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ACORN Producers and Buyers Forum: Conversations Across the Local Food Spectrum

Growers, food producers, buyers and distributors attended the Producers and Buyers Forum: Local to Global. Hosted by ACORN, Addison County Relocalization Network. The Forum took place on November 2nd at the McCullough Student Center. The Forum started with a Keynote by Greg Georgaklis of Farmers to You, linking together issues around local and national food production and distribution.  Consolidation within production, distribution and retail outlets impacts Vermont producers’ profit margins for their fresh and valued-added products.

Unlike many gatherings, ACORN’s focus was on 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, Dan Chang of Kria, among other notable speakers. Following the panels was 2 hours of in depth conversations among attendees where business connections were made and information shared.

Tom Berry, Agricultural Policy Advisor for Senator Leahy’s Office said of the Forum, I benefited greatly from the meeting.  It brought together many energized and creative Vermonters working and taking risks in agricultural businesses. These folks represent important parts of Vermont's economic and agricultural future. ” Also representing our federal representatives was Erica Campbell, Outreach Representative for 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. 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. Senator 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.  ACORN Board, Rich Carpenter, said  “I was delighted with the level of discussion, collaboration and follow-up from the Health Care break-out group.  These forums are a real contribution to the community and accentuate our role as convener and catalyst.”

Attendees traveled across Vermont to share insights and input 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.