September 2017

Celebrating Co-op Month

October is International Co-op Month! We’re celebrating all month long with special store promotions on products made by cooperatives like Organic Valley, Equal Exchange, Alaffia, Frontier, Blue Diamond, Cabot, La Riojana, and Real Pickles, to name a few. We’re also celebrating this special month by spreading the word about the cooperative business model and what makes it so unique.

What is a 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. They were 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 principles today.

In short, cooperatives exist to meet the needs of their member-owners and their communities. They are democratically controlled by their member-owners through an elected Board of Directors, and the profits generated by a cooperative are equitably distributed back to the member-owners and the community through patronage dividends and community philanthropic activities. “When you shop at your local food co-op, you’re getting more than good food for you and your family,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA). “You are also joining with other people in your community to build local ownership, provide good jobs, support your local farmers and producers, and build stronger, more vibrant communities.”

From food co-ops to farmer co-ops, worker co-ops to credit unions, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, many different types of co-operatives contribute to our communities and the economy. Co-ops are also more common than you might think: here in the United States, 1 in 3 people are members of at least one co-op or credit union. Nationwide, cooperatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually. Because they are member-owned, co-ops empower people from all walks of life to work together to build a better world.

Our Co-op

Our cooperative began in the early 1970’s as a pre-order buying club with a goal of providing members with wholesome, natural foods. Fast forward 40 years and there are now over 4,700 member households in this community that own our Co-op! Our member-owners elect an eleven-member Board of Directors to develop policies which guide the fundamental direction of our cooperative and we have a General Manager to guide our staff in the day-to-day operations of the store.

Our Ends

Our Ends statement lists the reasons we exist as a co-op:

MNFC member-owners, customers, and the community benefit from

  • healthy foods
  • a vibrant local economy
  • environmentally sustainable and energy efficient practices
  • cooperative democratic ownership
  • learning about these values

We also have a buying criterion that guides our decision making about what types of products we offer. Our buying criterion includes a strong emphasis on local and organic products and we currently work with over 400 different local farmers and producers to make that happen.

Community Impact

This year’s Co-op Month theme is “Co-ops Commit . . .”, which invites cooperatives to complete the slogan in a way that reflects their priorities and visions for the future. We’re excited for this opportunity to celebrate how our food co-op is committed to this wonderful community. As mentioned previously, we are locally owned by more than 4,700 member-owner households and profits generated by our cooperative are equitably distributed back to the member-owners and the community through patronage dividends and community philanthropic activities. We provide jobs to over 90 people and pay more than $3.5 million to local farmers and producers every year. $1.3 million of that goes directly to Addison County farmers and producers. Last year, we were able to donate $51,000 to various Addison County-based nonprofits and donate over 12,000 pounds of food to local food shelves. And we couldn’t do any of it without your support!

We’re awfully proud to serve this community and to be so well supported by our member-owners. When a community-owned store like our Co-op thrives, we see it is a reflection of a thriving, healthy community. As we like to say,  It’s YOUR Co-op – own it!

Spotlight on Four Pillars Farm

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight this week on Four Pillars farm of Whiting, Vermont. This beautiful organic farm provides our Co-op with an abundant array of local produce and you will find it all at 20% off for member-owners from September 28th – October 4th! Read on to learn more about this gem nestled in the fertile valley of Addison County.

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Four Pillars Farm is a certified organic vegetable farm set in the beautiful, fertile rolling hills of southern Addison County. Their mission is to provide healthy, top quality produce, to grow better not bigger, to protect and build the fertility and biological diversity on their land and build relationships with their community partners by encouraging them to come and see how their food is being grown.

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Farmer-owner Peter Cousineau is committed to the use of growing practices that go beyond sustainable to regenerative. He incorporates permaculture principles into his farming methods to help recycle nutrients in the soil, promote water retention, and prevent soil degradation. He has also worked to increase beneficial insect populations on the farm and has remineralized the soil to bring back the 70+ trace minerals that most veggies are missing these days due to soil-degrading farming practices.

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Another permaculture principle evident in Cousineau’s practices is the concept of people care. One example includes an annual event where he invites employees from our Co-op and other neighboring Co-ops that sell his produce to visit the farm, take a tour, and enjoy a farm-to-table meal that he prepared. This annual gathering is not only an opportunity to see the gorgeous farm where the produce is grown and learn more about what it takes to get the produce from seed to co-op shelf, but also provides an important opportunity to build relationships, mutual respect, and truly engage in a community partnership between producers and consumers.  Below are some photos from last year’s gathering.

