to keep our businesses viable. Beyond the pandemic a stressed-out nation grapples with diverging issues of social disruptions of systemic issues. It is important for leaders (managers, owners) to take a pause for a little bit of re-grouping to consider how our grocery supply chain has not had a break in 10 months. We honestly hope that as the year ends, we look ahead with a heart towards compassion. The essential workers saluted in April are exhausted. With restaurants closed or severely limited in operations, food store sales are up. In 2021 perhaps we can lighten the pressure on ourselves as we continue to wrestle the domino effects of the coronavirus, racism & "business as usual" that has not offered up equity in the workforce. Workers are not only physically tired, but they are also stressed with unique personal impacts. It is time to ask the questions how can we adapt pre-covid expectations in our current situation. 
In the heart of Chelsea, a new market has opened featuring VT producers. Owned & operated by Free Verse Farm & Shop, selling their own farm produced culinary & medicinal herbs. Additionally, they bring in regional products through independent
distributors, 3rd party online platforms & Food Connects. If you are a producer in the Upper Valley with routes that take you nearby, check out the new market. Or if you sell 3rd party, send them a nudge & introduce your company!
Vermont Product Highlights
A new line of herb products come to the market from Free Verse Farm in Chelsea. Their terroir is of the Upper Valley of the White & Connecticut Rivers in Vermont. Producers of bulk & retail herbs they are available wholesale to stores through 3rd party
online platforms Mable, Faire & Abound with drop-ship fulfillment to retail food stores. Part of the state food hub network, Food Connects delivers the products around the state too. Small Bites became familiar with the herbs through Northshire Grown Direct, the seasonal & covid-response CSA based out of Dorset.
They sold out of the herbs reflecting demand for fresh VT herbs in retail sizes & recyclable glass packaging. They are perfect bundling with local meat & mushrooms in stores across the state.
Is there anything better than freshly grown mushrooms to warm us in winter? Funj Mushrooms in St Albans is one of our premiere growers selling DSD to stores, direct to home cooks through online platform Local Maverick, & to budding mycologists with home-grown mushroom kits sold through their website.
Looking to minimize plastic, their retail packs are made with recycled plastic & they also have recyclable cardboard boxes. Check out the stores on their delivery route & see if you are nearby. If your store wants to ride the wave of home-food production, Funj has fabulous grow-your-own kits that are perfect for homeschooling projects & for the long winter with DYI food production.

Contact Kevin for all the details to purchasing kits or retail mushrooms for resale. Our friends at Seven Days featured this young company in the December 8th issue. Check out the great read!
Are there any butchers in the group that want to learn more about how quality VT lamb is produced? Check out the webinars from the VT Sheep & Goat Association. Located in Waitsfield, Knoll Farm is a producer of grassfed lamb. Looking for VT lamb to stock your case? Let us know & we can help you
Calling all maple producers
This year, the VAAFM co-produced a maple syrup market & growth-opportunity report. This comprehensive study captures national trends that include variables associated with covid- such as changes in purchasing habits & increased maple integration in multiple product categories. For instance, maple sales increased when families sat down for more at-home breakfasts & baking increased. The report helps anyone in the maple or maple-value added category better understand the wide, global-view of the marketplace. We recommend anyone with an interest or affiliated maple business read this report.
Specialty Food Producers
this block is for you
Vermont Specialty Food Association is hosting a virtual food tasting Jan 28th. The deadline for applying is coming up on December 31. There are separate links to register; Producers use this link & Buyers this link gets you registered.

If you are a food manufacturer & not yet a member of VSFA make a resolution for 2021 & become a member. The B2B listserv is great & the focus on business development skills is just what we need to expand our market channels in a supportive environment.
VT producers take note & mark your calendars!! Food Karma & Sauce King host a Makers Showcase competition in May. Now is a good time to register. You may remember several VT food producers won in their categories in 2020. Let's spread the word on our fab Vermont BBQ, hot, savory & unique sauces.
Here's a link for more info. Tell them Annie@ Small Bites sent you. Email for info:
Sarah sstrong19@gmail.com
or Jimmy jimmypotsandpans@gmail.com
It has been an exhausting year for our frontline workers in food production, distribution & sales. Looking back on the past ten months may provide some footing as we enter "the long dark winter". With covid increases across the country it is expected that disruptions in supply chains & trucking services will continue to occur.
"While the demand is increasing, capacity is simultaneously decreasing, further elevating rates. Transportation capacity has reached a two-year low, and tender rejection rates are at an all-time high as a result. Although shipment volumes are accelerating, they’re not yet back to the pre-pandemic numbers of 2019, and it could take until 2021 before we start to see that level of recovery. Still, the sharp increase in demand has led to record pricing levels on key trucking lanes."

