July 2016

Spotlight on Black River Meats

This week, we’re shining our Co-op spotlight on Black River Meats of North Springfield, Vermont. We wanted to bring awareness to their efforts to bring humanely-raised, ethically slaughtered, beautifully cut local meat to our tables. Read on to learn more about this company and their state-of-the-art, Animal Welfare Approved facility:


Black River Meats creates solutions connecting farmers, chefs, and retailers in the local and natural meat marketplace. They achieve this with the help of a state-of-the-art, Animal Welfare Approved facility called Vermont Packinghouse. The facility opened in the fall of 2014 with the goal of putting humanely-raised, ethically slaughtered, beautifully cut local meat onto our tables. They use designs developed by Temple Grandin’s firm, so they meet the high standards that Grandin, a pioneer in humane livestock handling, has set for such facilities.

They point out that The US meat industry is almost entirely controlled by four companies. If we are to ever move away from this consolidation and towards a decentralized and sustainable base of meat production, we must develop mid-sized supply chains that are big enough to have an impact, yet small enough to care. Making meat as it ought to be, that is the mission of Vermont Packinghouse.

They are one of only two facilities in the US with viewing windows, allowing those who are interested to take a tour and gain a better understanding of how the meat they eat is processed. They acknowledge that this is an act that can require courage and vulnerability, but that it can ultimately spark greater respect for animals, meat, and meat industry workers. And it seems that there are plenty of folks who are interested in taking these tours, from student field trips, chefs-in-training, or individual families who want their children to understand where their meat comes from and how it moves through every part of the supply chain. We even had a group of Co-op staffers who took a field trip to check it out!

Farmers who bring their livestock to the facility for processing also appreciate the opportunity to see how their animals are treated after they leave the farm. “I want the best start for my animals, the best life, and the best end – then I know I’ve done my job as a responsible meat farmer”, said one of their producers. The Packinghouse processes New England raised meats from small and medium-sized farms for Black River Meats, who then brings the products to our store shelves and your home. This represents an important move toward greater collaboration between local meat producers, meat processors, and meat consumers in Vermont and New England. Black River Meats works closely with their producers to ensure quality production, humane handling, efficient processing and fair pricing. They have an open door policy of transparency with all of their customers and invite you to call and schedule a visit to our farms, processing facility, and a tour of our warehouse!

To read more about the local farms supplying Black River Meats, check out the farms section of their webpage.



A Visit From La Riojana Co-op

There are over 2.5 million cooperatives around the globe, including food co-ops, agricultural co-ops, housing cooperatives, artists’ co-ops, credit unions, and even cooperative sports teams! Despite our diversity, we are all unified by the Seven Cooperative Principles, which are a set of ideals that form the basis for how cooperatives around the world operate.

We recently had the opportunity to exercise Cooperative Principle #6 – cooperation among cooperatives, when we were visited by Marcos Carol and his associate, Jose, who traveled all the way from Argentina to meet with us as part of their tour of co-ops in the United States. Marcos and Jose are a part of one of Argentina’s largest cooperatives – La Riojana. La Riojana is a farmer-owned co-op in northwest Argentina that has over 500 members, most of whom are small-scale grape farmers with less than seven acres of vineyards. Many of these farmers come from families that have been part of the cooperative since its beginning in 1940, when when wine growers from Italy first immigrated to the area of La Rioja in northwest Argentina and decided to come together to make wine.


Fair Trade

La Riojana was the first Argentine winery to become fair trade certified in 2006 and has grown to be the largest fair trade wine producer in the world. Since 2006 their co-op has generated approximately $15 million Argentine pesos of support to their members, workers, their families and their local communities. The cooperative guarantees the purchase of grapes at fair prices, resources for transportation of grapes from the vineyard to the winery, access to credit and an emergency fund, profit distribution, free technical assistance, economies of scale for the purchase of diesel and other inputs, collective frost insurance and a policy of one member, one vote regardless of their production size. The co-op reinvests any remaining profits into community projects and infrastructure improvements for the farmers.

