Co-op

Farm to Freezer for the Holidays

Here at the Co-op, we work hard to support our local farmers. And we are proud to be working with other food co-ops across our region to make regionally grown produce available to our shoppers year ‘round.

As you shop at your local food co-op for all the ingredients you need for a delicious meal this holiday, don’t forget to check out our frozen fruits and vegetables from the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). These farm-to-freezer products are the result of a project that brings together food co-ops throughout the northeast to increase the availability of healthy, sustainably grown, regionally sourced fruits and vegetables for consumers beyond the traditional local harvest season. This also provides a boost for the farmers producing these crops by extending their marketing season beyond the typical (and brief) growing season in our region.

The NFCA’s Farm to Freezer project began in 2011 while exploring opportunities for increasing regional food sourcing. They noticed that most of the frozen fruits and vegetables on co-op shelves were grown on large, industrial farms and processed by distant corporations.  In collaboration with local farmers, food cooperatives, and regional processors, they developed a pilot of frozen products grown, processed and packaged right here in the Northeast.

Since the launch of this project, food co-op shoppers have purchased nearly 20,000 pounds of Blueberries, Organic Broccoli, Organic Edamame, Organic Green Beans, and non-GMO Sweet Corn — all grown and packaged right here in the Northeast, and available only at your food co-op!

As you celebrate with friends and family, we invite you to “Keep it Local” with delicious produce from our region’s family farmers! Look for our Northeast Grown Frozen Fruits and Vegetables in the freezer section. They’re easy to find because they’re packed in a clear package so you can see what’s inside!

Click here for more information and a fantastic holiday green bean recipe!

 

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seemed like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, bananas, and avocados. All of their co-op produced, fair trade certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 12th – 18th!

History:

Equal Exchange was started 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.

Mission:

Their mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.

Authentic Fair Trade:

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farm workers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers

 

What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?

Bananas:

According to the USDA, the average American eats 26 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is notorious for low wages and heavy chemical use, causing major health problems across banana producing regions. Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. By buying Equal Exchange bananas, you are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.
Here’s a look at the impact of your Equal Exchange banana purchases in 2016:

 

Avocados:

Equal Exchange partners with PRAGOR, a progressive group of small-scale avocado farmers in Michoacán Mexico. PRAGOR is composed of 18 producer members who each own an average of 10-15 acres of land, all 100% organic. This region of Mexico is called “the avocado capital of the world.” However, powerful corporate interests have made it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete. In response, PRAGOR courageously organized and decided they would collectively control the entire process from growing to exporting. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world!
Here’s a look at the impact of your Equal Exchange avocado purchases in 2016:

Coffee:

This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. Their latest project, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. Check out this short documentary to learn more about the Women In Coffee project:

 

Women in Coffee: Short Documentary from Equal Exchange on Vimeo.

Spotlight on Organic Valley Co-op

October is Co-op Month and we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight this week on America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers – Organic Valley!  All Organic Valley products are 20% off for member-owners from October 5th – 11th! Read on to learn more about Organic Valley’s rich history, their commitment to their farmer-owners, and to the environment:

In the 1980’s, a dairy farming crisis was underway. The price for milk fell below production costs and the dairy farmers producing it were facing economic extinction. Farmers were told to “get big or get out”. Industrial, chemical farming was presented as the only existing option for survival. Never mind its effects on our health, our animals, and our environment.

There were many farmers who simply didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers at the mercy of corporate agriculture. Thankfully, in 1988 a Wisconsin farmer named George Siemon hung posters calling like-minded farmers in his community to band together. Family farmers filled the Viroqua county courthouse and all agreed that there had to be a better, more sustainable way to continue doing the work they loved in a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how their farmer-owned cooperative was born.

This pioneering group of farmers set high organic standards, which eventually served as the framework for the USDA’s organic rules. The cooperative first focused on organic vegetables, calling themselves the CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool) Cooperative, and within a year they expanded to include organic dairy. Demand for their organic products grew, as did farmers’ interest in joining the thriving cooperative. Interest came from farmers and consumers all over the country, and it became clear that they needed a new name to represent their broader base. With that, the CROPP cooperative became Organic Valley. 

 

Now, almost 30 years later, Organic Valley continues to produce some of the highest quality organic dairy, vegetables, soy, and eggs. They remain farmer-owned and remain true to the powerful working model that puts the environment, wholesome quality food, and the farmer first.

