Week 9: May 13 Changes are Coming
Safety first at the Middlebury Coop
What we are hearing from the
front line at stores
Coming up this week: A relaxation of some requirements allowing more businesses to open. This will likely mean more people will be out shopping. How will food stores adapt? Per the state, masks for employees will be required as will limits on the number of shoppers at a time to enforce social distancing. Some stores will not allow entrance without a mask. Covid-19 has taxed staffing since March. The new guidelines offer staffing pressure in monitoring shoppers's adherence to safety measures.

  • Ongoing at many stores: recommendations to limit the size of shopping parties & planning ahead to minimize shopping trips
  • Middlebury Coop uses data to encourage shoppers to flatten the shopping curve
  • Masks available for staff & shoppers will increase
  • Safety measures matter: Pratt's store is installing glass barriers to reintroduce in-store service for safety of staff & shoppers
  • Being vigilant with social distancing to keep us all safe, masks are being purchased for customer use
  • Hand sanitizer, disposable gloves & masks are becoming more readily available as part of new standard service offerings
  • Stores are increasing shopping hours: May 12th the Warren Store re-opened for take out only. Their fabulous sandwiches are back!
  • Mehuron's in Waitsfield has returned to regular hours with a powerful request that out of staters quarantine for 14 day before shopping
  • Keeler's Bay Variety will be opening back up on Friday, requiring masks be worn. They are offering masks for shoppers who do not bring their own.
  • On-going sanitizing will continue to be part of safety measures & stores see there are added labor costs
  • Families are more & more interested in labor saving dinners. VT Tortilla Company is seeing an increase in sales to stores- easy dinner choices for families are in order
  • Pre-made comfort food are the rave! Homemade meatballs at D&K in Jamaica & Friday night pizza night via BMC in Hardwick
  • Video at JJ Hapgood helps shoppers stay up to date on product availability for curbside
  • Decisions are ongoing & continues to challenge in-store cafes & takeout practices
  • Produce stocking is not the same with curbside! Coolers are used as back-stock & easy access
  • Buffalo Mountain Coop is looking ahead to build a stronger local economy post-pandemic. Likely what the Columinate talk will cover on May 14th
  • Many stores are no longer taking returnables due to hauler bottlenecks
All the retailing tips Farm to Plate has shared are on the back burner as stores are keeping up with curbside sales.
"We are working ten times harder for half the sales"
- Kate Turcott Orb Weaver Cheese
A sentiment we are hearing widely. The work-load & multiple transitions from Covid-19 are ongoing & costly
Looking ahead, how are stores serving their distinct communities going to adapt? So much is changing so quickly right now co-ops are uniquely positioned to serve their communities beyond ‘business -as-usual’ in the future. On May 14, 1:00 est, join Farm to Plate friend & colleague Mark Mulcahy to discuss how co-ops can have a larger role & how co-ops can be even more engaged for a better society.
Calling all businesses that had to close their doors to the general public or alter in-person services, including retailers with physical storefronts.
Love Vermont: is a directory of businesses affected by the pandemic closings (restaurants, salons, coffee shops, lodging establishments, etc.) , now selling gift-certificates online, offering take-out meals, online shopping, discounts or asking for donations to support the business. This widely promoted campaign is helping Vermonters support Vermonters
Middlebury Coop found that sales data can help shoppers flatten the customer count curve. At the beginning of the Covid-19 shift it was valuable to help direct immediate needs. They are now reintroducing data by sharing the previous weeks' customer counts so shoppers can select their shopping time accordingly.
Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The guidelines are the law & agriculture is not exempt from these orders.  Questions? 800-287-2765 
Glass installation at Pratt's Store: precautions reopening steps for safety
Specialty Food Association & has a Wednesday webinar series for businesses. Find all the info here.
By Request! Re-posting hot links:
Black River Produce: providing critical service
What we are hearing from the distribution & supply side
"Grocery prices showed their biggest monthly increase in nearly 50 years last month, led by rising prices for meat & eggs, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week. US consumers paid 4.3 % more in April for protein: meat, poultry, fish & eggs; cereal & bakery climbed 2.9%. It came in a month when more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs." - WAPO

The increases are attributed to changing purchasing patterns-shifts in where or how businesses were buying & supply chain disruptions. A current unknown for May is what happens to the production & supply as restaurants across the country begin to open up.

