One of the beautiful, intangible things about supporting local products is the element of human connection. When you have questions about the products, you get to call and speak with an actual human who likely created the products, knows them intimately, and can skillfully answer all of your questions. The alternative often entails calling an 800 number, navigating your way through various electronic menus, listening to bad hold music, and, if you’re lucky, reaching a customer service rep who may or may not be able to answer your questions. We experienced a fine example of this sort of thing recently when we noticed that one of our favorite natural body care product lines was sporting a beautiful new makeover. This prompted us to reach out to founder and creator of Flourish Natural Body Care, Kirsten Connor. She chatted with us from her studio in Woodstock, Vermont, and we got the scoop on the fresh new look, plus lots of other great info about her natural body care products:
MNFC: What inspired your venture into the world of natural body care products?
Kirsten: I started out as a soap maker. I taught myself to make cold process soap and this whole world of scent and color just opened up for me. I was kind of fascinated by the fact that by using one of the most dangerous/caustic substances (lye) and combining it with the right ingredients it could be completely transformed into something wonderful for your skin. Once I had mastered soap, I added on scrubs and balms and then worked up to understanding lotions and cremes. Hair care was definitely the trickiest because being a “purist” I wanted to be able to make it from soap-but after literally hundreds of trials I had to accept that soap and my hair were not a happy combination. When I began to look more closely at cleansers in shampoos I began to understand that there are really good options that are very gentle and biodegradable. Similarly to the relationship between milled soap and cold process soap.
MNFC: Your products have some new ingredients added. Can you tell us about this?
Kirsten: As a formulator, I’ve always subscribed to the theory that “less is more”. I’ve always tried to limit the number of ingredients in a recipe so that they would really have a chance to shine. Like with our body cremes-the star is the cocoa butter so I really want you to be able to feel the silkiness of that when you are putting it on your skin. Since Vermont is such a agricultural state, people who were sampling our products would always ask me if I grow all the lavender, etc. that we use in our products, not realizing that lavender doesn’t grow reliably well here in Vermont. Our really fun scent combinations have always been what makes our products stand out. One day, while planting in my garden, I read a description of angelica-and was startled because the description was exactly how I always described our Rosewood Infusion blend. I began to think about other plants that would reflect the feeling that our different scents gave. I consulted with an herbalist and she and I worked together to choose the plants and find the best way to deliver them in the different products.
MNFC: Your products have a new look! What prompted this packaging change?
Kirsten: This was a big leap for us! After the flood in 2011, when we restarted Flourish, one of the things we were advised to do was to streamline our manufacturing/purchasing etc. and to use the same bottles for our shampoos, conditioners and lotions. Personally, I’m not a fan of plastic. I don’t use it at home for storing our food, etc. When I was reformulating our recipes, the issue came up for me again. Not only did I want to protect the herbal infusions and essential oils that we were including, but I really wanted to limit participating in so much plastic consumption. Of course, glass containers should never be used in the shower but in every other instance, glass is a better choice. You wouldn’t think of compromising your beer or kombucha by storing it in a plastic bottle would you? Not to mention that during the manufacturing process, lotions and cremes are poured into their packaging while hot-so even if the plastic bottle or tube is BPA free, just the heat alone will cause some leaching. And then you are applying that to your skin?
MNFC: What are your considerations when choosing ingredients for your products and how do you go about sourcing them?
Kirsten: All of the herbal elements that we have added are either wildcrafted from our fields or we grow them in our gardens. Since we grow, harvest, preserve, etc. all of these plants we know that they are up to our standards. For everything else, we always choose organic oils and butters for our lotions and for our cleansers and preservatives we follow Ecocert guidelines when choosing ingredients. If you are not familiar, Ecocert is a European organization and the very first organization to develop standards for cosmetic manufacturing. With Ecocert there must be an absence of GMO’s, parabens, I phenoxyethanol, nano particles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes and dyes, and animal derived ingredients. These standards close the loopholes that happen here in the US where a product can be certified organic but still contain a percentage of undesirable ingredients like phenoxyethanol.
MNFC: What is your favorite product that you make? What scent?
