March 2017

Spotlight on Natural Sea

This week, we’re casting our Member Deals spotlight on Natural Sea to highlight the wonderful things they do to make high-quality, sustainable seafood available at the Co-op.  Their products will be 20% off for member-owners from March 30th – April 5th. They offer an array of frozen and canned seafood products that individually meet the guidelines established by various independent agencies including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), The Safina Center (formerly Blue Ocean Institute), and Earth Island Institute. Read on to learn more about Natural Sea, and the importance of choosing sustainable seafood:



Since 1991, Natural Sea has been committed to sustainable fishing and ocean-friendly seafood. The salmon and tuna they offer are wild caught, not farmed. They’re non-GMO verified, traceable, and harvested using dolphin safe, ocean-friendly methods. Plus, they’re packaged in cans that are BPA-free. The skipjack offered by Natural Sea is individually pole & line caught from a MSC certified fishery to protect ecosystems and preserve habitat. Natural Sea’s frozen cod sticks and fillets are also MSC certified, and they’re breaded with multi-grain breading made from organic whole wheat and organic cornmeal. Their frozen fish nuggets, fish strips, and fish fillets are made with MSC certified minced pollock, and they contain no MSG or preservatives. In short, Natural Sea goes to great lengths to ensure that the seafood on your plate delivers the healthy protein and omega-3’s that you’re looking for without unhealthy additives or undue harm to oceans and sensitive fish populations.

So, why does this matter? 

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! Look for brands like Natural Sea, Orca Bay, or Henry & Lisa’s when shopping at the Co-op.
  • 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.
  • Look for logos like these below to guide your seafood buying decisions:

Being A Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

As a new member of the Board of Directors, I frequently get asked why I choose to be a board member. We are all familiar with the refrain “voting with your dollars” as a shared value of conscious consumers. I choose to spend my money at the co-op because I believe in this slogan. I choose to be a member of the Board of Directors because I similarly believe in the concept of “voting with your time.” Being a member of the board allows me to “spend” my time committing to the power of democracy and to pursue lifelong learning.

Wendell Berry writes: “No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.” In these unsettled times, participating in the democratic leadership of a cooperatively owned, local business allows me to practice living responsibly in my small part of the world. Our co-op may seem like a small fish in the big pond of the globe—whether we buy organic, fair trade chocolate chips at the co-op, or conventional chocolate chips at a big-box store may seem dolefully inconsequential in the face of the massive social-justice issues our world faces.  But, it’s really not; these choices matter.  Participating in the democratic ownership of the co-op, however, allows me to devote my dollars, time and energy to the pursuit of an alternative to our global status quo.

Being on the Board of Directors also offers opportunities for meaningful personal growth. I recently attended a cooperative board leadership workshop, and it was truthfully the most useful training that I have ever attended. In only a few hours, I had the opportunity to learn the history and saliency of the cooperative movement, meet board members from our neighboring co-ops, and learn essential skills for my board work. My highlight of the day was building MNFC’s financial model with LEGOs alongside Glenn, our General Manager, and Ann, a fellow board member! The concepts and skills I took away from that day have proven to be not only indispensable for my work with MNFC, but also highly translatable to my job as a cooperative leader of the Bridge School.

The election season for our co-op is in full swing. As you decide whether to spend your time filling out your ballot, and voting for new members of the Board of Directors, I urge you to remember Wendell Berry’s notion. Our co-op may be small, but voting for our board allows us to exercise our democratic muscles and live responsibly in our small part of the world, and thereby living fully in the world as a whole – Amanda Warren, Board Member, Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op

To learn more about the Co-op’s Board of Directors, click here.


The Battle to Keep the Soil in Organic

What comes to mind when you think of organically-grown produce? Does it conjure a pastoral scene with fields of fertile soil dotted with lush, healthy plants? What about hydroponic ‘vegetable factories’ and ‘vertical farms’ where production is hermetically sealed in huge warehouses filled with LED lights and nutrient pumps? Should hydroponic production operations like these qualify for organic certification?

This is the hotly-contested question being debated by the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). They’ve been granted the authority to determine whether fertile soil is to remain the foundation of organic farming. To many, this seems like a no-brainer since the original government definition of ‘organic’ stressed ‘soil biological activity’ as one of the vital processes enhanced by organic practices. Unfortunately, under significant corporate pressure, the USDA rewrote that definition in 2002 to remove any reference to the word “soil.”The massive influx of hydroponic vegetables and berries being certified is the result of corporate interests successfully redefining “organic” in the USDA.

In October of 2016, Vermont farmers and legislators spoke out in opposition to this corporate takeover of organic during an event known as The Rally in the Valley. The protest was sponsored by NOFA-VT and took place in Thetford, VT. Hundreds of people marched with a 26 tractor cavalcade ending at Cedar Circle Farm, where Senator Patrick Leahy, Congressman Peter Welch, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, and farmers such as Eliot Coleman and Will Allen spoke about the importance of returning to real organic. Check out this great video from that event. We spotted Will and Judy Stevens of Golden Russet Farm & Mia Allen of Mountain Yard Farm in the crowd lending their voices to this important cause.  Do you recognize any of your favorite farmers?

Their message continues to gain steam and in January of 2017 Eliot Coleman gave a powerful keynote address at the Mid-American Organic Alliance (MOA) winter conference described by one attendee as “a love letter to organic agriculture”. In his address, Eliot called for us to wake up to what is happening to the organic label, urging that “long time supporters of organic farming need to realize that the ground has shifted under their feet. Ever since the USDA (and by association the industrial food lobbyists) was given control of the word, the integrity of the ‘USDA Certified Organic’ label has been on a predictable descent.” Eliot went on to say, “There isn’t any soil in hydroponic production. How can it be organic? One of the appeals of organically grown food is based on the high nutrient status of plants grown in a biologically active fertile soil, with all its known and yet to be discovered benefits.” He urged those in attendance to stand up for the future of organic.

