ACORN unites food supply chain

MIDDLEBURY — Growers, food producers, retail and institutional buyers and distributors attended the Producers and Buyers Forum: How Big, How Fast, How Far. Hosted by ACORN, Addison County Relocalization Network it took place on November 7th at Kirk Alumni Hall. The Forum started with a Keynote by April Moulaert of Vermont Tortilla Company linking together a business vision, creating a viable brand, while matching the scale of growth to reach markets outside of Vermont. Creating a high quality product and doing so in a way that meets personal and professional ethos is a prominent part of the story of this emerging company.
Unlike many gatherings, ACORN’s focus was on conversations among peers to explore various perspectives around existing and emerging local food markets tied to the scale of ones’ business and opportunities to share insights on a range of topics including local and regional distribution logistics, how to market the story of your business and trends such as CBD hemp, and insights on building relationships.
Topics were introduced by panelists Marikje Shemendine of It’s Arthur’s Fault, Dan Reilly of Equinox Food Brokers, Thomas Wentworth of Vermont Farm to Plate and Maria Mastanduno of Red Tomato among other notable speakers. Following the panelist, was 2 hours of in depth conversations where business connections were made and information shared. Eli Lesser Goldsmith of Healthy Living shared insights on successful ways to bring products to markets.
Dan Reilly, panelist representing Equinox Food Broker says of the opportunity to meet businesses at the Forum, “I really enjoyed being able to meet businesses and feel like I made some good connections. I also think I was able to give some producers good insight into the distribution world and educate them on some of the challenges and benefits of working with them to reach new markets inside Vermont and to the greater NE region”.
Bringing together the full supply chain helps Vermont food businesses reach new markets. Attending were distributors from out of state seeking new Vermont products and the chance to meet producers they already work with. The Forum is a unique event where peer to peer sharing is paramount to success business growth. Local farmers, food manufacturers, co-packers, brokers, buyers and distributors engaged in the roundtable conversations. Laura Brace of Porter Medical says of the Forum, “This was an opportunity for me to become aware of local meat producers to increase my local purchases”.
2018 Middlebury College graduate, Thomas Wentworth of Vermont Farm to Plate, introduced the pilot stage of the Vermont Producer Distributor Data Base, a listing of over 750 independent food businesses and their current methods of distribution. This was a collaboration led by Forum organizer Annie Harlow to increase the visibility of Vermont food producers and enhance the distribution options of the products. The data base is a tool designed to help buyers and distributors become more aware of Vermont products with its various search capacities. Introducing it to this group provided engaging conversation and the potential to expand the access of Vermont products to the region,
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 foster new business to business relationships stimulate deep, honest peer to peer conversations.
Attendees traveled across Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts to share insights through topically engaging conversations on the state of local and regional markets that will help Vermont reach the Farm to Plate network goals to increase production and sale of Vermont products both within Vermont and the NE region. 

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