Kirsten: This truly does change with the seasons but overall I would say it is the GingerElixir+Arnica Body Oil. We have always been huge users of arnica for our entire family, but it is usually scented with menthol or peppermint-which I do not love. Having rheumatoid arthritis, I use arnica frequently and don’t always want a heavy medicinal smell. So I created this oil, infused with arnica flowers for pain and inflammation relief but with a warm, spicybeautiful ginger scent. So it’s more like a special treat.
MNFC: What is your favorite thing about your job as a creator of natural body care products?
Kirsten: Definitely when people who have tried our products tell me how much they love them!
In May you’ll receive your Co-op Newsletter in paper format in order to provide all member-owners with ballots for voting in our 2016 Election for the MNFC Board of Directors. You’ll find the ballot in this Newsletter, along with instructions on how to vote in this important election. Short bios with information about the candidates are included in this Newsletter’s insert. Remember to come to our Annual Meeting to find out the results!
We’re casting our Co-op spotlight on Lotus Foods this week to bring awareness to the amazing things they’re doing to revolutionize global rice production. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off all Lotus Foods rice products this week, so it’s a great time to try their fair trade certified, non-GMO verified, heirloom, organic, and ecologically-grown rices! Lotus Foods has been a certified B Corp since 2012, and they’re pioneering a brilliant and innovative set of farming practices that address some of the most important challenges we face this century – namely to feed several billion more people with dwindling land and water resources and without further degrading the planet’s environment. Read on to learn all about it!
Rice is a modest little grain with a super important mission – to feed over half of the world’s population. It is the most widely consumed staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, and is third only to maize and sugar cane in worldwide agricultural production. This presents a significant environmental challenge due to the fact that rice is a very water-intensive crop to grow.
Each year, one-quarter to one-third of the fresh water that is withdrawn from surface and ground water sources is used to irrigate rice. That is the most water used for any single human activity. According to the International Water Management Institute, by 2020 (in just 5 years!) one-quarter of irrigated rice areas, which produce 75% of the world’s rice, may be suffering some form of water scarcity. This is because more water is being used than can be replenished.
This means not just less water for rice and essential food security, but also for drinking, sanitation, livestock, and other crops, as well as enough water in streams and rivers to sustain fish and aquatic life. It also means women have to walk further to collect the family’s daily water supply in many parts of the world.
Depending on country and circumstances, women provide 50-90% of labor in growing the world’s rice crop, most of it unpaid or poorly paid. That’s 500 million to as many as one billion women whose productive capacity is harnessed by the ceaseless toil of producing rice to eat and sell. Imagine the creative energy that could be unleashed if they had more time!
The good news is that there are solutions! We invite you to learn about what Lotus Foods is doing to incentivize farmers to produce more rice with less water and less labor for women.
Lotus Foods utilizes and promotes a method of rice production known as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI is an innovative set of farming practices in which rice farmers fundamentally change how they manage their plants, soil and water. They increase their productivity at the same time that they reduce their use of water, seeds and agrochemical inputs, and eliminate continuously flooded conditions.This agricultural method allows rice to be grown using 90% less seed, 30-70% less water, ZERO chemical pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, yet it still increases yields by 50-100% or more, is drought-resistant, pest-resistant, and it’s revolutionizing the way that rice is farmed. In short, it’sMore Crop Per Drop. Lotus Foods estimates that in 2015 they saved the equivalent of some 528 million (yes MILLION!) gallons of water, which could instead flow back into rivers and lakes, recharge aquifers, and nourish natural habitats! SRI has been largely grassroots driven, fueled by marginalized women and men farmers and the non-profit organizations (NGOs) who advocate for their welfare, like Oxfam, Africare, WWF and many dedicated local NGOs and individuals. The reason these farmers are so excited about SRI is because it represents an opportunity for more food, more money, better health, and more options – in short, for a way out of poverty.
