There are certain fruits and vegetables that seem to announce the changing of the seasons, and for us here at the Co-op, the day we received our first delivery of local, organic tomatoes and strawberries from Wood’s Market Garden, we knew that summer was finally here! We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Wood’s Market Garden this week to highlight their magnificent 150-acre organic farm in Brandon, VT. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off all of their glorious local, organic fruits and veggies this week, including heirloom tomatoes, succulent strawberries, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers (the first of the season!), shell peas, sugar snap peas, broccoli, and cauliflower! Oh, and don’t forget the offerings from the bulk department – dried organic black beans and pinto beans! Read on to learn more about the family that makes it possible for us to offer such a beautiful bounty:
Wood’s Market Garden is a fruit, vegetable & flower farm and seasonal market nestled in the quaint town of Brandon, Vermont. Our fields have been producing fresh food for the greater Brandon community for over 100 years. Jon Satz purchased the farm 16 years ago from Bob and Sally Wood. With his passion for growing and sustainable farming practices, the farm and market have blossomed into a destination for beautiful organic vegetables, quality bedding plants and some of the sweetest strawberries around! Jon, his wife Courtney, and their 2 young sons make their home on the farm and enjoy the continued legacy of farming the land that the Wood family started generations ago.
The farm consists of 150 acres of Vermont farmland and woods. Known far and wide for our delicious sweet corn and plump, sweet strawberries, we also grow over 50 kinds of vegetables and fruits on 60 acres of sandy loam soils. Our produce and vegetable plants are certified organic, and along with our field production, we also have 7 greenhouses for raising bedding plants, ornamentals, vegetable starts and the tastiest early tomatoes in the state! Our unique varieties of plants and our passion for quality crops keeps people coming back year after year.
We grow all of our produce organically here on the farm. It’s a labor of love for everyone involved from seeding to harvesting to washing and selling. We’re really proud to be able to provide such a bounty of farm fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to our community year after year. It’s what feeds our own families here on the farm and beyond and you should feel good knowing we grow it all with love, care and a commitment to good organic practices.
Aside from growing an abundant array of fruits and vegetables for retailers like the Middlebury Co-op, we also offer a CSA and have a seasonal farm stand open daily in the summer from 9 am – 6 pm. Outside, it’s a paradise of plants, hanging baskets, creeping vines, and gardens to wander. We’re on the banks of Jones Mill Pond on Route 7, which during the warm summer months is covered with those famous pink water lilies. Inside the market, the shelves and baskets are filled with gorgeous fresh produce from our farm and bouquets of fresh-cut flowers. Depending on what’s in season, you’ll find everything from fresh spinach to strawberries to squash. We grow over 50 different kinds of produce on our farm, just yards from the farm stand. In addition to produce, we have an unbelievable variety of artisanal cheese, organic milk, and other local dairy products, local meat and poultry, fresh baked goods, maple syrup, raw honey, homemade pickles, jam and more! If you’re looking to stock your own garden, you can browse our selection of farm-grown organic veggie and herb starts, and a stunning variety of annuals, and perennials! We hope you’ll stop in and see us on your next trip through Brandon.
In preparation for our 40th Anniversary Celebration this year, we cast a wide net and gathered as many relics from our past that member-owners were willing to share. One day during this gathering phase, we received a VHS tape from a former member-owner named Beverly Red, now living in California. VCRs are hard to come by these days, so this mystery tape sat idle for a time as we speculated about what we might find upon viewing it. Was it a recording of an annual meeting? Or maybe a clip from a festival or celebration at the Co-op? The opportunity finally came to solve this fun little mystery when the fine folks at Ilsley Library offered to help us convert this tape to a digital format. Eager with anticipation, we popped in the tape and discovered a gem: a glimpse into a day in the life of our Co-op nearly 20 years ago! Did you know that Glenn used to be our Produce Manager? Do you recognize anyone else? With so many familiar faces and themes, it became apparent that while many things have changed over the years, the heart and soul of our Co-op remains very much the same. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Tierra Farm this week to highlight the socially and environmentally responsible practices of this employee-owned business. They provide an array of healthy products to our bulk department that are certified organic, gluten free, kosher, and gmo-free, all of which are produced in small batches in their solar-powered facility in nearby Valatie, NY. They’re featured in our Member Deals program this week, so member-owners can enjoy 20% off their delicious fair-trade coffee, dried fruits, nuts, nut butters, and other healthy snacks! Read on to learn more about this fantastic small business and their commitment to responsible practices throughout the supply chain:
Tierra Farm is a Certified Organic manufacturer and distributor of nuts, dried fruits, and coffee located 20 miles south of Albany, New York. Our customers consist mainly of cooperatives and independently owned grocery stores that value working with an employee-owned, environmentally conscious company that manufactures its own products.
