1) Direct Connections – Building and strengthening relationships, through direct lines of communication, between food service staff and local farmers and producers is the quintessential method for creating a strong, sustainable, local food presence in our school cafeterias.
However, given time constraints, this is not always possible. Therefore, we have been working to develop another model for local food distribution.
2) Developing a Local Food Distribution System
Know Your Farmer • Buy Local • Make the Connection™
Windham Farm and Food Network (WFFN) is a not-for-profit, farmer-owned, UVM Extension supported, PRODUCE DELIVERY SERVICE for wholesale buyers in the Windham County Area. WFFN farmers collaborate to produce a reliable and affordable inventory with convenient ordering and billing. We piggyback several local farms onto Westminster Organic’s local delivery truck and pick-up and deliver en-route, resulting in low-cost and super fresh local products.
3) Local Foods Matchmaker Events – The Local Foods Matchmaker, a third model which has shown great success in the past few years in various regions of the state, began in response to several sources of feedback provided to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets:
- Large scale food buyers who had limited experience with local food producers did not know where to begin for building local relationships.
- Buyers who did have experience working with local providers still wondered who they might be missing.
- Farmers and food producers interested in reaching new customers found it very time consuming to go door to door. In some cases, they didn’t know who to call or where to begin to reach purchasers at larger businesses.
The Matchmaker model, which is essentially speed dating, has many advantages for building business relationships. Sellers sign up for 10 minutes sessions with buyers, based on a pre-published participant list. Each seller gets a full 10 minutes to make their pitch, so they have time to explain advantages of purchasing local product and address concerns like distribution, volume, and price.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Vermont Fresh Network, Vermont Grocers Association, Healthcare Without Harm, and the Vermont Hospitality Council, have coordinated and sponsored these events in the past.
We will be sure to advertise future Local Foods Matchmaker Events!