Here’s a little more about the overall mission of Lotus Foods in their own words:
Since 1995, Lotus Foods has pioneered the introduction of exotic rice handcrafted on small family farms in remote areas of the world. Each rice varietal is distinguished by its terroir and treasured for its distinctive cooking quality, taste, texture, aroma, color, and nutritional value. Lotus Foods was founded with the intent and vision to support sustainable global agriculture by promoting production of traditional heirloom rice varieties, many of which may otherwise be extinct, while enabling the small family rice farmer to earn an honorable living.
We believe that sustainability is premised on an ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, and a culture of peace. We believe that eradicating poverty and promoting social and economic justice has to start with agriculture and has to be accomplished in a way that protects and restores the natural resources on which all life depends. At the crux of this challenge is rice, which provides a source of living to two billion people, most earning less than $200 a year.
Most of our rices are already certified organic, while others are in the process of becoming certified, and still others we are working to develop a certifying program in its country of origin. These organic and transitional rices are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, or ionizing radiation. All of our rices are fair trade certified and non-GMO verified.
We hope you will help us “Do the Rice Thing with More Crop Per Drop™, a Water Smart, Woman Strong way to grow rice.”
Friday, April 22nd is Earth Day, and in honor of this fine holiday, we’re going bagless! The day will serve as a great reminder that there many ways to bag your groceries, so why not choose the GREEN way? Please bring your baskets, reusable bags, repurposed cardboard boxes, or any grocery tote you prefer. If you forget, no problem; we’ll be giving away free reusable bags while supplies last, and we’ll also have repurposed cardboard boxes available.
Why bother with reusable grocery totes? Here are some interesting facts about disposable shopping bags:
While disposable paper and plastic bags seem awfully convenient, their cost to the environment can be hefty.
It is estimated that 5 trillion plastic bags are produced each year. Each plastic bag is used, on average, for about 20 minutes, though it takes a single bag over 1,000 years to completely decompose in a landfill. As it decomposes, it releases greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and releases harmful toxins into our soil and groundwater. Bags that don’t make it to the landfill litter the landscape and pose a significant threat to animal health and well-being; particularly for birds and aquatic life.
Plastic bags are quite commonly mistaken for food by animals, especially when the bags carry food residues, are brightly colored or are animated by the movement of water. A great variety of animals, land and especially marine, can choke to death on bags. If swallowed whole, animals may not be able to digest real food and die a slow death from starvation or infection. Plastic bags are responsible for the death of over a million sea birds and an estimated 100,000 whales, dolphins, turtles, and seals each year.
Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags annually. That is equivalent to dumping nearly 12 billion barrels of oil. But, what if you recycle them? That seems like a more environmentally-friendly way to go, right? Unfortunately, it takes 85 times more energy to recycle a plastic bag than it does to create it.
Perhaps you opt for paper bags, instead of plastic. Those are better for the environment, right? Believe it or not, paper production creates 70% more pollution during production than plastic bags. One must also consider that paper bags are made from trees that could instead be absorbing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere if they weren’t busy becoming bags. The paper bag making process also results in 50 times more water pollutants than making plastic bags, and uses more water during production.
While it’s true that plastic bags are made from crude oil, making a paper bag consumes four times as much energy as making a plastic bag, so the process of making paper bags consumes a good deal of oil as fuel for production, making both paper and plastic bags very oil-intensive products.
You can certainly recycle paper bags, though much like plastic bags, the process for recycling paper bags can be inefficient – often consuming more fuel than it would take to make a brand new bag.
In short, when it comes to the battle over which is greener, neither paper nor plastic have it in the bag.
Here are some great tips for remembering your reusable shopping bags:
Keep your bags in your car or purse so you have them every time you go out.
Make a note on your grocery list to grab the bags before you leave the house.
Get the kids in on it! Have them be the ones to get excited and bring the bags with them when you take them along shopping.
If you only have a couple of easy-to-carry items, and are asked if you would like a bag say ” no, thank you” If you are not asked if you would like a bag say “I don’t need a bag, thank you.” Simple.
If you do forget your reusable bags, check out the hallway area near the customer restroom. This area is often stocked with cardboard boxes from our deliveries, which are handy repurposed grocery totes.
Keep in mind, however, that to get the full greenhouse gas benefit from a reusable bag, it must be reused over 100 times. Reusable bags are energy-intensive to produce, but if your reuse them often over the years, the benefits really add up!
