Staff Training=Service & Sales
Chappelle's Potatoes: the ultimate seasonal must have in your produce department
Grocers: Teaching your staff
This winter customers are going to be hunkering down in the kitchen even more than they have been. This of course means they will face lots of seasonal produce options.
For stores, this is an opportunity to up-train your staff to help inform shoppers on the wonderful range of produce. Knowledge is key to running a successful department & even more so with first time cooks boosting their skills with soups, stews, roasted vegetables & more. Let's take a look at the potato & share some info to help you with sales.

Chappelle's Potatoes, in Williamstown grow, pack & ship premium quality for retail & prepared foods departments. They are currently in full harvest mode, followed by grading, & packing for distribution. Though they grow more than 30 varieties, they have chosen a few select varieties for DSD sales to stores & through distributors including Green Mountain Farm Direct & to stores including Jericho Market.
Reba: The "all purpose" potato if there ever was one! This round, smoothed skin "white" variety is full of flavor, can be boiled, baked, roasted, mashed or home-fried with success for even a new cook. It is a must have in your produce department.
Chiefton: A round, "red” potato with many applications. It works well for roasting with other vegetables, while boiling accentuates its "floury fluffiness" which is a perfect vehicle for butter, roasted garlic & a dash of Vermont cream. This is a staple New England potato for all the right reasons-growing conditions & simple ways to complement its flavor.
Yukon Gold: the new “gold” standard is generally round, "waxier" & less starchy than other varieties, making it less desirable for shredded potatoes / hash browns. It bakes up well but depending on what folks like, it may or may not be a number one choice. It makes for a slightly nutty, yellow toned mashed.Though not suitable for twice baked/ jacket potatoes is fabulous sautéed with rosemary & garlic as a quick side dish with a favorite protein.
The more your staff learns, the better the service which increases customer engagement & trust in your staff. More info useful on potatoes can be found here. Potatoes offer consistent sales all year; learning the intricacies of winter varieties can help shoppers with right potato-right use. Random searches can also yield helpful info.
Seasonings can make a meal
If there is one thing shoppers new to cooking need- it is inspiration & a little nudge. Like a Little Bottle Spice Company nudge! This new Vermont company ships direct to your store; contact them for winter seasonings all perfectly blended. Bring these on as cross promotion with your newly refreshed potato display or for new cuts of local meat you are bring in.
In-store Trainings are FUN

Hands-on merchandising is one way to rethink space while putting into practice standard retail practices. This week, at The Genny, (aka Craftsbury General Store) the crew worked hand in hand to reset the dry produce rack. This provided an opportunity to address concerns in this small store: better use of space, labor efficiency, & tweaking space to look abundant between deliveries. Team training brings staff together despite not having the same views or perhaps even the same approach. By working together, engaging re-sets are fun, rewarding, & inspire renewed cohesive energy.
With support from Farm to Plate Retail Services, your store can get a refreshing new look & re-engage staff training. Reach out to us to schedule a staff training.
Does your store carry Vermont Nut Free Chocolates? They are a premiere go-to brand for customers seeking a nut-free top quality chocolate option. Introduce their line to every corner of the state. Perfect for concierge curbside service in second homes & among our many travelers. VNFC makes their product available DSD to every store, including Keeler Bay Variety. Dive into their wholesale info available & consider bringing them on.
Last week it was announced that "Strolling of the Heifers, has taken action to suspend all programs including Windham Grows, Farm to Table Apprenticeship Program and Work Training Site events. This action is taken due to the impact that COVID-19 has had on the financial operations of Strolling of the Heifers that is very dependent on the annual parade and associated events for its operation."
Myers Produce reaching NYC by way of dropping off VT products along the way
Distribution sales opportunities
It is a busy time of year for farmers, distributors & retailers all gearing up for the holidays. Add to that uncertainties in supply chain variables due to a pandemic & you have super focused workers carrying out their duties.
Distributors are keeping their supplies coming in-depending on type of products there may be significant impacts to supply from delays related to covid, hurricanes, wildfire, seasonal trucking challenges, or product shortages due to labor.
Regardless of how this plays out, stores will have ample products going into winter with some anticipated delays. Distributors are doing their part to stay in touch with all their suppliers then turning that info out to their store accounts. Each portion of the food supply chain knows shoppers are cooking at home more. As we enter winter, preparing for this has certain challenges.

Distributors sales & in-store marketing help sell cross-promoted items which helps the busy, fatigued customer. Stores can also work with distributor reps & ask for short term promotional pricing that helps up-sell via cross-promotions. Food manufactures across categories lost restaurant accounts due to covid, creating enormous pressure. Depending on how they pivoted, they may not be a financial position to offer discount. If you are comfortable asking, it cannot hurt, & may help them regain sales lost at the beginning of the pandemic. 
Nothing moves food like a highly successful local store expanding its footprint! Congratulations to Healthy Living Market now in three locations. The newest opened this week in Williston with an ambitious goal to capture the mid-size store experience across the northeast. This family owned chain serves the health food & local food shopper with a full selection of products in all departments.
Running a store in a pandemic is a challenge. OPENING ONE is even more so. The entire management, design, & line staff did an amazing job getting this opened in October. Farm to Plate looks forward to an increase in VT products sold through this store with a deep ethos to our mission. 
Quote of the Week

"A great grocery store is the cornerstone of all great communities, and we are thrilled to open our third store in Williston, a community we love." -Eli Lesser-Goldsmith,Healthy Living Market.
Creating steady sales for farmers requires an educated service staff that improves the shopper experience. Produce staff should check out this handy winter squash guide to help staff be the best they can be while increasing sales in the Produce department. Information is key to educating shoppers. This time of year, “varieties are abundant” (think squash, potatoes apples) providing new opportunities for cross-category displays & utilizing "dummy displays” that protect integrity while promoting abundance.
Cedar Circle Farm has a created a useful training tool for winter squash cooking info. Also, a fairly comprehensive list of squash attributes can be found here. Mastery of the varieties can seriously help generate sales by building trust by shoppers for the knowledge imparted by engaged staff. 
Adams Turkey Farm is directing customers to their retail store accounts rather than on-farm pick up. Stores such as the Jericho
Market & Sweet Clover Market may see an increase in turkey customers this year to reduced foot traffic on the farm. With the resurgence of covid 19 it is unclear how family
gatherings will evolve this year. But the turkeys are going to be ready no
matter what! Some store-adaptable retail tips for turkey orders can be found here.
A couple more things to consider
NOFA-VT has put together a guidebook for direct-marketing farmers who are looking to expand their offerings to SNAP customersIt provides step-by-step instructions for farms to accept SNAP on their farm, at farmers markets, & through CSAs or delivery.

Happy Bird Poultry Farm in Isle LaMotte is scaling to meet the needs of stores, CSA's, & farmstands. They are seeking new outlets in northern Vermont. Contact the farm directly for distribution details.
Farm to Plate encourages all network partners to join our 10th Annual Gathering, November 12 & 13. A virtual experience will keep us all safe. Sign up & add your perspective to the many conversations. Grocers, farmers, distributors, VT food manufacturers & activists are encouraged to attend. Scholarships are available 
VAAFM has a regular e-news of info & resources for farmers & interested folks. We encourage stores & distributors become informed on agricultural issues & solutions to our vibrant agriculture. Find the current issue & sign up here.
Unless otherwise noted, photo credits are from company social media, websites or Annie Harlow

Sign up for free in-store training while there is still time!
Contact: Annie H Harlow

Grateful for the funding support provided by High Meadows Fund
Week 34 of Covid October 29, 2020