ACORN hosts Producers and Buyers forum

MIDDLEBURY — Growers, food producers, buyers and distributors attended the Producers and Buyers Forum: Local to Global that was hosted Nov. at Middlebury College by Addison County Relocalization Network, known as ACORN.
The forum started with a keynote address by Greg Georgaklis of Farmers to You, linking together issues around local and national food production and distribution. He delivered the message that consolidation within production, distribution and retail outlets affects Vermont producers’ profit margins for their fresh and valued-added products.
Unlike many gatherings, ACORN’s focus was on the ability for deep conversations among peers to explore various perspectives around existing and emerging local food markets including the “Amazon effect,” new markets and market opportunities for crafted ingredients such as CBD hemp, artisan produced-hop varieties, Healthcare Share prescriptions and distribution variables.
Topics were introduced by panelists including Jonathan Slason of Resource Systems Group, Kathleen Norris of Homestead Hops, Gemma DiPalma of Five Acre Farms, Ben Maniscalco of Benito’s Hot Sauce, and Dan Chang of Kria, among other notable speakers.
Forum organizers said that following the panels was two hours of in-depth conversations among attendees where business connections were made and information shared.
Tom Berry, agricultural policy advisor for Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office, said he benefited greatly from the event.
“It brought together many energized and creative Vermonters working and taking risks in agricultural businesses,” Berry said. “These folks represent important parts of Vermont’s economic and agricultural future.”
Also representing our federal representatives was Erica Campbell, outreach representative for Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“ACORN has long connected farmers with consumers, and now we’re seeing even more ways that local food can improve access to nutritious foods needed to keep people healthy,” Campbell said. “Programs such as Health Care Shares vegetable ‘prescriptions’ are helping make farm-fresh food more available and affordable for Vermonters. We are excited to see that Addison County now has its first Health Care Shares program up and running at Mountain Health Center in Bristol. Sen. Sanders would like to see more federal support for ‘food as medicine’ programs, and Community Health Centers are well-positioned to provide healthy food to patients who need it most.”
ACORN hosted the first forum in March of 2016 to bring together buyers and producers around topics of interest to increase distribution opportunities. The forums are designed to develop new relationships that stimulate business through deep, honest, peer-to-peer conversations.
“I was delighted with the level of discussion, collaboration and follow-up from the Health Care break-out group,” ACORN board member Rich Carpenter said. “These forums are a real contribution to the community and accentuate our role as convener and catalyst.”
Attendees came from across Vermont, including from the Northeast Kingdom to Londonderry, to share insights and input in conversations on the state of local and regional markets that impact farmers, value-added and specialty foods businesses that will help Vermont reach the Farm to Plate network goals to increase production and sale of Vermont products both within Vermont and the New England region.

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