Click HERE to read more about the family of farmers that make up the Organic Valley Co-op and find out if there are any near you!

Click HERE for the top 5 reasons to choose organic.

Click HERE to read about sustainability initiatives at Organic Valley.

Click HERE for fabulous recipes.

I Own a Grocery Store with Some Friends

Happy Co-op Month!! In honor of this special time, we’d like to share one of our favorite articles about what it means to be a member-owner of a co-op, written by Mandy Makinen of National Co-op Grocers:

 

I am probably the last person you would expect to own a grocery store, and yet, I do. In fact, I own three. I am a Midwestern, married suburban mother of two, my car is twelve years old and most of my fashion finds come from the thrift store. I don’t fit the bill for corporate honcho, and my bank account corroborates that truth.

So how do I manage to own not one but three successful grocery stores? I guess in true “industry disruptor” style, I found a unique solution to a common problem: how to get the kind of food I want, and have my voice heard by a place where I shop. That solution is food co-ops. My local food co-op offers me fresh local food, a way to support my community and the opportunity to invest in the co-op, ensuring it remains a resource in our community for good.

To be honest, I’m mostly in it for the food

I can still remember the first time I tried a fresh, organic and locally grown sugar snap pea. The crisp, tender pod was a shimmering, almost translucent spring green, the texture was light and juicy and crunchy, the flavor sweet and slightly floral in a way that only a freshly picked pea can taste. I had this amazing experience in the produce aisle of my co-op, the specimen unceremoniously thrust at me by a tall guy with a beard and a flannel shirt, the very same guy, it turned out, who had grown the peas, picked them early that morning and brought them to the store to sample to customers, like me.

As a sales technique, it worked, you better believe I bought some. But unpredictably, it had a life-changing effect on me because it opened my eyes to the existence, and value, of locally grown food. It turns out that locally grown food is not just better tasting, it’s better for the local economy because it keeps people employed in the rural areas that surround where I live and it’s traveled a much shorter distance to arrive on my plate. Another unexpected bonus of buying locally grown food has been that fresher vegetables actually have more plant sugar in them (it’s chemistry!) so they have been a much easier sell for my kids. When vegetables taste the way nature intends them, people more naturally enjoy them. It’s neat how that works.

Like a boss! Creating jobs and making investments

Most of us don’t expect a lot more than food out of our grocery store, but why shouldn’t we? Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures but to be real, it’s one of its greatest chores, too. Buying and eating food is not optional, so it makes sense that we should have somewhere to buy food that is just here to help us meet that basic need, not to make money for business executives that live in other states. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of sending my money to Wall Street while Main Street closes up shop. Food cooperatives are locally owned by the people that shop there, like me, and my investment means that I get to vote for our board of directors and weigh in on important governance changes. If I wanted to, I could even run for the board!

Even better, when I buy food at my co-op more of the money I spend goes back to the local community via local producers and patronage refunds (a return on your investment, similar to a stock dividend or profit sharing but your amount is proportionate to how much you spend). Also, co-ops provide good jobs, most of them with benefits, to people in my neighborhood. Because co-ops are community-based (and because I’m an owner!) it’s easy for me to see how my shopping choices can benefit my community directly.

You can own a food co-op, too

There are many reasons why it’s smart and fun (yes, fun!) to shop at and invest in your local food co-op, I could never cover all the reasons here. For me, shopping the co-op is a great way to get the fresh, local and healthy food that I love (plus super tasty treats and snacks!) and at the same time, participate in an organization that is working to meet the needs of my community first and foremost. That community focus will never change as long as it exists because that’s what being a co-op means, and that’s what makes it different from other stores.

Just like you don’t need a wallet full of Benjamins to own a food co-op, you don’t need a Ph.D. to know that co-op ownership just makes sense.

The Co-op Board Hosts Staff Appreciation Ice Cream Social

The Co-op Board of Directors hosted an ice cream social for staff in late May to show their appreciation to staff.  While the board appreciates the staff every day, staff are going above and beyond their regular routines to accommodate many changes.  The social was held in the old store space where the board meets monthly.  This location did not go un-noticed as many noted how much the Co-op has grown.

There were many flavors of ice cream, but where the board went… well, overboard, was with the toppings: from pretzels and M&Ms to nuts, fresh fruit, and two kinds of secret recipe sauces (caramel and chocolate).  All the ingredients were on hand to create a well-deserved treat.  More than 30 staff members came by, some with just the time to grab an ice cream and go back to work or to a meeting, others with a bit more time to sit and talk.