Tierra Farm started as a diversified organic vegetable farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The organic nuts & dried fruit portion of the business started in 1999, as a way to generate income in the slower winter months. That portion of the business continued to thrive into what it has become today and we still maintain our original farm.
One of our core values has been to cultivate strong relationships with the best organic farmers in the world. Every year we purchase an increasing amount of our nuts, seeds and dried fruit directly from the farms, some of which we have worked with for over a decade. Our level of knowledge and communication with our farmers allows us to preserve our organic integrity and ensure fair business practices throughout the supply chain.
We offer our customers exceptional value through unbeatable quality at prices that are fair both to the consumer and to the farmer. Our products are made without preservatives, added oils or refined sugars, in our peanut-free facility. We manufacture the products we sell: we dry roast and flavor nuts and seeds, blend trail mixes, grind butter, cover nuts and fruits in fair-trade chocolate, and roast fair trade coffee. Everything is made in small, hand-crafted batches for freshness.
Tierra Farm handles only Certified Organic products which are grown without synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, or chemical fertilizers. This helps sustain biodiversity, conserves fresh water, and enhances the soil. We generate over 70% of our electricity from solar panels and recycle over 60% of our waste. Our boxes are made from recycled cardboard and our deli cup containers are made from over 50% recycled material – both are recyclable after use. We’re continuously looking for better ways to protect the planet.
We also value the importance of investing in our staff. We have an in-house gym, an in-house chef who cooks daily organic, gluten-free meals for our staff – often using fresh produce directly from our farm, a staff masseuse who visits weekly, and we offer many employee health initiatives such as a smoking cessation program that allows our staff to be 100% tobacco-free.
We recently opened a retail store at our headquarters in Valatie, NY, where local customers are able to purchase all of our (almost 200) products. Also, if you’re in the Albany area, please stop into one of our Tierra Coffee Roasters locations for a great cup of coffee and some homemade baked goods.
We also invite you to take a virtual tour of our farm!
At a recent meeting of the Addison County Hunger Council, three representatives offered interesting perspectives regarding Vermont’s local food system, and shared the successes and challenges associated with serving each particular group they represented. The Council explored issues throughout the local food system, from the farm workers who produce the food, to the distribution system for getting food to those who need it most. Council members discussed available resources, what supports are necessary, and what opportunities are present.
The representatives sharing presentations were Dr. Teresa Mares of UVM, Lily Bradburn of HOPE, and Jonathan Corcoran of ACORN. Dr. Mares shared insights about how our local food system serves the growing migrant farm worker population in Vermont. Lily Bradburn spoke about how these systems serve members of our community who are food insecure, and Jonathan Corcoran discussed local food system goals and challenges for our state as a whole. Here at the Co-op, we spend a lot of time thinking about local food and the systems that support it, though it was very interesting and unique to think of it though the lens of these diverse groups of people. If the function of a food system is to feed the community it supports, then we must assess its efficacy from the diverse viewpoints of all members of that community. Through a three-part review of these presentations, we hope to share what we learned with all of you. First up is the work of Dr. Teresa Mares.
Migrant Farm Workers & Their Families:
Dr. Teresa Mares and her assistant Jessie Mazar (University of Vermont) led the discussion about food security among our growing migrant farm worker population in Vermont. Teresa is a professor of Anthropology at UVM, and Jessie is a graduate student in Food Systems. They presented an overview of a research project they’ve been working on for the past 5 years. The project, which will be continuing for another few years, just finished its first phase, in which she and Jessie collected data on food insecurity and access to food through surveys with migrant farm workers.
