Small Bites May 21, 2021
dedicated to the VT food system supply chain creating opportunities
to sell more VT products to more buyers

Let's talk staffing. We have heard from stores that this is one seriously challenging time to hire new staff. They have told us, everything is topsy-turvy. The crisis with employees is a national issue. Locally the inside scoop for stores, prepared foods & restaurants, & distribution & trucking are all saying similar threads: It is tough. It is hard to compete.
Recruitment has taken on more hyper-local avenues such as Front Porch Forum, social media, tagging, peer to peer, word of mouth. Some businesses are providing sign-on bonuses or incentives for successful hires recommended by employees.

At Mad River Taste Place, they are clear. "Prior experience is not necessary but a positive attitude, interest in learning, ability to hustle & Saturday availability is a must." In the food business it is always crazy around holidays & summer in Vermont means busy weekends.

When interviewing potential staff, it is imperative that clarity around just how busy stores get is part of the process. Honest conversations are a must to set expectations that "black-out dates" mean no one gets time off. That can be a real issue for some, being clear is important in the interview.
With $15 minimum wage discussions also part of the national discussion, there can be added pressure to onboard new staff at a much higher wage than long term employees. With the disruption from covid, stores have been grabbling with wage structures, staffing & policy consistency in a changed landscape. Stay tuned for more on hiring.
"Our most successful recruits have come on board when we are not actually seeking to fill positions, but we recognize that they have potential and they are excited to be a part of the business, and more importantly, our community as a whole." - Lauren at Brownesville Butcher & Pantry
New Leaf Farm, in Dummerston has early spinach for its CSA shares, restaurants & when crops exceed the shares, they sell to local stores such as the Putney Coop. As we well know every year has different variables. This banner Spring weather is making early greens, radish, & asparagus pop. With local sales still going strong from the 2020 influences, New Leaf is poised for strong sales & customer engagement.
Stores across the state are stocking their coolers with the best of the early season. Juggling orders between local vendors can be a challenge. A tip for Produce Buyers: keep an eye on the weather, because crops grow fast & farmers like to get the early sales from the community-based stores. Engage in conversations with your producers to shift availability to local farms for the sudden offer from farms like New Leaf CSA.
The National Grocers Association, now provides a SNAP Online Purchasing Toolkit. The kit shows how retailers can prepare to accept SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) payments online. It is free to members of NGA or can be purchased by nonmembers.
The Magic Spoon Bakery, the newest vendor at AR Market in Barre
Vermont Product Highlights

The Magic Spoon Bakery in Hardwick is well known up north for their cookies &other baked goods. Their reputation is moving southward with sales through Kathy Killam Distribution. Stores from Willey's Grocery & hardware store in Greensboro, to the Middlebury Natural Foods Coop, the specialties include Mediterranean delights as well as classic cinnamon rolls & baking powder biscuits. The cookies are a new vendor at AR Market in Barre. Using local King Arthur Baking Co flour, the bakery welcomes new stores to meet the anticipated increased summer demand as pandemic restrictions ease. Contact the bakery for DSD for distributor info.   
Booch Baby Kombucha, producer of small batches sourcing from Dutton Farm for berries, beets & other ingredients. Sold locally at West River Provisions in Jamaica.
Mad River Taste Place in Waitsfield, is preparing for a super busy summer season. The amazing May weather is helping sales along; staycationing Vermonters & early-bird tourists are getting a jump on the season. VT products are the base of their inventory across all categories. Need work? They are hiring!
You hear it again & again self-distribution or DSD helps businesses build relationships. The personal approach can be very advantageous to both producers & buyers. Delivering food has costs that need periodic evaluation. Using the distribution cost calculator available through NOFA is available to determine the breakeven values. It does not include the social aspects of delivery services.
Ardelia Farm in Irasburg made many changes in the past year which includes new relations with their customers & more direct sales to consumers through meal deliveries. With pandemic restrictions easing & changes on the horizon, more business adaptations are likely to emerge this summer. That said, relationships mean more to the farm than ever. 
Speaking of relationships & distribution, Kiss the Cow in Barnard produces a super-premium ice cream made on the farm in small batches using their grass-grown organic cream, milk & eggs. The exceptional ice cream owes its outstanding flavor & texture to using local, organic, & seasonal ingredients, all of which combine to create a creamy, flavorful ice cream. Sold in their farm store in Barnard along with loads of products from local farms including Free Verse Farm & Apothecary, Spring Brook award winning cheese & Rogers Farmstead yogurt & chocolate milk.
KTC holds the certifications & licenses to sell pasteurized milk & ice cream to stores across the state. Their products are available at a number of excellent stores including Butcher & Pantry, Woodstock Farmers Market, SoRo Coop & (check out their virtual store tour too!) Dan & Whit's (home of the famous Monday Minutes!). When out delivering their ice cream, ‘Kiss’ also picks up products from local producers including vegies from Bear Roots Farm to sell at their farm store. It is a win-win for everyone!
Farmers Take Note

VAAFM Retail Licenses: Be sure you are in the know for products you sell at your farm store.
    Frozen Dessert: Agency licenses all creemee machines as well as companies making gelato, ice cream & other frozen desserts such as cheese cake and ice cream sandwiches. Inspection includes adherence to food safety protocols & proper handling of ingredients.
 Milk: Business selling milk should register with the Agency.
Meat Retail Prepackaged meats: Agency works closely with stores that have pre-packaged meats such as beef jerky, bologna, hotdogs, slim Jim’s etc. Also, those that sell pre-packaged meat at farmer’s markets. Inspection for proper storage, ability to determine when pre-packaged meat has gone bad – leakers and bloated packages as well as proper temperature at retail. 
     Meat Retail Small Vendor: License for retail stores that have a deli counter as well as meat display cases. Make sure meat is handled properly to ensure food safety in display as well as storage, products properly labeled as to species, proper cut, fat claims, etc. as well as overall sanitary conditions. License & inspection program at all stores. 
    Meat Retail Large Vendor: License for larger retail stores that have deli counter and large meat display cases. Make sure meat is handled properly to ensure food safety in display as well as storage, products properly labeled as to species, proper cut, fat claims, etc. as well as overall sanitary conditions. License & inspection program at all stores.

Welcoming folks back on your farm? A team of ag service providers provide personalized safety assessments virtually or on your farm. Sign up here.

Open Farm Week is back for 2021! Sign your farm up now for the August event. It is a place for folks to (virtually, or in person) meet the farmers, plants, & animals that bring your favorite high-quality Vermont products to your store & your plate.  
VT Specialty Food Association Spring Annual Meeting 

The annual meeting is Wednesday, June 9th from 1:00pm to 3:30pm & is virtual. This 2.5-hour educational event will feature a keynote speaker from King Arthur Baking Company, a presentation on Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) & a session How to sell on InstagramView the full agenda here. If you can’t make the event, register anyway to receive links to recordings & supporting documents.
In case you missed this last week...

"Your favorite ice cream probably comes in a round container. But before the 1990s, it probably was packaged in square boxes. Why the switch for the sweets? According to Vice, it all comes down to much simpler and streamlined production. Boxes require assembly before they can be filled, while cylindrical cartons arrive at plants ready to go. Consumers also found that scooping was much easier coming out of a cylindrical carton than a square box, which often mucked up their knuckles as they dug in." -From The Counter
Consider Kiss the Cow to augment your local-grassfed-organic ice cream category!