4th Annual Producer and Buyer Forum - Registration is Now Open!

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The 4th Annual Producer, Buyer and Distributor Forum will be Wednesday, October 16 at Kirk Alumni Hall, Middlebury College, from 8:30 AM - 2:30 PM. This event will connect buyers, producers across all food categories, distributors and food system thinkers. There will be a panel, a Keynote and networking for building strong alliances that promote stronger business to business partnerships.

Buyer from Sweet Clover Market, Hanover Co-op, Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, Healthy Living, Sodexo and Skinny Pancake and distributors from Black River Produce, Upper Valley Produce, Lesser Distribution and Pumpkin Village will all be in attendance.

Registration is open and there are only a few spots left.

This is an engaging day with farmers, food producers, manufacturers, buyers and distributors at all scales.

A few of our speakers include:

  • Dan Horan as Keynote: Positively Local Five Acre Farms in N.Y. will bring a comprehensive perspective on the rewards and risks of growing your business

  • Allie Dercoli of FinAllie Ferments will give insights on buying directly from local vegetable producers

  • Heather Belcher of Sweet Clover Market will offer advice from a buyer and understanding business growth objectives

  • Seth MacCausland of Pumpkin Village Foods is a distributor who sells Vermont products to buyers in Brooklyn, NY 

  • Benjy Adler of Skinny Pancake will discuss their mission to purchase from local suppliers across all categories and to expand to the greater Northeast regio

Only a few seats left! Grab them before prices go up. Register for this unique B2B event here.

ACORN’s 2019 Winter Workshop Series

Thanks for coming out, we wish you a successful 2019 growing season!


Feb. 20: Hemp Growers’ Workshop

Who: Facilitated by Heather Darby of UVM Extension and Rye Matthews & Pat Fifield from NE Hemp Commodities

What: This workshop covered what every hemp grower should be aware of before getting started, effective practices from irrigation to understanding the basics of the plants, understanding CBD is an expanding market, a Who's who of Addison County hemp growers and processor and more.

Feb. 22: Meet & expand into new markets successfully

Who: Facilitated by Seth Walker of Healthy Living Market and Dan Reilly of Equinox Food Brokers, a Vermont company that specializes in helping growing businesses understand the processes & expectations of distribution. Seth presented information on selling direct to stores & share information on their new purchasing protocol. Between the two facilitators, this was an opportunity to help meet & expand into new markets successfully.  

Sponsored by Addison County Economic Development Corp and ACORNthis meet up included time for businesses to engage with each other and share successes, challenges & failures. This was designed for small and emerging businesses. Ideal for specialty food producers & farmers with value-added producers and a great follow-up from our November 7th Producer Buyer Forum.

Feb. 26: Hemp Happy Hour

What: This hemp round robin was a follow-up to previous hemp meetings and workshops hosted by ACORN. Established growers Rye Matthews and Pat Fifield were there.

This was super small, casual shop-talk hang out where we dug deeper into soils, irrigation, equipment, CBD clones, cultivars, and more!

Feb. 27: Work-Life-Farm Balance Meet Up for Women Farmers

Who: Facilitated by Bay Hammond of Doolittle Farm- farmer, grandmother, educator in sustainability & Taylor Hutchison, of Footprint Farm, young farmer extraordinaire, who shared insights creating home, work and life balance. 

Bay and Taylor represented a continuum of experiences across decades of farming and lifestyle changes. This was a fun group of people. VT Young Farmers & ACORN sponsored this meet up with women farmers learning first hand what it takes to move towards the elusive "work/life balance.”

March 13: Grower to Grower: Meeting Market Demand for Organic Corn

Who: Organic corn is a much sought after ingredient for VT Tortilla Company. This grower to grower workshop covered sourcing for future demand for organic corn, fertility and crop rotations to meet market demands. This was for producers seeking to learn more about crops to meet expanding demand for locally sourced ingredient. Azur Moulaert of Vermont Tortilla and farmers growing corn to meet their needs lead the conversation.

Photos from 2019’s Winter Workshops

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3rd Annual Producer, Buyer and Distributor Forum was Wednesday, November 7, 2018

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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 were 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.

Grower Meetings in 2016

ACORN Growers meeting, tandem, bristol, january 2016

ACORN Growers meeting, tandem, bristol, january 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

    • Delivery

    • 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

  • Bartering

  • Agritourism

  • 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

  • Labor

  • 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

  • Costs:

    • 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 Producer and buyer forum, march 2016

ACORN Producer and buyer forum, march 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!

Charlie mitchell, cao of middlebury foods, discusses sourcing from local, regional and statewide markets

Charlie mitchell, cao of middlebury foods, discusses sourcing from local, regional and statewide markets

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.

Grower Workshops

fsma, raps and gaps workshop, uvm extension, middlebury, march 2016

fsma, raps and gaps workshop, uvm extension, middlebury, march 2016

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

  • Labeling

  • Understanding Costs of Production

If you'd like to request or host a workshop with ACORN, please contact us at info@acornvt.org.

Feedback from attendees

Today was a great event - chapeau!! Really well organized, informative, and inspiring.
— Food Producer & Business Owner, Bristol
Thanks for all your good work!
— Diversified Vegetable, Flower and Pork Farmer, Sudbury
Thank you! Great having ACORN as a catalyst in the community.
— Program Manager, Local Non-Profit Educational Farm, Bristol
Great workshop, thanks!
— Farmer and NOFA representative, Vergennes
Thank you for the meeting. I enjoy the diversity of the people/producers, the energy of the people.
— Pork and Beef Producer, West Addison
Glad you are holding these get- togethers. It’s great to get out and exchange ideas, find out what other people are thinking, etc.
— Winter Greens and Flowers Grower, Charlotte
Thank you for a great overview of markets in the area.
— Beef and Hay Farmer, Brandon