Vermont is considered a “non-traditional destination” for migrant workers, but still has at least 1000 – 1200 migrant workers in the state. 90% of migrant workers are undocumented, so the exact number is unknown. Most are arriving from Mexico, though some come from countries in Central America. Most migrant workers are concentrated in Addison County and Franklin County, and many work on dairy farms. Vermont is the most dairy-dependent state in the country, and it’s estimated that between one-half and two-thirds of the state’s dairy products are prepared by migrant workers. Dairy work is considered very desirable, as it is consistent, year-round, and usually offers some form of housing. However, because it is year-round, there is no legal pathway to citizenship for workers.
Teresa and Jessie’s early conclusions show that a worker’s proximity to the US / Canada border has a strong effect on that person’s food security and access to resources. Teresa highlighted the physical location of two invisible lines: one was 25 miles from the US/Canada border and defines the “primary operating zone” for Border Patrol and Immigration Services (IS); the second was 100 miles from the border, in which land is still under the general jurisdiction of Border Patrol and IS, but sees much less activity. Addison County falls within this 100 mile border.
Overall, only 18% of migrant workers were found to be food insecure, which is close to the Vermont average, and much better than other states’ migrant populations. Nationally, migrant farm workers experience food insecurity at a rate that is roughly 3-4 times the national average (14%), so it’s reassuring to find that these families fare slightly better here in Vermont. The average in Franklin County was 18.2%, but in Addison County, migrant food insecurity was only 15.7%. Teresa linked this to the two different areas’ proximity to the US / Canada border. In Addison County, which is outside of the primary operating zone for IS and Border Patrol, migrant workers are much more likely to use driver permission cards, and much more likely to be traveling away from their farms in order to access food and other resources. However, in Franklin County, migrant workers were much more afraid to leave the farm, which has led to a lot of dependence on their employers or third parties to get food. This practice has been very exploitative in some places.
Jessie described the Huertas project being led by UVM Extension, which has helped demonstrate the incredible resiliency and creativity of accessing food by migrant workers. UVM Extension workers have helped provide seedlings of culturally appropriate plants and started gardens for migrant workers on farms. The program started in Addison County last year, and found that there were already strong networks of migrant workers in the region. Jessie described that many migrant workers already have farming backgrounds, and use the gardens to supplement their own food
over the summer months (as opposed to trying to scale up and create a market for their crops). The gardens also serve an important social and cultural role for the workers.
One interesting highlight was when Jessie mentioned the role of local co-ops in offering culturally meaningful foods for these families. She found during her interviews that migrant farm workers are often able to find culturally meaningful foods like masa, dried chiles, and corn husks for tamales at co-ops. She touched on the importance of providing access to these foods, as they can have an important influence on social and familial relationships. These foods allow migrant families to retain their cultural identity and maintain strong family and social bonds.
The Council discussed some of the political and logistical complications facing migrant workers and their families. Dr. Mares described the challenging hours facing dairy workers, who often work 70-80 hours/week from 4-11am and 4-11pm, which obviously affects their health and ability to cook. Middlebury Foods shared that they have been trying to connect their services to these families, and are in the early stages of trying to provide food pick-up sites in areas that are easily accessible for migrant farm workers. Dr. Mares and council member, Martha Kenfield, discussed that migrant families usually access school meals. Martha shared that if a parent identifies themselves as a migrant, it allows the family access to more resources at the school, but understood that revealing their status could be difficult. Cheryl Mitchell of NOFA- VT, who was part of a group that helped start the Latino Farmworker Coalition, praised the presentation and research. She is encouraged by the amount of energy emerging around supporting migrant workers, especially the Migrant Justice group and their Milk with Dignity program.
Dr. Mares’s work was enlightening and inspiring. It certainly identified areas for improvement with regard to our food system and the way it serves these members of our community, but also shed light on some very positive programs and components of our food system that are making food accessible for migrant farm workers and their families. As the population of migrant farm workers continues to grow in our county, what can we do to make our Co-op a more welcoming and accessible place for these community members?
We are so excited to issue our first ever patronage refund checks! The checks go into the mail today, so you should receive your share of our profits very soon!
Here’s a quick overview of how this benefit works. Last year, member-owners voted to switch from a 2% discount at the register to a patronage refund system. This simply means that every year that the Co-op is profitable, you will receive a share of those profits in direct proportion to how much you’ve purchased. So, the more you shop, the more you’re eligible to earn!
At the end of each fiscal year, if the Co-op is profitable, your Leadership Team, comprised of both Management and the Board of Directors reviews any anticipated projects and financial needs for the Co-op.That information is then used to determine how much profit to retain, and how much to return to you.
The amount retained stays in the Co-op. It still belongs to all memberowners and becomes part of what we own together. It also represents another aspect of our investment in this community-owned organization. The remaining profits are then returned (refunded) to you, a member-owner, in the form of a check. Your check stub includes the total amount of your purchases at the Co-op during the nine months since we started our patronage system, July 2015-March 2016.
Because our Co-op was profitable in the last fiscal year, the Leadership Team decided to return 40% of the profits to the member-owners and retain 60% to reinvest in the Cooperative.
For more information about how our patronage refund system works or the by-laws that govern it, click here.
Here are some options and ideas for enjoying your patronage check:
Cash or deposit your check within 90 days (deadline is September 13, 2016).
Donate it to support the local food shelves, HOPE and CVOEO, in Middlebury to help us combat food insecurity in our community. To do this, simply endorse the back of your check “payable to MNFC” and return it to any cashier.
Please note that if you don’t cash, deposit, or return your check within 90 days, the check becomes void and the Co-op will donate that amount to be split between the two food shelves.
Thank you so much for helping make your Co-op a successful part of our vibrant local community!
Facts about this year’s patronage refund:
We started the patronage system July 1, 2015, 9 months of total sales = $9,896,257.
Member purchases totaled about 76.83% of those sales.
The total declared patronage = $395,690 … profit from member sales before taxes and patronage.
The Board decided to return 40% of patronage to member-owners in checks.
The retained money will be reinvested in the Co-op to support our planned expansion project, allowing us to borrow less money from the bank and keeping the Co-op’s future more secure.
The money saved on Co-op taxes will be used to expand our Co-op Basics program & Support our Member Deals program.
As our celebration of Dairy Month churns on, we’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on a fantastic local, organic dairy farm hailing from Randolph Center, VT: Neighborly Farms! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their award-winning organic cheeses this week! Read on to learn more about this 168-acre organic dairy farm that calls VT home:
Established as an operating dairy farm in the 1920’s, Rob and Linda Dimmick are continuing the tradition of family farming. Nestled in the rolling hills of Randolph Center, Vermont, Neighborly Farms decorates the countryside with its red barn and white post and beam farmhouse built in the 1800s. We operate on 168 acres with cropland and grazing fields to support the dairy and a sugarhouse for producing pure Vermont maple syrup. The clean and tidy barn is home to 70 Holsteins—the black and white cows that symbolize rural living at its very best.
Rob and Linda are continuing the family farming tradition because they have a passion for the land and animals. We are a totally organic farm. This means the farm is run in complete harmony with the land and the animals; no antibiotics, no hormones, and no commercial fertilizers. Just pure and natural techniques that keep the cows healthy, happy, and the dairy products wholesome and chemical free. It means that the cheese produced at Neighborly Farms are pure and natural. And the best part? The organic cheeses taste great too.
Neighborly Farms of Vermont is not just another dairy farm. At our family farm we have a love for the land and animals. That’s why we’re an organic farm. It says we care about our surroundings and neighbors. Neighborly Farms produces eleven kinds of delicious organic cheeses; all made with wholesome milk from our well-cared for Holstein cows. At our family farm we make cheese the old-fashioned way, by caring for the land and surroundings it helps us produce the finest cheeses possible.
At the Co-op, you’ll find a rotating variety of our cheeses including our Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack, Colby, Feta, Green Onion Cheddar, and our staple Raw Milk Cheddar, many of which have been honored with awards from the prestigious American Cheese Society. We hope you enjoy them and thank you for supporting your local, organic dairy farms!