One of the most important projects was to establish a fresh running water facility, including a 525 ft deep well, for members and workers living in the village of Tilimuqui who had to endure desperate summers, with temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, without a regular water supply. The fair trade premium raised by sales of La Riojana’s wines has also enabled them to build a new secondary school, giving the children of their workers and members access to a free technical secondary education, as well as the children living in the wider local community.


Sustainability & Organic Production

La Riojana became certified as an organic producer in 2000 and has grown to become one of the country’s largest producers of organic wine. They currently have over 850 acres certified for organic production and organic wines make up approximately 12% of total production, though their organic production is set to increase significantly over the coming years as they convert their members’ vineyards to organic production. Their goal is to double organic production by 2017, and to be 100% organic certified by 2025. The 100% organic certification will be largely supported by a new fair trade project, which will fund organic certification of 100% of their small-scale producers, at no cost to them.This action will not only have a great impact on the environment, but also on a social and economic level, which in turn will benefit each family of producers and the community in which they live.

Varios 045

La Riojana is committed to working with their members in a way that is not only sustainable to their way of life, but also the health and future of the land, the environment and the soils from which they make their wine. They were one of the first Argentine wineries to introduce a carbon neutral program for their entire wine-making process from grape to bottle.

Co-op to Co-op

A little over a year ago, National Co-op Grocers (NCG), began working with La Riojana to establish a direct co-op to co-op supply chain, which enables us to offer high-quality wine at a great price and still pay a fair trade premium to the winery and the grape growers. In true cooperative fashion, it’s a partnership that benefits us all:

  • We are able to offer the wines at a great price thanks to the co-op to co-op partnership, which allows us to work more directly with the producers, reducing costs by as much as 30%.
  • Although La Riojana Winery sells a lot of its wine in Europe, it faced significant obstacles breaking into the US market. The co-op to co-op partnership connected La Riojana with co-ops across the United States and is now available in more than 50 co-ops.
  • A one-dollar per case fair trade premium is included in the wine’s price to help fund La Riojana’s community programs. So when you purchase La Riojana wine, you not only get a great product at a great price, you also know your purchase goes to support a small producer co-op making a big difference.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit from Marcos and Jose! It was fascinating to learn more about their co-op and the admirable work they are doing to support their farmers and communities in Argentina. We sent them off with 40th Anniversary Middlebury Co-op t-shirts, and were delighted a few days later to see this video clip on their Facebook page showing Jose in his MNFC t-shirt playing the piano at the Davis Co-op in California!




Spotlight on Blue Diamond Growers Cooperative

Cooperative businesses are quite diverse when it comes to the types of goods or services they provide to their member-owners. There are nearly 30,000 cooperatives across the US, including food co-ops, agricultural co-ops, housing cooperatives, artists’ co-ops, credit unions, and even sports teams that are co-ops! Despite our diversity, we are all unified by the Seven Cooperative Principles, which are a set of ideals that form the basis for how cooperatives around the world operate. They were first created in 1844 by the founders of the very first co-op, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England, and we are still guided by this same set of ideals today. This week, we’re honoring Cooperative Principle #6 – cooperation among cooperatives, by casting our spotlight on the Blue Diamond Growers Cooperative. They’re featured in our Member Deals program, and member-owners can enjoy 20% off the full line of Blue Diamond almond products all week long! Read on to learn more about this growers’ cooperative that was formed more than 100 years ago!

Blue Diamond Growers. (PRNewsFoto/Blue Diamond Growers)

The Blue Diamond Growers Cooperative was first formed by 230 almond growers on May 6,1910, at the Hotel Turclu in downtown Sacramento, California.Their original name in
1910 was the California Almond Growers Exchange. They quickly identified core values to encourage all almond growers to join the cooperative: an intuitive ability to build relationships; communicate directly and honestly; and commit unequivocally to the idea that working together cooperatively would allow them to achieve the best return on their investment.

Their commitment to these core values paid off in the end because very quickly over half of the state’s almond growers pooled their resources and joined the cooperative. This was the beginning of their resolve to prove the power of partnership. They began working with U.S. government officials, the predominant Spanish and Italian almond producers (over 80 percent of the world supply was in Spain and Italy), and buyers, mostly from New York who had family connections to almond producers in Europe, to gather market intelligence and statistical information so they could market and sell their almonds for the best value.

B&W Pic of Almond Harvest

Their name eventually evolved to become Blue Diamond Growers to emphasize the brand that has become synonymous with quality almonds worldwide. It made the perilous journey on the backs of visionary leaders committed to the idea that only through cooperative marketing could family farmers compete in the rough and tumble markets of the world. That vision translated into more equitable returns for grower/members, a guaranteed home for their crops and an ever-expanding market for their products.

Almost single-handedly it created an industry out of a loose collection of growers and shippers, an industry that swept from being a minor player in the world market to its current status as a global leader in growing, processing and marketing almonds. Today the California almond industry produces over 80 percent of the world supply and leads the state as the largest food export.



Look for Blue Diamond products at the Middlebury Co-op in the bulk and grocery departments. In bulk we offer sliced almonds and slivered almonds. In grocery, choose from various almond milks, both refrigerated and shelf-stable, or try their gluten-free Nut Thins! These crackers are the perfect accompaniment to your favorite cheese or summer dip.


Vermont’s Local Food System: A Report Card – Part 2

At a recent meeting of the Addison County Hunger Council, three representatives offered interesting perspectives regarding Vermont’s local food systems, 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 examine it though the lens of these diverse groups of people. Through a three-part review of these presentations, we hope to share what we learned with all of you. In Part 1, we shared about Vermont’s local food system through the eyes of the migrant farm workers, and now it’s time to learn about how our local food system serves the families in Vermont who are food insecure.

Food Insecurity in Vermont:

Food security is generally defined as the lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times due to lack of financial resources.

  • One in five Vermont children experiences hunger or food hardship.
  • More than 20,000 children under 18 live in food insecure households in VT.
  • Nearly 80,000 Vermonters of all ages live in food insecure households.

Food Insecurity with Hunger:

Households that are classified as food insecure with hunger are those in which adults have decreased the quality and quantity of food they consume because of lack of money to the point where they are quite likely to be hungry on a frequent basis, or in which children’s intake has been reduced due to lack of family financial resources, to the point that children are likely to be hungry on a regular basis and adults’ food intake is severely reduced.

  • 6% of all Vermont households are food insecure with hunger

There are state and federal programs in place to address this serious issue, though all too often, the food available to these members of our community is of the highly processed variety. A number of years ago, representatives from HOPE, Middlebury College, ACORN, the local business community, along with several local farmers, including Spencer Blackwell from Elmer Farm and Will Stevens of Golden Russet Farm, got together to discuss the possibility of increasing the amount of locally grown food offered at HOPE’s food shelf. This group recognized that Addison County farmers grow vast amounts of beautiful, healthy organic fruits and vegetables, which are often unavailable or too pricey to those who need it most. They also recognized that these farms often had excess produce available that would not be destined for retail markets, which could instead be diverted to the food shelf.

The Co-op contributed $8,000 to HOPE for the purpose of supporting this work, which allowed HOPE to hire a part time Local Food Access Coordinator. This new hire, Gretchen Cotell,  would build on the work that had already been done on a volunteer basis by the Addison County Gleaning Program. Gretchen successfully wrote a grant for the Hannaford Career Center to obtain a flash freezer unit from the USDA, which allows surplus produce gleaned from local farms to be frozen and stored for food shelf clients to use well beyond the typical growing season.