King Arthur Flour is America’s oldest flour company, founded in Boston in 1790 to provide pure, high-quality flour for residents of the newly formed United States. More than 220 years later, they’re still going strong, thanks to the passion and commitment of their dedicated employee-owners. In 1984, then-owners Frank and Brinna Sands moved the company from Massachusetts, where it had been based for 194 years, to Norwich, Vermont, where the company is headquartered today.
We’re casting our spotlight on King Arthur Flour this week as part of our Member Deals program, which means that member-owners can enjoy 20% their full line of baking products! Choose from their time-tested Patent Flour, available in 50# bags, to gluten-free baking mixes available in both our bulk department and in the grocery baking aisle. Then tie on the apron, break out the rolling pin, and have a bake-a-thon!
Want to know more about King Arthur Flour? Here are some historical highlights from their webpage: 1790 Henry Wood began importing European flour to Long Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. His goal was to provide high-quality flour for bakers in the fledgling United States
1896 More than 100 years later, the company Wood founded gave its product a new brand name: King Arthur Flour. Their new, exceptional, U.S.-grown flour was introduced at the Boston Food Fair.
1984 Then-owners Frank and Brinna Sands moved the company from Massachusetts, where it had been based for 194 years, to Norwich, Vermont, where the company is headquartered today
1992The Baker’s Store was opened in Norwich at the urging of local catalogue customers. The same year, our Life Skills Bread Baking Program began visiting schools to share the joys of baking and giving. 1995 King Arthur Flour built new headquarters in Norwich, a 12-sided post-and-beam building appropriately named Camelot. Camelot now houses The Baker’s Store and Vermont Public Radio.
1996 With thoughts of retiring, Frank and Brinna Sands decided to sell the company to their employees and began an Employee Stock Ownership Plan; the company also launched its first website.
1998 King Arthur Flour established a second location, Avalon, in nearby Hartford, Vermont, for its customer service, fulfillment, and product development functions. Avalon underwent expansion in 2004 to accommodate the company’s growing workforce
2004The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companionwon the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook of the Year Award; King Arthur Flour also completed its ownership transfer and became 100% employee-owned. 2006 Received the Outstanding Vermont Business Award and the Better Business Bureau Local Torch Award for Excellence.
2007 King Arthur Flour became a founding B (Beneficial) Corporation, changing its bylaws to reflect its commitment to all stakeholders— including shareholders, business partners, the community, and the environment
2010 King Arthur Flour launched its award-winning line of gluten-free baking mixes; its Life Skills Bread Baking Program taught its 120,000th student; and Baking Education Center classes reached more than 4,600 bakers.
As you prepare for Passover, you might be looking for the perfect Matzo (or perhaps Matza, Matzah, Matzot, or Matzoh, depending on your preference) to accompany your Seder. Look no further! We’ve got several options for you to choose from, while supplies last:
Vermatzah – This Vermont Artisan Matzah is wood-fired using VT-grown organic wheat and emmer from Naga Bakehouse in Middletown Springs, VT. Find it in our bakery section.
Patchwork Farm & Bakery – This local matzoh hails from East Hardwick, VT and it’s brick-oven baked using organic grains. Find it in our bakery section.
Manischewitz – First founded in 1888 by Rabbi Dov Behr in Ohio, and now headquartered in New Jersey, this organic and non-GMO verified Matzo can be found in grocery aisle 2.
MNFC Matzo Ball Soup – Our fabulous MNFC deli crew will be cooking up fresh batches of Matzo Ball Soup periodically throughout Passover, so look for that in our deli department!
We are gearing up for Open Farm Week 2016 – August 15-21, 2016, and we’d like your farm to join us! We are excited to build off of last year’s momentum, meeting our goal of strengthening consumers’ connections to Vermont land and farms, while teaching them how to access Vermont-grown food, fiber and forestry products.