As the expansion continues, keeping the store moving smoothly is a balancing act and one that has not gone unnoticed by customers.   The board wanted to express gratitude to the staff for making the Coop function in the middle of a construction site.  Board members hear every day from member-owners how the staff is always friendly and available to answer questions and to help. We really wanted to acknowledge that, and the fact that they make the store feel as welcoming as ever, in spite of all the kinds of interferences that an expansion brings about (noise, dust, having to park further away from the store, etc.).

Beyond expressing thanks to the staff, the members of the board who were able to attend the social appreciated the wonderful opportunity to connect directly with members of the Staff. These two “sides” of the Co-op work in tandem, but have very seldom the chance to connect personally.

By Ilaria……

Ilaria Brancoli-Busdraghi is a long-serving Co-op Board Member.  Do you have any questions about the Board and how we do our work? Write anytime with comments, questions or suggestions: tam@middleburycoop.com.

Spotlight on Vermont Creamery

In celebration of Dairy Month, we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on Vermont Creamery this week and offering member-owners a 20% discount on their full line of delicious dairy products from June 8th – 14th. They’ve got some big news to share with the community, and perhaps you’ve already heard about it, but we wanted to share the full scoop from one of their founders, Allison Hooper. Below you will find Allison’s post from their creamery blog:

With Gratitude for a Bright Future

On March 19th, Bob and I announced to our employees that we are selling our company to Land O’Lakes, the successful farmer-owned cooperative headquartered in Arden Hills, MN. After several years of searching for the right partner, we are thrilled to share this news. We are filled with a myriad of emotions: Delight that we have found a great partner. Elation that our baby Vermont Creamery is a great catch and a good fit for America’s iconic butter-maker. Nostalgia for those naïve twenty-something-year-olds starting an improbable enterprise. Energized to slow down and be present for our families. Relief that we’re leaving behind the stress of owning a business that isn’t so little anymore. Excitement that the future for Vermont Creamery and our team is bright and filled with opportunity.

Why sell now?

Bob and I are entrepreneurs. 34 years ago, back in 1984, we saw something in the future that others didn’t see. We asked: ”Why not make and sell hand-made cheeses from cows and goats milk?” We were undaunted and refreshingly optimistic. In our twenties, the risk seemed minimal as we cobbled together our $2,400 investment to make cheese in an outbuilding on a goat farm. Bob’s penchant for numbers and my intuition that Americans might eat goat cheese and crème fraiche (if they were really hungry!) fueled our passion and drive to succeed. Over the course of 34 years, we developed some scrumptious cheeses and enough customers to flourish as a business. We had just enough grit to clear the big hurdles of making a tasty cheese, keeping cash in the bank and earning a commendable trusting reputation with our customers. Who knew that this little company and America’s appetite for artisanal cheese would blossom as it has?

Today, we have a thriving and promising enterprise. Vermont Creamery cheeses and butters are sold in every state. Daily, we manage ten distinct cheesemaking technologies. Between the creamery and the farm, we employ over 105 people. We buy milk from 14 Vermont producers, 4 in Quebec and 12 in Ontario. We have accomplished a whole lot more than what we set out to do. Here is what makes Bob and I really proud:

  • We make amazing chèvres, crème fraîche, mascarpone, cultured butters, and geotricum rinded goats’ and cows’ milk cheeses;
  • We’ve stimulated a company culture that embraces transparent open-book management and rewards innovation;
  • Through solar energy investments on our dairy barn and improvements at the Creamery, we are hacking away at our carbon footprint;
  • Our B Corp certification requires commitment to higher environmental goals, less waste, and more sharing of our surpluses;
  • Through initiatives like the Vermont Cheese Festival and Cheese Council, we collaboratively lift all boats;
  • By building what we hope will become a model, transparent, environmentally conscious and sustainable goat dairy, we connect our working landscape to the good food we serve up;
  • Bob and I built a business partnership that has endured three decades of mistakes, triumphs, raising thoughtful children, and creating solid financial results;
  • We’ve personally mentored the next generation of Vermont Creamery; boy is their future bright!