Last October, Gretchen passed the reins to a new Local Food Access Coordinator – our deli’s own Lily Bradburn! Lily is doing a fantastic job of elevating this program to new heights. By the end of 2015, more than 10,797 pounds of surplus produce had been donated by local farms! This takes monumental and tireless effort on the part of the farmers and a heck of a lot of coordinating and processing effort from Lily.  She has teamed up with multiple volunteer groups to process several hundred pounds of local carrots, and has cooked up over 240 quarts of soup using gleaned and donated local produce.  Lynn Coale and Woody Danforth at the Hannaford Career Center have also been key to this effort, thanks to the use of their culinary arts facility where much of this processing takes place.

“It has been immensely gratifying to see families that formerly left the food shelf with mostly non-perishable, processed food now able to select colorful armloads of red, orange and green veggies” Jeanne Montross, Executive Director of HOPE, said. “We are confident that this trend will continue.”

If Lily’s work thus far in 2016 is any indication, the Local Food Access Program will most certainly allow the trend to continue. Lily is working with farmers to negotiate contracts for crops that do not typically end up being surplus on the farm, so that these foods can be frozen, used in holiday food boxes, or made into value-added products like soups and stews. Last month, over 100 gallons of soup were made through a collaborative project called Just Soup,  where Lily works with fellow Hunger Council Members, Ashley Laux and Elle Bacon, to arrange student volunteers from Middlebury College to collect gleaned and donated products and create soups in the Hannaford Career Center kitchen. The soup is very popular among HOPE’s patrons – by month’s end only 13 gallons of it remained!  Lily is also hard at work setting up events for food shelf patrons – taste tests, cooking demonstrations, recipe swaps – all events geared toward encouraging the incorporation of more healthy, local foods into daily diets. Additionally, Lily is assisting HOPE clients in enrolling in the Co-op’s Food For All program, and arranging tours at the Co-op,  with a focus on familiarizing patrons with the bulk department and the significant savings that can be realized when items are purchased in that manner.

We’re incredibly grateful for Lily’s efforts, and for everyone at HOPE, the many volunteers, the Hannaford Career Center, and, of course, the local farmers that make this all possible. Thanks to their tireless work, HOPE’s Local Food Access program is thriving, and access to healthy, local foods for the food insecure members of our community is on the rise.

Here’s a list of the local farms contributing to this program:

  • Bella Farm
  • Elmer Farm
  • Four Pillars Farm
  • Gildrien Farm
  • Golden Russet Farm
  • Happy Valley Orchard
  • Lakeway Farm
  • Lalumiere Farm
  • Last Resort Farm
  • Lester Farm
  • Marble Rose Farm
  • Middlebury College Organic Garden
  • Mt. Abraham-Lincoln Farm
  • Nash Farm
  • New Leaf Organics
  • Singing Cedars Farm
  • Windfall Orchards

Spotlight on Orca Bay

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Orca Bay this week to shed a little light on their efforts to source sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood for all to enjoy. Their seafood products are 20% off for member-owners this week! Read on to learn more about this energetic and creative company providing exceptional seafood choices for more than 30 years:




At Orca Bay, we are pleased to be an example of how ethics, fairness, and friendship can be core values of a healthy and thriving business endeavor. Our success and longevity is owed to a winning blend of quality, value and innovation – it’s a formula that distinguishes every level of our business. From our people, to our products, to the clients that we serve, our goal will always be to exceed expectations and to keep the Orca Bay whale synonymous with true quality and customer satisfaction. We believe that from great people come great products. Orca Bay has invested three decades searching out and nurturing business relationships with some of the most quality-minded seafood harvesters in the world. From those fishermen and harvesters to our headquarters in Seattle, we source and process the very best seafood products, offering both variety and value to the health conscious consumer. By combining convenient and informative packaging with wholesome and delicious seafood, Orca Bay consistently delivers excellence to that most important of daily social events – mealtime. We are proud that our products have garnered awards from the prestigious Alaska “Symphony of Seafood” a competition celebrating wild, all natural selections.