Open Farm Week is an opportunity for you to spotlight your farm and showcase your products. Whether you sell directly to consumers or wholesale markets, farms of all kind are encouraged to participate. If you are not usually open to the public, that’s okay too. We have resources on the website about managing safety and liability, as well as what guests will expect when coming to your farm. Please plan for some ways to engage consumers while they are visiting. You may want to provide tours or other activities such as seed planting, tastings, scavenger hunts, or on-farm dinners for folks to engage in.
For more information and to sign up to participate, please visit http://www.diginvt.com/blog/openfarmweekforfarmers/. We will be doing statewide promotions, but for your event to be successful, you must plan on doing local promotions of your event! We will be providing each participant with outreach materials to help you engage consumers in your area of the state. Sign-ups end on June 30th, but please consider signing up early in order to begin marketing your participation in this event sooner. We look forward to working with you!
The 2016 Open Farm Week Organizing Team
Sarah Bhimani, City Market; Erin Buckwalter, NOFA-VT and the Vermont Farmers Market Association; Lisa Chase, UVM Extension; Jake Claro, Farm to Plate Network; Chris Howell, Vermont Farm Tours and the Vermont Farm to Plate Network Agritourism Task Force; Grace Meyer, Vermont Fresh Network & DigInVT; Vera Simon-Nobes, Shelburne Farms, Farm-Based Education Network and the Vermont Farm to Plate Network Agritourism Task Force)
Looking to stretch your grocery budget? So are we! That’s why we’re pleased to introduce our new Co+op Basics program. Co+op Basics offers everyday low prices on many popular grocery and household items. From milk and bread to laundry soap and paper towels, you’ll find brands you know and trust and prices you can afford. And check out all the new items in our Co-op Basics program, too!
Don’t worry, we aren’t paying our farmers or employees any less. We’re simply committed to improving our selection so that everyone can find more value when shopping the co-op. Right now, you’ll find more than 100 Co+op Basics items in the store. Just look for this sign to find your way to everyday low prices at your Co-op!
As we countdown to the celebration of Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary, we’re highlighting businesses that prioritize environmental stewardship in both their products and processes. This week’s spotlight is on Seventh Generation of Burlington, Vermont! From April 7th – 13th member-owners can enjoy 20% off our full line of Seventh Generation products, so it’s a great time to stock up and save, while also greening your spring cleaning routine! Read on to learn more about Seventh Generation and their commitment to environmental well-being in their own words:
From our very first days as a company back in 1988, we have been driven to consider the effects of our actions on the well-being of our next seven generations. Our aspirations are to nurture nature; transform commerce with honesty, responsibility, and radical transparency; enhance health through education, activism, and innovation; and to build communities advancing social justice and equality to unleash human potential.
To travel with purpose, we need a vision of where we are headed. Our Path to 2020 began with examining our impacts as a business and considering the principles that matter to us as a company: responsible sourcing; using materials from plants not petroleum; ensuring the health of our planet and the people on it; having an engaged, motivated workforce; and caring for our community. To track our progress toward these goals, we publish an annual Corporate Consciousness Report, which we invite you to check out. We’re excited to reach our goals and to have you along with us on the journey.
In 2013 the American Sustainable Business Council partnered with us to co-found the Companies for Safer Chemicals Coalition. The Coalition represents over 200 leading businesses united in the belief that meaningful reform can unleash economic and job growth while protecting the consumers we serve and and the communities they live in. The Coalition is calling for reform to improve transparency, safety, and innovation, fostering solutions that lead to sustainable, safer products and technologies.
We firmly believe that you have the right to know what is in the products you buy, which is why we’ve launched the #comeclean campaign. Through this campaign, we aim to air the cleaning industry’s dirty laundry. We support legislation to require manufacturers of both consumer household and industrial cleaning products to disclose all intentionally-added ingredients, including fragrance components, on their product labels and on their websites. Food and personal care products are currently required to have content labels, but there are no regulations in place for the ingredient labeling of household cleaning products – especially for the fragrances that scent those products. Chemicals of concern can hide behind the term “fragrance” in ingredient lists on your cleaning products – chemicals that have been linked to serious health effects including allergies, asthma, cancer, and reproductive harm.
We are also members of the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and we are a certified B-Corp. To learn more about us and our products, please visit our website.