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Scenario Planning – A New Tool in Your Board’s Governance Tool Kit

One day last August, even as our co-op was in the midst of its recent expansion project, your board spent the better part of an afternoon peering into the future. We gathered across town in a director’s screened-in sunroom and had brought along an assortment of fresh, summery, potluck dishes to share when the work was done.

Every director was there, along with our general manager, Glenn Lower, and our minute-taker and staff liaison, Victoria DeWind. The goal wasn’t to map a new direction, or plot our next move, but rather to make sense of a few of the conditions, contexts and events that our cooperative could potentially face and, based on that sense-making, dial up our general state of readiness to meet some of the challenges that might arise.

It is generally agreed among observers of food cooperatives that current economic, political, social, environmental and competitive market conditions make developing specific business strategies nearly impossible. But even though we can’t know much about our future we can imagine it. We can develop a set of plausible (but not necessarily probable) “what-ifs”, and then envision responses. This, in a nutshell, is what scenario planning is all about.

Here is another description of scenario planning from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review:

“Scenario planning is making hypothetical assumptions about what the future might be and how your organization’s environment could change over time in light of that future. More precisely, scenario planning is identifying a specific set of uncertainties, different ‘realities’ of what might happen in the future of your business. It sounds simple, and possibly not worth the trouble or effort; however, building this set of scenarios is probably the best thing you can ever do to help guide your organization in the long term.”

Since guiding the co-op’s direction over the long term is one of your board’s key responsibilities, we decided to make scenario planning a regular part of our yearly work. So to start, we focused on two possible scenarios. The first was an adverse social media event, which is something that happens at co-ops more often than you’d think and can be very tricky to resolve given the speed and reach of current social media technology. (This scenario was mainly about a potential risk.) The second scenario involved the possibility of partnering with another local or regional organization with similar and/or complementary values to ours. (This scenario was more about a potential opportunity.)

We brainstormed possibilities; identified forces at play; made diagrams; used sticky notes, index cards, and worksheets; arranged various combinations of factors; tested them for plausibility; weeded out the weak or overly fuzzy ones; and then, as the sun was getting low, enjoyed a fine dinner together out on the lawn. (No surprise: your board can cook.)

Summaries of this initial scenario work were later prepared and stored online for easy reference, for the benefit of future boards, and potentially to share with other co-ops as well.

As always, write anytime with questions or comments: tam@middleburycoop.com

By: Tam Stewart  – chair of your co-op’s Board of Directors

Spotlight on Champlain Orchards

Happy Autumn! The crisp chill in the morning air and the first few dappled leaves high in the mountains signal that the season is here, along with the abundance of local apples. We’re deep into our celebration of Eat Local Month and we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on one of the oldest continuously operating orchards in Vermont – Champlain Orchards in Shoreham! They’re featured in our Member Deals program this week, so member-owners can enjoy 20% off their stunning array of fresh apples and apple products including sweet apple cider, apple pies, and apple cider donuts, along with their peaches, plums, and red pears from September 21st – 27th! Read on to learn more about this family-owned, solar powered, ecologically managed orchard overlooking Lake Champlain.

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The story of Champlain Orchards as we know it today began in 1998, when twenty-seven-year-old Bill Suhr purchased 60 acres of orchard in Shoreham, Vermont.  Bill’s motivation and initiative to live off the land overshadowed the fact that apple growing and fruit farming were not in his realm of knowledge, but thanks to the seasoned expertise of long established neighboring orchardists Sandy Witherell, Scott and Bob Douglas, and Judy Pomainville – who all shared equipment, land, and information, it wasn’t long before the orchard was thriving.  In the early days, Bill delivered 20 bushels at a time in a station wagon to the local farmers’ markets and co-ops. He quickly gained the trust of produce markets around the state through exhibiting a steadfast motivation and passion for delivering high quality, Vermont grown fruit.

 

Photo credit: S.P. Reid

 

Today, Champlain Orchards manages over 220 acres of fruit trees that includes over 70 varieties of apples as well as plums, peaches, nectarines, European and Asian Pears, raspberries, cherries, and blueberries. Their fruit is ecologically grown and third-party certified by the IPM Institute. Eight acres are certified Organic by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) and the farm is 100% electrically solar powered, with Solar Orchard #3 in the planning stages.

Additionally, Champlain Orchards runs a cidery. Every single apple in their Vermont Hard Cider is pressed, fermented, and crafted at their orchard. This makes for a quality, local product that is fresh, crisp and deliciously drinkable. Their cidery offers original Vermont hard cider, Mac & Maple, Heirloom, Honeycrisp, Cranberry, Pruner’s pride, Ginger & Spice, Asian Pear, Honey plum, Pruner’s Promise, Sparkling Ice, Peach, Hopped Native, and Ice cider.

