3rd Annual Producer, Buyer and Distributor Forum was Wednesday, November 7, 2018
This event connects buyers, producers across all food categories, distributors and food system thinkers. The 2018 Forum was held Wednesday, November 7 at Kirk Alumni Hall, Middlebury College. This event connected buyers, producers across all food categories, distributors and food system thinkers. There was a panel, a Keynote by April Moulaert of Vermont Tortilla Company and networking and strong alliance building to promote stronger business to business partnerships.
Panelists included Netaka White, hemp consultant, Marikje Shemendine of It's Arthur's Fault! Sauces and Marinades, Rosalie Schleinig of Red Tomato Produce, Thomas Wentworth, Farm to Plate Consultant, Joshua Pfiel of Vermont Pepperworks and Eli Lesser Goldsmith of Healthy Living, among other notable speakers.
We have been receiving fabulous feedback on this unique format which guarantees time to delve into deep conversations and work together to meet Vermont's Farm to Plate goals.
2018 Grower Workshop Series
All Addison County growers are invited to join us for our series of 2018 ACORN sponsored workshops and gatherings.
January 25: Farm to Farmstand Retailing for Farmers with Annie Harlow, VT Farm to Plate Retail Services
4:30-6:30, UVM Extension Office, 23 Pond Lane; corner of Exchange St & Mainelli Roads, Middlebury
Feb 13: How to Work with Distributors to Open Up New Market Opportunities with Vermont Roots & Upper Valley Produce, 9:00am - 12pm noon, UVM Extension Office, 23 Pond Lane; corner of Exchange St & Mainelli Roads, Middlebury
Feb 22 Meeting New Demand for Hemp: A Grower’s Perspective with VT Hemp Company, 5:00-7:00pm Happy Hour, Stonecutter Spirits, 1197 Exchange St, Middlebury
Feb 28 Ag-Tourism: Engaging Visitors with Farm-Based Education Network, Vermont Fresh Network, UVM Extension & local farms, 9:00am - 12:00pm, Goldenwell Farm and Apiaries, 1089 River Rd, New Haven
March 21: Help reclaim the original meaning of organic. An hour and half of information & conversation around soil-based and animal welfare organic standards with David Miskell at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, 5:00-6:30pm, 142 River Road, New Haven
Pre-registration is required, space is limited. Click on the highlighted title of the workshop you'd like to register for to pay via EventBrite. Light snacks will be provided. All payments are a donation to ACORN's mission and tickets are non-refundable.
Planned Farmer Round Table Series for 2018
ACORN will continue to partner with LOCAL FARMERS to organize round-table discussions about a variety of topics:
Improved soil and clean water
Transitions to the next generation
Grower Meetings in 2016
ACORN hosted a series of grower meetings around Addison County in early 2016. In these intimate meetings, we were able to glean information from growers across food categories and farm sizes.
We learned what obstacles growers were facing, and as well as opportunities for growth and sustainability.
Specifically, growers were interested in:
Networking, collaborating and connecting with other growers regarding:
Developing an honor system for produce/ surplus at a destination to replace previous Bristol farmers' market
Bringing food to a NYC or Boston market (and finding a marketer on the other end)
Filling larger institutional buys
Selling humane meat collectively with other producers
Space to make sausage/ process meat
A business model where growers are willing to sell their produce for less if it goes into a food processing kitchen for foodshelves, summer meals, and schools
Increasing sales in Addison County and out of state
Promoting products to city dwellers who don’t grow their own food
An online platform for selling
Opportunities to sell or donate surplus produce, especially when season is erratic: a simplified market for seasonal fluctuations
A solution for food waste (sell to value added producers?)
A method of getting local food to lower-income communities
Converting to organic
Growing more in winter and less in summer
An education campaign:
To engage people to buy more local and healthier food
People are cooking less, so we need more education on how to cook with fresh ingredients and DIY
Educating the community about values and priorities (perception that local organic food is too expensive, but $6.50 is spent on a latte)
Pay more for quality food
Eat only what’s in season and available
Obstacles growers identified:
Specific pests and weeds
Smokehouses' lack of availability and the public's demand of only bacon or other specific cuts of meat
Hard to get slaughtering dates
Farmers markets' failing:
Home growers and CSAs are negatively affecting farmers' markets
Markets are not time efficient with relation to money earned
Markets aren’t financially viable
Actual sales dates are contracting: there are less market dates every year
There is high competition for the same products
Markets are now more about prepared foods
Lack of financial capacity in Addison County for locals to buy local food
Organic food costs more in Vermont than other places (Seattle, Montreal)
Vermont rental space is expensive for value added producers
The cost of delivery to Burlington: it takes time and is expensive – should farmers form a collective for delivery? How do they fund this? (Costs $100 per stop for Black River Produce to pick up and deliver)
Farmers haven’t gotten paid by some wholesale buyers in the past
Wholesale prices are too low, and farmers can’t price above Black River, but the costs of production for wholesale are high
It is tough for organic prices to compete with conventional prices
Chittenden County is saturated with non-profits and food companies (ie: Intervale is competition with their huge variety of products)
Regulations for regional markets:
GAP is expensive
Paperwork is prohibitive for a farmer; they would have to hire someone, which would drive up prices and/or put farmer out of business
Challenges in selling to local schools:
They’re not open in the summer so are limited to only purchasing fall produce
Farmers have to deliver produce themselves
Schools' budget is 40% of the Co-op’s wholesale price
Chefs and local retail buyers go through management quickly so farmers are constantly re-introducing themselves to get products in store
Local hunger is an issue, how do we connect farmers with those hungry people? There’s a missing link for those who are hungry
How do farms get funding like the food shelf's funding?
The food shelf has too much food and won’t accept more
Farmers want to sell more to local people, in the community, and not to the wealthier people out of the community, but can’t afford to do that due to the costs of production, regulation and delivery
1st Annual ACORN Producer and Buyer Forum in 2016
ACORN hosted the aforementioned series of grower meetings in early 2016 to assess the needs and desires for future workshops and gatherings. These meetings resulted in the first annual ACORN Producer and Buyer Forum at Middlebury College in March 2016. This successful event had over 80 attendees and connected regional and local buyers with farmers and food producers who were looking to scale up and expand sales.
Two panels of buyers spoke from various perspectives: institutions, non-profits, food hubs and retail operations. There was also a "cocktail party" period of time for networking where buyers and farmers were able to connect on a personal level, resulting in new local and regional sourcing contracts!
ACORN plans to organize more grower workshops and host the Forum event annually, with a dynamic theme based on growers' current needs and industry trends.
ACORN also hosts regional workshops based on grower-requested topics, such as:
Food Regulation (FSMA, GAPs and RAPs)
Marketing & Social Media
Business Efficiencies and Infrastructure Audits
Nutrient Management/ Soil Fertility
Understanding Costs of Production
If you'd like to request or host a workshop with ACORN, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.