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.
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
farmers, food producers & advocates have worked hard making local food widely available.
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
. 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,
Supply chain issues, customer inquiries, & market opportunities converged at
Dan & Whit's
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
spring pansies to
dairy products, customers are now buying closer to the source and through Vermont's Food Hub Network with weekly deliveries from
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!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
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.
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
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.
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
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
- Concern of PYO continues as farmers plan for their summer sales. UVM Ext has created some initial guidelines, See the resources Vern has created including PYO risk reduction; Please become a member of VVBGA to support Vern & the entire team's work!
- Producers across all categories are shifting their business models with an unknown cost of these changes on their overall operations.
- May 1 Farmers' markets will be open with new state created guidelines to uphold safety & physical distancing supported by NOFA VT & the Farmers Market Association
- Kingdom Creamery long know as a premium milk, yogurt, & ice cream producer selling across all channels including restaurants, is now undertaking a direct to consumer delivery service. Think the ol' Milkman Route of days gone by. Their routes crisscross from Derby to St J to Montpelier & all of Lamoille County. This service also adds meat, cheese, eggs from other local producers direct to consumer
- Black River Produce has a new logistics program to help move food from farms around the state to stores & food hubs
- Across Vermont farmers are concerned about getting their food to meet the increased need expanding the number of SNAP beneficiaries. As a federal program run by states, it has a lot of support for expansion to meet Vermont's newly Covid-19 unemployed & food insecure.
- CSA's are filling up & farms are expanding their services to meet consumer demand for local food with farm & food collaborations: Maple Wind Farm is adapting creating ordering fulfillment efficiencies & offering products from other local producers
- Online platforms remain hot: list of online ordering & inventory management platforms useful to streamline ordering & curbside pick up process and/or aggregation.
- Selling dairy as part of a CSA? Find out if you need a handlers license direct your questions to E.B. Flory
- UVM Extension Covid farmer webinar series has been excellent! Next one is May 6 with topic covering farmer retailing under new Covid guidelines. sign up now
- VAAFM has been helpful to farmers with links & enormous support from a great team!
- Vital communities local farm & food guide is your Upper Valley business listed?
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.