Week 7: Covid Resiliency
What we are hearing from the
front line at stores
Key staff at Commodities, keeping the store running while owners stay home with their young children.
Commodities Market in Stowe & Winooski created a one-sheet of best practices for the health of staff, customers & their business. Even the smallest steps can have tremendous impact. Though they do "look forward to the restrictions easing up, whenever that may be because this is really stressful, even on the best of days." Customers surely appreciate the efforts taken but cumulatively all the changes happening are stressful for owners & their retail teams.

Since Michael & Audra have little kids, she's been staying home overseeing details of ordering, signage & HR duties from the kitchen table. They are so grateful to staff at & vendor reps stepping up their games.

The availability of & connection to local food sources is invaluable at Commodities. Keeping shelves stocked despite the variety of impacts has relied on the relationship aspects we talk so about as the foundation of increasing local food sales.

The vast majority of customers are mask-compliant which reduces stress. It's challenging telling customers what to do, especially since many of their customers are second homeowners, they may not have access to the latest recommendations from either our local or state municipalities .
Keeler's Bay Variety , like Commodities, is keeping up with the challenges of switching gears quickly. Key staff serving a dedicated local customer base along with shortened hours has helped keep service at the highest level. They pivoted to an online ordering system that requires a fair amount of staff resources. It is working in these times, but as many businesses are learning, the long haul will be an added expense operationally.
Resiliency Defined: Craftsbury General Store aka The Genny!
Kit, Emily & Jana find that pivoting is a necessary step in keeping dollars following through their store. One super successful recent launch is their Sunday Family Dinner. Each week one dinner is featured from the best of their comfort food. They are pre-ordered dinners for families with an add-on grocery option. It is win-win for the store to sell targeted specials & for customers to receive top quality food & of course, their legendary service.
In the SW region of Vermont known as The Shires, farmers, food producers & advocates have worked hard making local food widely available.

Since April 1, they have engaged 28 farms & food businesses to work collectively as a bundled CSA program offering boxes to an ever-growing customer base.

The Northshire Grows distribution program has been highly effective in many ways. Over 300 people have expressed
interest in the program & have sold over 400 boxes to these customers, investing more than $30,000 in the local food economy.
In partnership with Merck Forest & Farmland Center , they also launched “Northshire Neighbors in Need” an initiative donating food boxes to area neighbors through customer-powered donations . As of today, 75 households have been served through this food-access project. That is a fantastic Farm to Plate story for these troubled times, well done!
Supply chain issues, customer inquiries, & market opportunities converged at Dan & Whit's in Norwich.
It didn't take long for the team to reach out to local producers in the Upper Valley region stocking the shelves with Vermont products. Shoppers are taking advantage of a more robust selection across categories while spending their dollars locally. From Honeyfield Farm spring pansies to Kingdom Creamery dairy products, customers are now buying closer to the source and through Vermont's Food Hub Network with weekly deliveries from Food Connects.
Now, more than ever VT products are reaching the hands of customers. Are you a retailer seeking to fill your shelves? Besides Food Connects, look to CAE- out of Hardwick another partner in the food hub network!
" We've made our third round of door signs advocating for fewer shoppers at a time, wearing of masks, & social distancing from staff & customers. The first two rounds were too cute .
Now it's ALL BUSINESS at Commodities"
- Audra owner, Commodities Markets, Stowe & Winooski
With a VT unemployment rate of 20% there has been an uptick in new SNAP applications. April 23rd, the USDA increased by 40% the SNAP benefit which will help those in need. Stores across the state are seeing an increase in SNAP usage but there will be a larger intake in May & June.
The Garuka Care Package (previewed last week) was well received in Nashville by socially-isolated-troubadours, Leo Rondeau & Heather Bond . They were super excited to receive some of the best of VT Specialty Foods through Garuka's efforts to spread the VT love. Since no longer able to tour Vermont, catch them on Tuesday nights 8:00 at Leo Rondeau on Facebook
VT Specialty Food & Retail Grocer Associations: current Covid-19 resources for stores & food manufacturing businesses. Please take a moment exploring their daily updates
Become a member and support supply chain partners!
What we are hearing from the national & regional supply side
"Meat plants, farms, warehouses and packaging factories across the globe are reporting early positive cases of coronavirus that raise alarm over production disruptions. The infections speak to a growing threat to the world’s food supplies."- Food & Tech Connect

What will it mean to the health of workers, if the president issues an executive order for meat processors to remain open? We have seen for the past two weeks national supplier processing plants closing to Covid 19 running rampant in hog, chicken & beef processing. Looking at the supply side, there will be longer term implications, but there is a human cost that should bear more weight. Many processing plants have not taken appropriate employee safety measures into consideration.

Locally & nationally, in a single day there are state & federal meat inspectors traveling between slaughter facilities. This may have implications down the line if inspectors test positive.

Here in Vermont, meat producers have redirected to relocalization of distribution. With the loss of restaurant accounts they are seeking alternative models to sell their high-demand products at the retail level. At Maple Wind Farm it is an exciting time with online sales & new distribution direct to consumers. In the past 4-5 weeks there been a large increase of online sales. Their home delivery which was in place before Covid-19 went from 6 to 60 households in one week.
Our friends at Snug Valley Farm are providing a farm update. Since losing accounts with the onset of Covid 19, they like so many are building resiliency to keep their cash flow strong while meeting the new demands from customers wanting to buy locally. Read about their efforts to keep on keeping on.
Lesser Distribution, based in Waitsfield shortens the supply chain to stores. Focused on Vermont grocery shelf stable & frozen products they have seen sales increase. Since Covid-19 they have seen a great uptick in frozen foods including Gracie's Tamales, super easy for dinner & are flying off the shelves at the Middlebury Coop. A big hit: launch of BOVE's Salad Dressing! The dressings have all the great flavor expected by Bove's fans & the Maple Balsamic is super delish on spring greens.
What we are hearing from the farmer / producer side

Hannaford Career Center finds a new outlet through ACORN's direct to consumer online farmers' mkt
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Farm to Plate has been hosting meetings of technical advisers, non-profits, government & businesses to help us address current issues. Topics change but all are associated with supporting our economic viability. The meetings are recorded & available for review in the Covid-collection
Small Bites is intended to connect & share your valued work. We at Farm to Plate know producers, distributors & stores are front & center in helping keep communities safely connected to meet immediate, pressing & ever changing needs in this uncertain time.
Thank you to all the farmers, producers, distributors & suppliers who spoke with us providing first hand information for this update. Your insider-view has been so helpful in this uncertain time.

Stay Home, Stay Safe

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


Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund