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Vermont farmers adapt as supply chain issues persist

Supply chain issues are affecting just about everything nowadays and farmers are not immune.
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 9:03 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Supply chain issues are affecting just about everything nowadays and farmers are not immune.

In some cases, it’s the labor shortage or the ability to get products. But Shelburne Farms say they are resilient and will continue to do what they know how to do.

“It’s much harder to locate and acquire the things we need to keep things up and running,” said Sam Dixon, the Shelburne Farms manager.

Dixon continues to try to iron out kinks in the supply chain.

For them, the issues range from locating a round bale and rolling machine to parts for machines essential to daily operations.

“A rebuild kit for a hydraulic cylinder, a motor for a heater in the milk house, we are waiting for that motor,” said Dixon.

Dixon says they’ll make do, but it isn’t making farming any easier.

State leaders say it’s been this way since the beginning.

“In 2020, we saw all the market shifts,” said Abbey Willard, with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

Shifts in consumer spending, ripples in other supply chains and labor shortages. And as waves of consumer habit changes hit, those small farms and businesses struggle to keep up.

“So we are seeing that infrastructure demand needed at the business level, and at the individual farm and business level, as well as at the supply chain support and organization level,” said Willard.

Willard says the challenge is when businesses do invest in expansion, they might lack the labor. But where they can make up ground is in automation and less need for labor through long-term investment.

“The pandemic and these challenges with supply chain disruption have led to some really important strategic and systemic planning in the food system. We are seeing more regional collaborations. We are seeing more food system resiliency planning at the town and state level that will help us prepare for emergencies like this where feeding is a priority,” said Willard.

Willard says this is a key silver lining to the pandemic and will allow for a healthier ecosystem going forward.

Dixon says it’s not easy, but they will keep moving forward.

“One of the things I think farmers are really good at is making do and making things work, working with what you have, nothing is ever perfect,” said Dixon.

Two other ways the state says they are continuing to try to keep the supply chain moving is through technical assistance to farms, as well as plugging those farmers looking into federal grants that are available as part of pandemic relief.

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