Photo Credit: S.P. Reid

Needless to say, Bill is as ambitious as they come. His passion for working on the land and the fruit mixed with his forward thinking and goals of success and sustainability have created a thriving Vermont agricultural business that provides to communities all over the state. But he was and is far from alone in his efforts. The knowledgeable Shoreham orchard community, an equally motivated wife and business partner, Andrea Scott, and a hard working Champlain Orchards Crew all continually contribute to cultivating and shaping the orchard into the business we know and trust today. Over the years, the orchard has grown continually in size, staff, offerings, and infrastructure. Today, the orchard harvests over 80,000 bushels of ecologically grown apples in a season, which are not only eaten fresh but also used toward sweet cider, hard cider, pie, donuts, apple butter, and cider syrup production. Their growth also allows the orchard to employ over 30 locals year round, 30 Jamaicans in the harvest season and to annually deliver to 50 schools, 28 Hannafords, 19 food co-ops, 8 colleges, 5 hospitals, various CSA’s, independent groceries, and restaurants.

Photo Credit: S.P. Reid

Bill and Andrea now have a son, Rupert (named after Rupert, Vermont, where they met at a contra dance), and a daughter named Rosa. Rupert is an expert on tractors and can tell you more about orchard operations and apple varieties than most of the crew. The four share a beautiful home on the orchard as well as a love of the outdoors, dancing, food, and music. “Although there are huge stresses and we are constantly working to find more balance, we have a huge appreciation for the lifestyle that farming allows for- the time outdoors, the time with plants and trees, and using our hands. We love watching young trees and grafted trees bearing new fruit, it always amazes us!”

Bill and Andrea have taken their dream of providing nourishing food to the community farther than they imagined and are excited to enter these new frontiers of fruit growing. Their passion for the trees and the well-being of the orchard and the environment only grows with the yearly increasing harvest and varietal plantings. Bill often remarks “I was just trying to grow some apples!” when reflecting on the evolution of Champlain Orchards and where he finds himself today. The orchard crew admires Bill and Andrea’s efforts, feel inspired by their initiative, and are proud to take part in the orchard and all that it offers to the community. And most of all, they are excited for the future of Champlain Orchards.

Spotlight on Golden Russet Farm

As we continue to celebrate Eat Local Month, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on a local, organic farm that has been part of our Co-op family for over 30 years – Golden Russet Farm! We acquire more produce from their farm than from any other farm in Vermont! Member-owners can enjoy 20% their abundant array of local, organic veggies and their glorious fresh-cut bouquets from September 14th – 20th! Read on to learn more about this wonderful farm and the fine folks who work tirelessly to make it such a special place:

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Farming Organically Since 1981

Farm owners Will and Judy Stevens have been growing organic vegetables commercially since 1981, having started on a small plot of rented land in Monkton, VT. After growing their business and refining their techniques, all the while learning from other pioneers in the Vermont organic farming community, they determined it was time to expand their operation. In 1984 they purchased a former dairy farm with good soils in the agriculturally-rich town of Shoreham, VT, in the southwestern corner of Addison County—home to Golden Russet Farm.

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Certified Organic in 1987

The Stevens have always used exclusively organic production practices on their vegetable and greenhouse operations and became certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers in 1987. Among other things, this means they use crop rotation, cover crops, biological and naturally-derived pest controls, compost, animal manure, and naturally-derived fertilizers as standard management practices.

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CSA, Farmstand, Greenhouse Sales & Cut Flowers for Events

Golden Russet Farm starts off the season with vegetable and flower plant sales in the greenhouses and the Farm-to-Kitchen Connection CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. In addition to raising vegetables for market, Judy also grows flowers for cutting, which adds color to the fields and creates habitat for beneficial insects. You’ll find these beautiful bouquets for sale throughout the summer months at the Co-op.

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A Hyper-Local Sales Focus

Since 2003, the farm’s focus has been on “hyper-local,” meaning that approximately 90% of their produce has been consumed within 20 miles of the farm. Their produce is available at the farm stand, their CSA, at food markets in Middlebury and Burlington, and at Addison County restaurants.

Solar Powered Since 2013

In April of 2013 the Stevens put up five free-standing solar panels which provide them with all of their farm and personal electrical energy needs.

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About The Farmers

Judy is a fourth-generation Vermonter from southern Vermont. Her family ran a successful Christmas tree business in the Londonderry area for many years. This experience helped her and Will create a successful mail order wreath business that they ran from the farm until about 2000. Will moved to Vermont from the Ticonderoga, NY area in 1977 to finish his college education at the University of Vermont, which is where he and Judy met. He graduated in 1980 with a BA in studio art, with a specialty in blacksmithing.