Bob and I have had a good run and we know it is time for us to turn over the reigns to a team of terrific managers who have the skills to build upon what we have created. We have been intentional in hiring and developing talent at Vermont Creamery. We have already transitioned our day-to-day management to Adeline Druart, our 14- year French “intern” who came to America to learn to speak English. We promoted her to President nearly 2 years ago. Our leadership team is ready and eager for the opportunities of transition. They have a plan and a clear vision on where they will take Vermont Creamery. Equipped with the resources and expertise of Land O’Lakes, there is nothing they cannot achieve.

Bob and I do not plan to leave Vermont Creamery just yet. We will continue to attend industry events and speak on behalf of the Creamery. We have an inspiring story and love telling it. We will advise the management team through the transition. Most importantly, we will carve out the time to be students of life beyond cheese. There is a lot we’ve yet to explore and our spouses couldn’t be more excited for us to re-join them in the civilian world. Bob and I are both grandparents now, we are eager to spend more of our days at home in Vermont and less of them in distant airports promoting the cheese business.

Our work with cheese is not done. The Hooper Family will retain Ayers Brook Goat Dairy as it shoulders its way to sustainability. Our family is eager to help Miles and Daryll (Allison’s son and daughter-in-law) succeed on the farm. The Hoopers will call on Bob often for his financial counsel. We know that Vermont Creamery customers will still delight in visiting the farm. We look forward to seeing you there. Rolling up our sleeves to connect farmers with land and goats to milk is unfinished Vermont business that needs our attention.

Why Land O’Lakes?

We examined many options for fit and funding the future of Vermont Creamery. Land O’Lakes came with unprecedented enthusiasm. As the iconic company that made the butter which was in my family fridge growing up, Land O’Lakes has the know-how and resources to help Vermont Creamery realize our vision. For Land O’Lakes, they simply love what we do, our products, our leadership team, and our brand promise. And we are thrilled by Land O’Lakes’ desire to take our improbably successful family business to the next level.

Vermonters and our customers all around may feel a sense of uneasiness when a local brand sells to a larger company. We appreciate that sentiment and how this exceptional Vermont community has cheered for and supported us. We trade on the beauty of our landscape, the thoughtfulness of our Vermont practicality, our varied agriculture, and championing of humane causes. Land O’Lakes recognizes these values, shares them deeply and plans to invest significantly in the Creamery in Websterville, Vermont. The management team and all employees have been asked to stay on. Increased wages and improved benefits are scheduled and we intend to hire more production workers.

Land O’Lakes is dedicated to developing a local supply of goats’ milk. About 20 years ago, Bob and I each took short consulting stints to work for Land O’Lakes’ International Division. Our contracts brought cheesemaking, marketing, and business expertise to Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the West Bank and Bulgaria. We are familiar with Land O’Lakes’ values and effectiveness; they understand the sensitivity required in meeting a community where it is and finding synergy to realize a common vision. Bob and I were pleased to be sought out by the Land O’Lakes International Division then and look forward to similar opportunities for Vermont Creamery staff seeking this kind of growth experience.

With Gratitude.

Of all the emotions we’re feeling, gratitude is tops. We are grateful for the friends, fulfillment, and independence that our careers in cheese and farming have bestowed. We are grateful for the customers, new and old, who invigorated our drive to be the best. We are grateful for our conscientious employees who have made this business feel like family. We are grateful for raising six children (three sons each) in a family business that started from scratch. They know about hard work, their privilege, and responsibility to make the world better. We are grateful for our loving spouses, Don and Sandy, who have coached and supported us through this transition. We are grateful, that the future for the business and community we have built has never looked brighter.

Farm To Freezer

From March 23rd – 29th, Farm-to-Freezer blueberries will be featured in our weekly sale! What makes these blueberries special? Read on to learn about a cool collaboration between area food co-ops and farmers working together to make year-round regional produce an option for Co-op shoppers:

Being a year-round localvore is now a little easier thanks to a project bringing together food co-ops throughout the northeast to increase the availability of healthy, sustainably grown, regionally sourced fruits and vegetables for consumers beyond the traditional local harvest season. This also provides a boost for the farmers producing these crops by extending their marketing season beyond the typical (and brief) growing season in our region.

The project was spearheaded by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), which is a cooperative federation bringing together over 30 food co-ops and start-up initiatives throughout New England that are working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy rooted in a healthy, just, and sustainable regional food system and a vibrant community of cooperative enterprise.