We view ourselves as partners with our customers, our suppliers, our community and our environment. Together we collaborate to ensure that our demand and standards for the finest seafood does not come at the expense of the individuals or oceans that provide them. We are committed to supporting organizations which promote our values in business, health, and social responsibility such as the National Fisheries Institute and Sea Share. Our seafood products are non-GMO verified, we are certified for responsible fisheries management by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), and our seafood is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). We’re also a participating and certified supplier in a cool program called Smart Catch, created with chefs for chefs to recognize restaurants working toward ensuring an abundant supply of seafood for generations to follow.

smart catch logo

Why is it so important to support sustainable seafood? 

From above, it may seem that there are plenty of fish in the sea, but dive beneath the surface and it’s a different story. Over-fishing, lack of effective management, and our own consumption habits are just a few factors contributing to a decline in wild fish populations. Evidence of these problems abounds.

In just the past decade, Atlantic populations of halibut and yellowtail flounder joined the list of species at all-time lows. The cod fishery, once a backbone of the North Atlantic economy, collapsed completely in the early 1990s and has shown little evidence of recovery two decades later. The breeding population of Pacific bluefin tuna is now at only four percent of its original size and decline will continue without significant, immediate management changes.

Other harmful effects of fishing—some of which are preventable with modifications to gear—also impact the ocean, including the accidental catch of unwanted species (bycatch) and habitat damage from fishing gear.

So, how did we get here? One reason is the advent of industrial-scale fishing, which began in the late 1800s and has been accompanied by significant declines in the size and abundance of fish. By the mid-1990s, these fishing practices made it impossible for natural fish stocks to keep up. Ninety percent of the world’s fisheries are now fully exploited, over-exploited or have collapsed.

Because the ocean seems so vast and its resources limitless, these threats are often “out of sight, out of mind,” but over-fishing issues are not just for future generations to bear; they’re very real problems threatening our current seafood supply and the health of our ocean. The good news is that there is much we can do.

  • Support sustainable seafood with your food dollars – Ask for sustainable seafood at stores and restaurants. By asking this simple but important question, you can help shape the demand for, and ultimately supply of, fish that’s been caught or farmed in environmentally sustainable ways. Consumers play an important role in shaping ocean health, so start making a difference today!
  • Use sustainable seafood resource guides, like this one from the Safina Center, when shopping for seafood.
  • Consider these ocean-friendly substitutes when the seafood in your recipe isn’t a sustainable option.
  • Check for logos indicating sustainable seafood options like those from the MSC or ASMI.


Want great recipes, cooking tips, and other resources? Check out Orca Bay’s web page!

kitchen couple cropped for poster



Co-op Connection Business of the Month: REV Fitness!

Hey ladies; are you looking to REV up your fitness routine? Our Co-op Connection Business of the Month for July is REV Fitness and Certified Trainer/Owner, Michele Butler, offers a unique, refreshing twist on the typical gym routine. Located in a beautiful, sunny, women’s-only studio within Middlebury Fitness, REV Fitness aims to inspire women across Addison County to overcome life’s health challenges, with particular focus on strength and endurance training for weight loss, bone building,  and heart health. We’re thrilled that REV Fitness recently joined the Co-op Connection, which means that Co-op member-owners can enjoy 10% off their enrollment fee and 10% off personal training at REV Fitness!


REV Fitness addresses the unique fitness needs of women, particularly those aged 40+. Their REV workout is designed for optimal calorie burn, bone building and cardiovascular endurance and strength. This 30-minute energizing and uncomplicated circuit routine takes the guesswork out of exercise and helps overcome health challenges for women.

What is REV Fitness?