Eliot Coleman

Another powerful voice for the cause was offered by Vandana Shiva in her keynote address at the recent NOFA-VT winter conference. Vandana is world famous for her opposition to Monsanto and Big Ag and she’s widely respected for her defense of small farmers and healthy soils around the world. In the middle of her address, she held up a “Keep The Soil In Organic” t-shirt, and said, “ I think it is in the soil that our future lies. As Ayurveda says, ‘In this handful of soil is your future. Take care of it.’ This is 4000 years ago wisdom…Soil will sustain you and provide you with food, and clothing, and shelter, and beauty. Beauty is very much a part of it. Destroy it and it will destroy you. Now, ALL of chemical farming has been an escape from the soil and an arrogance that you can replace it…Every step of so-called innovation in agriculture is running away from the soil. It stops being agriculture because ‘agriculture’ means ‘taking care of the land’.” View Vandana Shiva’s entire inspiring address below:


According to one of the founders of this movement, Dave Chapman, “the question of hydroponics in organic goes to the core meaning of the word. If organic isn’t about healthy soil, then what is it about?”. As one soil scientist said, “The answer is soil. The question is irrelevant.”

Get Involved

Do you believe that healthy soil is the foundation of organic farming? Let your voice be heard! The NOSB meets next month in Denver to talk about this important issue. Click HERE to submit a comment to the NOSB. You can also click HERE to sign a petition to keep the soil in organic. Stay in the know by visiting the Keep the Soil in Organic webpage, and by following them on Facebook, and Twitter.

Senator Patrick Leahy
Congressman Peter Welch

Farm To Freezer

We’re having a Spring Sale on NFCA Farm-to-freezer fruits and veggies! What makes these blueberries special? Read on to learn about a cool collaboration between area food co-ops and farmers working together to make year-round regional produce an option for Co-op shoppers:

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

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

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

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

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


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

Organic Broccoli

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

Organic Edamame

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

Organic Green Beans

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

Sweet Corn

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

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


Earth Day 2017!

Mark your calendars, folks! Saturday, April 22nd is Earth Day! We hope you’ll drop by the Co-op to join the celebration. We’ll have demos from earth-friendly organizations, we’ll raffle off an exciting prize package containing some of our favorite local earth-friendly products, and the deli will be sharing free samples of their famous “Dirt & Worms” while supplies last!

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bags

We’d also like to remind you to please bring your reusable shopping bags because 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.

BYOC – Bring Your Own Container

Aside from bringing your reusable grocery totes, we also encourage you to bring your own containers for certain items in the store. Opting to bring your own container helps save pesky packaging waste and, in many cases, helps you save money. It’s a win-win! Bring your own container to the Co-op for purchasing:

  • items from bulk bins
  • Aqua Vitea kombucha
  • honey (ask any bulk staffer to fill your jar)
  • maple syrup (ask any bulk staffer to fill your jar)
  • peanut butter (visit the peanut grinder in the bulk department)
  • bulk tea
  • bulk herbs
  • bulk spices
  • coffee beans
  • hot coffee
  • hot tea
  • salad bar
  • hot soup
  • castile soap
  • bath salts
  • echinacea
  • beeswax
  • lotion

Just be sure to first visit the scale located in the bulk department to weigh your container. This is known as the tare weight. Marking this weight on your container ensures that you will not be paying for the weight of your container when the cashier rings up your purchase. If you’d like some assistance weighing your containers, just ask any staff member and we’d be more than happy to assist you!

Here’s a look at the environmental impact of bringing your own container for a handful of common products:



Spotlight on Equal Exchange

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


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

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


Fair Trade

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

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

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


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

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




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

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



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

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

Co-op Connection Business of the Month: Middlebury Fitness

Are you looking to give your workout routine a spring makeover? We invite you to check out our Co-op Connection Business of the Month — Middlebury Fitness! Flash your Co-op member-owner card and you’ll receive 50% off the enrollment fee, 10% off a short-term membership, and your first class or workout is FREE! Read on to learn more about what this community wellness center has to offer:



Middlebury Fitness is a community health and wellness center founded in 1997 that puts their members needs first.Their facility features a wide variety of the most current strength and cardio equipment by the leading brands in the industry. Is group fitness your thing? They offer a variety of programs and group fitness classes to meet the diverse and ever-changing needs of their member base, ranging from ages 13-93. Click here for their class calendar and descriptions. Other services and amenities include personal training, free equipment orientations, athletic performance training, Dietician consultations, saunas, massage therapy, and more!

The crew at Middlebury Fitness is incredibly proud to be so active in this great community and annually receive recognition and awards for various initiatives. For the past three consecutive years, they have received the United Way of Addison County’s “Partner Award” for an annual event that has raised thousands of dollars for our local friends and families in need. In fact, their recent SPIN UNITED event raised $11,400 for United Way of Addison County. Wow!!

At Middlebury Fitness they understand that you have options when it comes to your health and fitness needs. They aim to meet and exceed their members’ expectations every day and believe they have some of the most attentive, caring, professional and knowledgeable instructors, personal trainers and staff you will find. Their ultimate goal at Midd Fit is to ensure that each of their members achieve their personal fitness goals while experiencing exceptional customer service in a supportive atmosphere of fun and camaraderie.

If you are a current member, they’d like to extend a sincere THANK YOU for being a part of the Midd Fit family! If you are not yet a member, please visit and let Middlebury Fitness guide you through your fitness journey today! And don’t forget to mention that you’re a Co-op member-owner!