Locally distributors are seeing gaps in meat, while greenhouse greens & early spring crops are available direct from producer to stores. National produce supply appears to be holding strong with plenty of product reaching store shelves. Farm stands & pop-up CSA's are opening up with purchases from our local distributors including specialty foods from VT Roots & direct from a wide range of producers. More & more we are seeing the emphasis & need to support local producers to avert pressures & impacts of reliance on national suppliers.

Locally Upper Valley Produce is still offering " Stay in your bubble curbside pick up service" to help meet needs with value-driven curbside service.
Labor costs are going to increase. Kroger has hired 10K into jobs “dedicated to keeping our stores clean,” which are certainly roles that didn’t previously exist. These new costs have been offset by dollars flowing into the grocery channel during the pandemic, but if these requirements stay in place in the long term, these extra costs could be a drag.
-Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen
These costs & this uncertainty is not limited to Krogers; the impact is felt throughout production & distribution at stores both small & large.
Vermont beverage producers & distributors are working to reduce waste, creating a spirit of collaboration to create hand sanitizer. The need for long-term use of sanitizer is going to be with us. As the brewer, distiller & kombucha makers ramp back up, can sanitizer production continue when the are back in full production mode? Vermonters will likely want to continue to have this available.
C heck out the sanitizer collaboration
Printable signs for shopper safety on the farm
What we are hearing from the farmer / producer side

Mothers'Day weekend is usually a big weekend for farms with bedding plants & hanging baskets. This year, between snow & Covid-19 it was unusually slow. Among farmers there is chatter about safety & new Covid-19 o-farm protocols. Some useful links are below:
  • Masks are a hot item to have on hand as stores, farmstands & staff seek to keep up safety standards
  • Easy to print on-farm signage to promote safety, social distancing & bio security through through UVM Ext AgTourism
  • Since mid March sanitizer for use on surfaces & FDA approved formulas for hands is made in the state by distillers & brewers. Mad River Distillers is making WHO compliant hand sanitizer selling in 5 gallon pails
  • A farm-based retail zoom conversation hosted by UVM Extension will be posted soon! Catch it when you can, useful info on what is happening with direct to consumer sales. Farmers- check out the entire farmer webinar series
  • Online markets are bringing food direct to consumer in a myriad of ways while helping farmers cover sales lost when restaurants closed. Each market is unique in ordering, back-end set up & shopper experience pick-up. Northshire Grown has sold $57,000 of local food direct to consumers in a month!
  • Hannaford Career Center's student greenhouse project in only 5 delivery days has sold over $4000 in plants through the ACORN online farmers' market enough to cover its financial needs to start the 2021 season. Well done!
  • For enhanced safety measure, farmers need resources for hand washing stations for PYO & at farmstands. Kittridge Supply in Williston has cold-water portable stations available for purchase for longer term investment along with other products useful for full service farmstands
  • Info for Farms Preparing for PYO: including PYO risk reduction
  • For optimal safety, farmers are deep cleaning their coolers using this UVM Ext checklist
  • Links & enormous support from a great team at VAAFM
  • Greenhouses are busting with gorgeous plants, cut flower & ready to plant seedlings for the large number of first time home gardeners
Fleur Flower Farm in East Dorset, sells through Nature's Market
Farm to Plate hosts 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 & in the Covid-collection
Small Bites connects & shares your valued work. Farm to Plate knows producers, distributors & stores are front & center in helping keep communities safely connected to meet immediate, pressing & ever changing needs.
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 Safe, Wear Your Mask

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


Funding support provided by USDA & VAAFM & High Meadows Fund