  • A workout routine for women designed for optimal calorie burn and weight loss
  • Strength training to improve bone density & increase metabolism
  • Cardiovascular endurance to improve balance & to reduce the risk of heart disease

A recent visit to this bright, beautiful studio and a great chat with Certified Trainer/Owner, Michele Butler, made it clear why so many women are excited about this unique program. Michele’s passion, knowledge, and enthusiasm are positively contagious. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Springfield College and has been a personal fitness trainer certified by the American College of Sports Medicine for 20 years. Her personal fitness philosophy includes:

  • Discovering your “why”. What motivates, what makes the effort rewarding?
  • Finding something active that you like to do – and doing it frequently
  • Recognizing that there is only now, do your best now
  • Enjoying the journey, acknowledging success and happiness along the way

Whether your goal is to build strength, increase flexibility, or lose a few unwanted pounds, it begins with the decision to change your lifestyle, and it can begin today. Each personalized program can include cardiovascular, endurance, strength, balance, flexibility, diet and nutrition components. Michele’s services are appropriate for anyone with health challenges such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. Sessions are designed to provide variety and education and to keep fitness routines from becoming routine. Your unique 30 minute circuit workout is waiting for you!

Why Circuit Training?

  • Weight Loss – Ensuring that you’re burning sufficient calories over the course of the day is critical to fighting weight gain. Circuit training is excellent for women as it really helps to rev up your metabolism and increase total calorie expenditure by increasing muscle mass.
  • Bone Building – One in two women will fracture a bone due to Osteoporosis. By the time we’re 70, we have lost about 45% to 50% of our muscle mass. Circuit training encourages bone building because it incorporates weight-bearing exercises with strength-building exercises that can help prevent muscle loss and maintain bone density.
  • Heart Health – Up to 82% of heart disease is preventable in women by adopting healthy habits. Circuit training is great for women over 40 because of its fast paced nature, promoting cardiovascular benefits that reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Balance – As we age our balance deteriorates due to lack of physical activity, visual impairment and lack of proprioception (sensors of position and movement in the feet and legs). The rev circuit cardiovascular stations encourage standing exercises that improve muscle strength, balance and coordination.


REV It UP! with Michele –  Every Monday at 5:15 PM & Every Wednesday at 12:15 PM. Join fellow REV members for this circuit class that bends the rules and shakes up your usual exercise routine. Experiment with different intensity levels, change your workout format, increase calorie burn, cardiovascular fitness and strength, all while having fun and challenging yourself. Learn new exercises and fitness facts. Michele provides encouragement and motivation throughout these 30 to 40 minute sessions. Appropriate for all fitness levels. Bring water and a towel, wear sneakers.

Walking Club – Meets Every Friday at Noon. Enjoy the many benefits of walking in the great outdoors. This 50 to 60 minute walk is social and can range from a moderate pace with hill climbs to a gentle stroll. No one is left behind and everyone is encouraged to participate. Meet at REV Fitness at noon on Friday. REV Walking Club welcomes members and non-members alike. So invite a friend! Bring water, and wear a hat, sunglasses and a smile! (Foul weather may cause us to go with Plan B, which is an indoor REV workout!)

photobrochure 6-2016

Wellness Workshops and Special Events:

We regularly schedule events that focus on women’s health and wellness covering topics like diet, nutrition, personal care and menopause. These are often free and are open to members as well as non-members to enjoy. Check our website for upcoming events and join us!

On June 28th, we began the exciting workshop series “Shed Pounds and Gain Confidence” – a 4-part weight loss and body confidence program. Through this series, we’ll work together to discover:

  • The Underlying Issue That Has Your Body Holding Onto Weight.
  •  How to Say Goodbye to the Cravings, Panic, and Self-Doubt That Keep You in a Constant Fight Against Your Body!
  • Tools to Take Control of That Critical Voice in Your Head!
  • How You Can Create an Empowering Relationship With Food, Find Pleasure in Exercise and Implement Self-Care
    Into Your Life

Click here to read all about it!

“We’re all about women, their changing needs; their changing bodies. I look forward to meeting you at REV Fitness and inspiring you to do and feel your best everyday!” – Michele Butler