As staff members at the Co-op, we take pride in being well-versed about the products that we offer and strive to take an active role in our local food system. To achieve this end, we sometimes venture out beyond the walls of the store to visit the local farms that sustain us. These visits allow us to form personal connections with farmers and producers, and learn parts of their unique story that can’t necessarily be shared on a product label. It also lends a first-hand account of the efforts that go into producing local foods, which creates a new level of appreciation for the fruits of that labor when those products arrive on our store shelves.
With this in mind, 5 Co-op staffers enjoyed a recent adventure to Shelburne Farms. We all adore their award-winning cheddar, but we also know that Shelburne Farms is about so much more than great cheese. Incorporated as a nonprofit in 1972, Shelburne Farms has come a long way in transforming itself from a private estate threatened by development and decay into a thriving education center that weaves together agricultural stewardship and enterprise with land conservation. In addition to farmhouse cheesemaking, there are grass-based dairy, beef, and sheep operations; maple sugaring; vegetable gardens; and small-scale poultry, honey, and mushroom production. At the heart of each of these operations is a unifying educational thread aimed at increasing awareness about the interconnected nature of food and community and how our choices affect the health of ourselves, others, and the natural world. More than 150,000 people visit the Farm each year and benefit from the diverse array of educational programming geared toward educators and students of all ages.
As we entered the Shelburne Farms campus, we marveled at the beauty of this 1,400-acre working farm, forest, and National Historic Landmark. We wandered into the courtyard of the Farm Barn, weaving our way thorough free-ranging hens and excited school children, and followed our noses straight to the Farm Cart which was serving up fresh, healthy meals featuring local ingredients. We savored our lunch at a nearby picnic table and were joined by a special guest – a very curious hen!
After enjoying a delicious lunch, we met our host for the day, Rory Stamp. Rory joined the Farm in 2015 as the Cheese Sales Manager. He coordinates with the cheesemaking team and mail order staff to deliver their cheddar everywhere from the Welcome Center to Southern California, finding a home for each and every morsel of their 170,000 pounds of annual raw milk cheese. For the better part of a decade, he has worked in the New England artisan cheese scene, doing everything from distributing raw milk in Connecticut and milking cows at an organic dairy on Martha’s Vineyard, to making award-winning cheese in Vermont and buying wine for a cheese shop and importer in Cambridge, MA. Rory is an experienced food educator, and admits that he loves nerding out on cheese and all things fermented. His knowledge and passion for the craft of artisan cheesemaking was apparent as he described the Sun To Cheese process at Shelburne Farms.
Sun to Cheese? Yes; that’s how Rory describes it, because the delicious taste of the cheese starts way before the milk hits the cheesemaking vat. It begins with the sun shining on the lush pastures at the Farm. The herd of Swiss Brown cows that graze on the grasses and flowering plants in their pastures walk about 1.5 miles a day. The cows are milked each morning and evening, and all of that raw milk goes directly to the cheesemakers by mid-morning. They don’t hold or store any milk, so the milk going into each batch of cheese is as fresh as possible, but this also means that they must make cheese every single day!
Rory led us into the cheesemaking facility, where we had the pleasure of watching the process in action. A chalk board indicates the names of the cheesemakers for the day, the time at which they received the milk, the volume of milk received, and the precise timing for each of the critical steps though the process of turning that milk into cheese. It was so interesting to see the cheesemakers at work and to appreciate the very physical nature of the process. Rory walked us through the steps of first adding starter culture and rennet to the milk, which magically transforms the milk into curds and whey. The curds are cooked and stirred into the whey, then the whey is drained into an underground tank, later destined to be returned to the very fields where the Sun to Cheese process began! The whey helps return valuable minerals to the soil, preserving it’s richness and lending nutrient-density to the grasses that will again grow and nourish the cows. It’s all part of a beautiful, cyclical process that honors the land, the animals, and the cheese.