The NFCA’s Farm to Freezer project began in 2011 while exploring opportunities for increasing regional food sourcing. They noticed that most of the frozen fruits and vegetables on co-op shelves were grown on large, industrial farms and processed by distant corporations.  In collaboration with local farmers, food cooperatives, and regional processors, they developed a pilot of frozen products grown, processed and packaged right here in the Northeast. Supported in part by two grants from the Eastern Corridor of National Co+op Grocers (NCG), the project enabled the NFCA to test consumer interest, processing infrastructure, and the availability of regional produce.

After two seasons, Farm to Freezer was put on hold as they worked with partners at the New England Farmers Union and Deep Root Organic Co-op to obtain a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) to explore options for future collaboration, processing, and distribution. Thanks to a new partnership with regional distributor Associated Buyers, they were able to make these products available again, exclusively through their member food co-ops.

Here’s a little more info about the fruits and veggies available and the farmers who grow them:

Blueberries

The delicious highbush blueberries are grown by Greig Farm, a diversified fruit and vegetable farm in Red Hook, NY, in operation for over 60 years. Greig Farm practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to maintain healthy, productive blueberry bushes.

Organic Broccoli

Established in 1818, Hepworth Farms is a seventh-generation family farm in Milton, NY, in the Hudson Valley. Today, the farm includes 250 acres of NOFA-certified land yielding more than 400 varieties of organic vegetables.

Organic Edamame

The organically grown edamame comes from Markristo Farm in Hillsdale, NY. Farmers Martin and Christa Stosiek are committed to healthy food systems and sustainable agriculture. They are active board members of Berkshire Grown.

Organic Green Beans

Martin and Christa Stosiek started Markristo Farm in 1988 on the land where Martin was raised in Hillsdale, NY. Their farm has grown from just a couple of acres to over 20 acres, producing a diverse crop of vegetables, cut flowers, and bedding plants. They work to support the ideals of a local food system and enjoy connecting with those who purchase their products.

Sweet Corn

Our delicious, non-GMO sweet corn is grown by Altobelli Farm, a third generation farm in Columbia County, NY. John Altobelli has been farming on this land for over 30 years, using minimum tillage, drip irrigation, cover cropping, and no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

We hope that you will try these products and support your local food co-ops as we work together to build a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system in our region and beyond!

 

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

March is Banana Month, so it seemed like the perfect time to shine our Co-op spotlight on Equal Exchange to highlight their efforts to revolutionize the banana trade. All of their co-op produced, Fair Trade Certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from March 9th – 15th! Choose from their great selection of coffees, chocolates, bananas, and avocados!  Read on to learn more about this democratic worker-owned cooperative and their work over the last three decades to transform the way we do business with traditionally disadvantaged farmers in developing countries:

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Equal Exchange was started 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace. They joined a growing movement of small farmers, alternative traders (ATOs), religious organizations, and non-profits throughout the world with like-minded principles and objectives. Underlying their work is the belief that only through organization, can small farmers survive and thrive. The cooperative model has been essential for building this model of change.

Their mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.

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Fair Trade

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:

  • Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farm workers, and artisans
  • More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
  • Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
  • Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
  • Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
  • Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
  • Connecting consumers and producers
  • Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers

What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?

Bananas:  

According to the USDA, the average American eats 26 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is notorious for low wages and heavy chemical use, causing major health problems across banana producing regions. Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. By buying Equal Exchange bananas, you are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.

Here’s a look at the impact of your Equal Exchange banana purchases in 2016:

 

 

Avocados:

Equal Exchange partners with PRAGOR, a progressive group of small-scale avocado farmers in Michoacán Mexico. PRAGOR is composed of 18 producer members who each own an average of 10-15 acres of land, all 100% organic. This region of Mexico is called “the avocado capital of the world.” However, powerful corporate interests have made it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete. In response, PRAGOR courageously organized and decided they would collectively control the entire process from growing to exporting. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world!

Here’s a look at the impact of your Equal Exchange avocado purchases in 2016:

 

Coffee:

This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange with began their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. Their latest project, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains.  As part of this new series, Equal Exchange will offer a rotating seasonal coffee that will highlight the work women do in the coffee supply chain from farming to roasting. Look for this season’s offering – Organic Crescendo from Columbia- on Co-op shelves in March. Also, check out this short documentary highlighting Women in Coffee:

Women in Coffee: Short Documentary from Equal Exchange on Vimeo.

