Collaborations with Farmers in the Champlain Valley
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
February 1: Business 2 Business Growing Your Food Business with Farmhouse Chocolates, Stonecutter Spirits, Krin’s Bakery 5:00-7:00pm Happy Hour, Stonecutter Spirits, 1197 Exchange St, Middlebury
February 7: Business 2 Business Creating a Nimble Brand with V Smiley Preserves & Jess Messer of Savoure and MORE! 5:00-7:00pm, Tandem, 26 Main Street, Bristol
Feb 13: How to Work with Distributors to Open Up New Market Opportunities with Vermont Roots & Upper Valley Produce, 9:30-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: A Discussion on a successful Venture with Vermont Fresh Network & local farms, TBA, On a local farm or UVM Extension Office, 23 Pond Lane; corner of Exchange St & Mainelli Roads, Middlebury
March: Farm Hack with Young Farmers Coalition; On-farm location TBA
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.
2nd Annual Producer Buyer Forum was Nov. 2, 2017
A keynote by Greg Georgaklis, of Farmers to You, covered the intertwined topics of eight panelists. The event is created so buyers, producers across all food categories, distributors and food system thinkers can have plenty of time to work the room, network and build strong alliances that promote stronger business to business partnerships.
We have been receiving fabulous feedback on this unique format which guarantees time to delve into deep conversations. Thanks to all who came from around the state to support our concept. We think we are on to something unique to help reach Farm to Plate goals.
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
- Sustainable incomes
- 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:
- Grant writing
- 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:
- Unpredictable weather
- 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 email@example.com.