Back in the cheesemaking room, the next step is to form the remaining curds into semi-firm “packs”. Packs are cut into slabs that are then stacked and turned in a very rhythmic process known as “cheddaring”. Next comes milling of the slabs into “fingers”, which maximizes surface area for salting. The salt is added, which curtails the starter culture development and adds flavor. Finally, the fingers are put into compressible forms known as “hoops”, which are pressed overnight to remove the very last of the whey, producing solid, 40-pound blocks of cheese ready for aging.
Rory explained that each batch of cheese is unique. While there are many parts of the process that are precise and well-controlled, there are also many dynamic components that allow for subtle variation. There are inherent seasonal changes to the cows’ diet, which is predominantly fresh grasses during the spring and summer, and dried grasses in the winter, supplemented with small amounts of non-gmo, organic grain. This, combined with seasonal changes in their level of physical activity, brings varying levels of butterfat content and subtle changes in the flavor of the milk. He also pointed out that even the mood and energy of the cheesemakers on a particular day seems to have an influence! The cheesemakers keep a detailed written record of each batch with technical details about the nature of the milk and curd, but also with notes about how they were feeling that day. Some of their top award-winning batches came from days when the cheesemakers were feeling particularly upbeat.
Customers want a certain level of consistency in a cheese they’ve come to know and love, so Rory explained that each batch of cheese is sampled throughout the aging process in a sort of vetting process which determines the final product of that particular batch of cheese. Some cheeses are released at the 6-month mark, to be sold as a soft, creamy, buttery cheese that is perfect for melting on a grilled cheese sandwich. Other batches continue to age to the 1-year mark, where it becomes slightly sharper and crumblier. The batches that seem to be aging with the best consistency to their ideal standards remain in the aging cellar to become their signature 2-year Extra Sharp Cheddar, with its delicious crystalline flecks and crumbly texture. Of course, there are occasionally batches that seem to have a mind of their own as they age and stray a bit too far beyond the norm. These cheeses are sold on the farm as “Tractor Cheese”.
While most of the cheeses of Shelburne Farms are produced and aged on site, there are two varieties that take a field trip of their own: A small and special portion of the cheese is selected to be wrapped in cloth and sent to the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Greensboro, VT, where it is aged to perfection in a traditional English process – binding curds in cheesecloth, sealing with lard, and cave-aging over a year – yielding a cheese with a flaky texture, woodsy flavor, and long, brothy finish known as Shelburne Farms Clothbound Cheddar. The other traveling cheese is their famous smoked cheddar, which leaves the Farm after 9 months of aging and travels to a monastery. Brother Luke and the Monks of New Skete in nearby Cambridge, New York use a cold smoke process to hickory smoke this young cheddar for six hours, giving it a subtly sweet, bacon-like flavor.
We enjoyed sampling each of these varieties of cheddar and marveled at how unique they were at each stage of the aging process, despite all having such a similar origin. It’s fun to enjoy the cheeses in a “flight” beginning with the young, mild, smooth 6-month cheddar and working through the sharp, complex, crumbly, aged varieties, then finishing with the robust smoked cheddar. What a journey for the taste buds!
We had such a wonderful time at Shelburne Farms and are so grateful to Rory for being such an excellent host! We departed with full, happy bellies, a head full of newfound knowledge about how their cheese finds it way to our shelves, and heart full of appreciation for the incredible work they do at the Farm in their quest to educate for a sustainable future!
We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Amy’s Kitchen this week to shed some light on a family-owned company that was organic before organic was cool. Member Owners can enjoy 20% off the full line of Amy’s Kitchen products this week! Read on to learn more about this pioneering company that set out nearly 30 years ago to offer convenient, time-saving foods that didn’t sacrifice health or quality:
We didn’t set out to become the nation’s leading frozen food brand. All we wanted to do was create a business that would allow us to earn a living by providing convenient and tasty vegetarian meals for people like ourselves, who appreciated good food, but were often too busy to cook “from scratch.”
We started in 1987, the year Amy was born, using our own house and barn as headquarters. The founding meetings were held in the same room where we were married and where our daughter Amy was born. This was before the idea of “organic” food had become well known, and when there were very few frozen meals available for vegetarians to eat, either in health food stores or supermarkets. We were, however, very fortunate in being in the right place at the right time. The number of vegetarians had increased dramatically, as had consumer awareness of the harmful effects on their health and the environment of chemicals in the food supply.