NFCA Statement on Diversity & Inclusion

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation bringing together 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives throughout New England that are working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable regional food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. Our Co-op is a proud member of NFCA and in light of recent occurrences of political, social, and economic division, the NFCA Board of Directors released the following statement to clarify our collective position on these events:

 

For over 170 years, the Co-operative Movement has stood for ideals of democracy, empowerment and inclusion — ideals that are at the heart of the America’s journey as a nation, and that we continue to strive toward today. From our beginnings, co-ops have celebrated human diversity and worked to bring people together to meet our needs and achieve our aspirations. In short, we believe that we are better when we are welcoming, when we lift one another up, and when we work together to make life better for everyone.

In keeping with the principles of the International Co-operative Alliance, our food co-ops work to ensure that our doors are open to all persons, “without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.” As community-owned enterprises, we value respectful dialog, debate, and participation as expressions of economic democracy. As organizations of people who depend on a healthy planet to survive and thrive, we are committed to development policies and strategies that will sustain our communities over time.

Today, we are witnessing levels of political, social, and economic division that we believe do not reflect our ideals as a nation. While we honor differences of opinion, we are concerned that actions by this administration are fundamentally at odds with American principles of democracy, diversity and inclusion, as well as co-operative values of equality, solidarity, and caring for others. Specifically, we are seeing initiatives that we believe undermine human rights, immigration policies that exclude people based on their origin and religious beliefs, and initiatives that undercut efforts to slow climate change.

In this context, we reaffirm our commitment to being not just welcoming businesses, but empowering community enterprises. We seek to be a positive resource and influence, presenting opportunities for constructive dialog and collective action for change. And we will explore ways that we can reach beyond our walls, advocating for policies that will contribute to democracy and equality, advance human rights, and support environmental sustainability.

As a federation of community-owned food co-ops, we seek to empower people to enjoy healthier lives, build stronger local communities, and provide good jobs. We advocate for a deeper sense of corporate social responsibility that includes democratic ownership, the full expression of human diversity and the needs of future generations. In taking this stand, we acknowledge that we can always do better and must challenge ourselves to live up to our values and principles. By working together, we believe that we can help build stronger communities, a more inclusive nation, and a better world for everyone.

Sincerely,

The Board of Directors & Staff of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association

Spotlight on Aura Cacia

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Aura Cacia this week to highlight all of the wonderful things this cooperative does to source and provide quality products while also giving back to their community. All of their products are 30% off for member-owners from February 9th – 15th — just in time to put together the perfect DIY spa kit for your Valentine! Read on to learn more about what makes this company worthy of the Spotlight:

 

As part of Frontier Co-op, Aura Cacia shares the cooperative values of nourishing people and planet. They care for the small grower communities at the source of their products, openly share product information, show their customers how to improve their lives with aromatherapy and give back to help those in need.

Aura Cacia is committed to both quality products and quality of life. They offer outstanding products made from simple and pure botanical ingredients that improve the well-being of those who use them. They test every shipment of essential oil they receive to verify its purity and quality.

As they travel the world to find top-quality essential oils, they encourage sustainable growing that preserves and improves land and resources for the future. Click here to learn more about Frontier Co-op’s sourcing.

As part of Frontier Co-op’s far-reaching sustainable sourcing initiatives, they support the growers’ communities with charitable projects that fundamentally improve people’s lives. They’ve created the Positive Change Project to give back a portion of each Aura Cacia purchase to organizations that help women bring positive change to their lives. Through this project thus far, they’ve been able to:

  • Provide a $25,000 grant to Thistle Farms, a social enterprise for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. Thistle Farms provides a two-year residential program and employs more than 50 survivors.
  • Fund the building of a two-room Ambohimena Schoolhouse within sight of the trees where the Aura Cacia ylang-ylang farming families work. These families needed an affordable option for early childhood education, so Aura Cacia worked with local educators and social workers to develop a plan for a simple, local facility where the pickers children can enjoy learning, thus helping them to better lives in the future.The school has about 50 two- to five-year-olds enrolled, with the capacity for 60 children.
  • Help rebuild the Haiti Library in the city of Les Cayes after the earthquake in 2010. Aura Cacia’s vetiver essential oil supplier is in Haiti and Haiti is the world’s largest producer of vetiver.
Ambohimena School
Ylang-Ylang fields in Madagascar

Be sure to check out Aura Cacia’s impressive collection of recipes to unleash the full potential of their essential oils. Whether you’re looking for DIY recipes for facial care, body care, or home cleaning products, they’ve got something for you!

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