B2B alliances have come together & continue to address gaps & manufacturing resource disruptions in the national food system. Some of the upheaval has impacted employment of truckers & warehouse workers. Supply chain challenges has had a detrimental effect on some manufacturing sectors including food packaging production.
As we move along, much focus is on the vaccine as a panacea, but we have a long haul ahead as regards worker safety across production, materials-supply & distribution chains.
With 2020 behind us, businesses grapple with keeping worker safety morale up & standards high. We share appreciation for the truckers, jobbers, behind-the-scenes production & warehouse workers who make our entire food system function while handling first-of-its-kind stress in their personal & professional lies. The strain on businesses & their workers will continue long into 2021. 
Is your business ready to take on a distributor relationship?

Building your specialty or fresh food business often requires taking a step back to re-evaluate mission & out-put. The roles & responsibilities in selling through a distributor require diligence. Preparation is a major part of your brands' growth. No matter what your product is, understanding the language of the 'wholesale-retail supply chain' reflects your professionalism & gains respect. Want to see something crazy? Read the 96 page glossary of retail terminology! (mind you not all is applicable to food but its impressive & daunting!). There is also a glossary of terms in the NOFA Local Foods Market Assessment Resource to help you gain an understanding of the wholesale language.

Has your business considered creating an advisory board? Input from others can help you grow your business. Bringing on a marketing specialist is another possible step as has recently been the case for Burke Mountain Confectionaries. One of our VT marketing firms that is helping businesses grow is Rival Brands. Creating a growth strategy should always include distribution variables: think how it ships not only how it sits on a shelf.
Looking ahead: rethinking waste & climate actions in 2021

Will the idea of food manufacturers covering disposal/recycling costs of their packaging carry any weight? WAPO has an interesting article to read. Vermont food businesses are leaning into alternative single-use cardboard shipping containers like those from Boox. Designed to disrupt the waste stream Boox has the tagline, "stop sending your customers trash". Local businesses pass the "returnable" cost on to the customer as a sustainability surcharge. Waste reduction is also part of the business plan of Vanguard Renewables reducing greenhouse gas emissions to lower carbon & mitigate climate change by recycling food waste. 
Super important for farmers

Covid has impacted seed production & distribution impacting availability for the 2021 season. Order your seeds early! Looking for BIPOC owned seed companies? Check out the list from Content[ed]
Pasture raised meat & eggs sales have increased substantially this year through grocery stores & direct to consumer. January 14-16, 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of VTs Grazing & Livestock Conference. This 3-day conference has a lineup that is not to be missed. Fees are a sliding scale with all seminars available to all registrants. Shoppers are expected to continue their local food purchases in 2021; this conference is well positioned to support farmer education to meet increased demand.
Updated VT Local Food Definition
The new definition: “local” and/or “Vermont” unprocessed (raw) fruits & vegetables must be exclusively grown in Vermont. Read the entire announcement including info on processed products. No longer does "Vermont plus 30 miles" apply. For more information from the VAAFM, click here. Questions? Kyle.Harris@vermont.gov  
(802) 522-6679 
VAAFM has a regular e-news of info &
resources for farmers & interested folks. Find the current issue & sign up here.
VSJF created You Tube videos to help businesses create an advisory board. Check out the series for optimal success.
Improve your retail operation
Farm to Plate Retail Services can help stores re-engage staff, assist with inventory management, & review operations. Need help with your Produce department? Ask yourself these 10 + questions & then follow up with us for virtual support services.
Is your business listed on the Farm to Plate Food System AtlasIf you are reading Small Bites...you should be listed! We are linking businesses to the Atlas as a reminder to keep current-or to register. This resource is nationally recognized as illuminating businesses & organizations that make up the VT food system. (Stores, farmers, distributors, specialty food producers, seed companies, social profit agents, etc). 
Thanks for the smile Winhall Market! Happy holidays to you too!
Contact: Annie H Harlow

Unless otherwise noted, photo credits are from company social media, websites or Annie Harlow

Grateful for the funding support provided by High Meadows Fund
Week 42 of Covid December 22, 2020