Amy’s Kitchen uses organic vegetables, grains and beans whenever they are commercially available. At this time, over 99% or our vegetables, grains and beans are organic. All of Amy’s products comply with the NOP (National Organic Program) requirements that ingredients and products not be irradiated and not contain GMOs. We are active participants in the Non-GMO Project and we rely on testing and other procedures to assure the ingredients in our products are not contaminated with GMOs.
Although we have considerably expanded our production facilities and the number of people we employ, we have remained a family owned and operated business, sensitive to the needs of our customers. Our total commitment to quality has made the difference.
Saturday, June 1st marked the Co-op’s 40th Annual Meeting & Celebration! We were so grateful to be joined by nearly 150 member-owners to celebrate this exciting occasion at Middlebury’s American Flatbread.
We feasted on a seemingly endless supply of mouth-watering flatbread, salad, & dessert, and sipped on local Champlain Orchards cider. We were so impressed by the crew at American Flatbread! They sure do know how to please a hungry crowd!
We said a reluctant goodbye to two wonderful members of our Board of Directors, Sheila McGrory-Klyza and Kevin Lehman. Sheila and Kevin have given such devoted and valued service to our Board over the last several years. We thank them for their leadership and know they will surely be missed.
We also welcomed two new members to the Board of Directors, Ann LaFiandra & Amanda Warren, and congratulated re-elected incumbent, RJ Adler. We look forward to having these new leaders at the helm!
We reveled in the company of friends old and new. Marjorie & Marian from Orb Weaver Farm were in attendance, and reminded us that they’ve been selling their glorious veggies and cheese at the Co-op since 1981! Wow!
As the meeting commenced, Glenn shared a Co-op year-in-review. One highlight was learning that the Co-op’s sales of local products continue to grow steadily. Thank you for making this possible by supporting the incredible local farmers and producers in our community! We’re so lucky!
Board President, Tam Stewart, talked about the challenges ahead for food co-ops across the country, as competition heats up from more traditional retailers who are responding to consumer demand for organic foods. Their buying power presents a challenge for cooperatives trying to offer competitive prices, though we’re finding creative way to address that through our Co-op Basics program and other cost-saving measures for shoppers on a tight budget.
Board Treasurer, Lynn Dunton, gave a report on the Co-op’s fiscal year and expressed confidence in the Co-op’s financial status based on our healthy debt to equity ratio. She also shared exciting news about the Co-op’s first ever patronage dividend, which will be mailed out to member-owners in the coming weeks. The Co-op had a profitable year and we’ll be able to return a healthy portion (40%) of those profits to member-owners! The remaining 60% of the claimed patronage will be retained and reinvested in the Co-op.
The final portion of the meeting was led by Architect, Andrea Kerz-Murray, of Vermont Integrated Architecture. She updated us on the latest round of potential designs for the Co-op expansion.
The highlight of the night came when a very special guest was asked to give the official motion to adjourn the meeting. It was Glenn’s lovely mother who happened to be in town for a visit!
What an exciting time for our Co-op! It’s been an incredible 40 years and we’re so grateful to this fine community for supporting us through the years! We had a fun look back at our past and an exciting peek into our future. Thanks again to everyone who came out to attend our Annual Meeting & Celebration! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! Cheers to another 40 years!
The votes were tallied and the results are in! We’re excited to announce the three candidates elected (or re-elected) to your 2016 Board of Directors:
Thank you to everyone who voted! One of the coolest things about being a member of the Co-op is that membership is ownership in your Co-op. Exercising your right to vote in Board elections is one of the best ways to shape the direction of your Co-op, and we’re grateful that so many of you took the time to do so! Voter turnout was excellent this year.
We also want to extend our gratitude to all of the candidates who ran for the Board this year. It was a record number! It takes guts to put your hat in the ring, and we’re thankful that you did. We hope you’ll consider running again next year!
It’s an exciting time for our Co-op and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store with these new leaders at the helm!