After spending the summer of 1980 at Shelburne Museum (Judy as a weaver, and Will in the Blacksmith’s Shop), they were serendipitously presented with the opportunity to ramp up their homestead gardening interest to a commercial scale, and in the first several years everything they grew was sold exclusively at the Burlington Farmers’ Market. From the beginning, their mission has been to provide good quality food to people at reasonable prices.

Shortly after they moved to an old dairy farm in Shoreham, VT, in November 1984, they began to raise a family–Freeman was born in 1986, Pauline in 1989, and Anna came along in 1991. The kids had a sand pile in front of the shed, which, as the greenhouse plant business grew over the years, became a magnet for customers’ children. At some point, the pile was moved to its present location at the corner of the flower garden, which makes it much easier for shopping parents to keep an eye on their children!

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Between 1989 and 1992, Will served as President of Vermont Organic Farmers, which then was NOFA-VT’s certification committee. This was an exciting time in the world of organic agriculture. The sudden interest in the link between food safety and production practices was inspired by Meryl Streep’s CBS appearance on 60 Minutes in the fall of 1989 when she railed against a particular spray used on apples. “Mothers and Others for Pesticide Limits” was formed, bringing public awareness to the benefits of organic agriculture. Suddenly, a fringe movement that had been based on back-to-the-land ideals found itself moving toward the mainstream. Some would say that this was the beginning of the localvore movement.

Judy served for 3 years on the board of the Vermont Fresh Network. VFN strives to foster meaningful, mutually profitable relationships between Vermont food producers and chefs and was one of the earliest formal “Farm to Table” initiatives in the nation.

Judy and Will have been actively involved in Town affairs through various organizations and boards. Judy served on the Rescue Squad through much of the eighties and has played an important role in the expansion and promotion of Shoreham’s Platt Memorial Library over the last twenty years. Will was elected to the Town Planning Commission in the mid-nineties, and eventually chaired it for several years. He has since served on the Select and Zoning Boards, and has been elected Town Moderator every year since 2004.

In November 2006 Will was elected to the Vermont Legislature (as an Independent, representing the Towns of Benson, Orwell, Shoreham, and Whiting) for the first of four two-year terms. He was on the House Agriculture and Forest Products Committee all eight years and served the last four as ranking member. He is especially proud of two programs that came out of his committee during that time: the Farm to Plate and Working Lands Initiatives.

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Spotlight on Stonewood Farm

Are you enjoying Eat Local Month as much as we are? The abundance of beautiful local produce this time of year makes us feel so lucky to live where we do. But, eating local isn’t just about fruits & veggies. Where would we be without our local meat producers? This week, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Stonewood Farm of Orwell, VT. They provide big, beautiful turkeys for our Thanksgiving tables, and keep us stocked in ground turkey and turkey breasts year-round. You can also find their popcorn in our bulk department! They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from September 7th – 13th and will be 20% off for member-owners. Read on to learn more about this fantastic farm that is all about raising turkeys the natural way:

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Established in 1976 by Paul & Francis Stone, Stonewood Farm has been a family owned and operated farm ever since and is now run by Peter Stone & Siegrid Mertens. Here are the rules of raising natural turkeys at their farm:

  • The turkey-friendly barns are uncrowded and open-sided providing lots of fresh air and natural sunlight
  • The turkeys are raised without hormones, antibiotics, or animal by-products added to their feed
  • There are no added preservatives or artificial ingredients
  • Humane Care at our farm means plenty of Vermont air, cold nights, good feed, and tender loving care
  • The turkeys are intentionally grown slowly. This ensures a delicious and naturally self-basting turkey, which lends a superior flavor and juiciness that Stonewood Farm turkey is known for
  • To ensure a humane harvest, we have an on-site USDA-approved processing plant that is operated by our family. All turkeys are individually hand graded to ensure the highest quality

Be sure to visit us on the web for recipes!

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Co-op Connection Business of the Month – Jumelles Wellness Midwifery

We’re excited to highlight one of the newest local businesses in our Co-op Connection – Jumelles Wellness Midwifery! Located in Middlebury’s Historic Star Mill in the Riverside Natural Health Center Suite, Jumelles (pronounced ju-mell) is a woman-centered practice, offering central Vermont families home birth midwifery care, doula services, lactation counseling, and childbirth education. Thanks to the Co-op Connection, Co-op member-owners can enjoy 2% off their initial prenatal appointment and 2% off a birth tub rental! Read on to learn more:

 

 

About the Practitioner:

Chenoa is a Traditional Midwife, a Certified Professional Midwife through North American Registry of Midwives (NARM),  Licensed Midwife in the state of Vermont, a certi

fied doula, Certified Lactation Consultant and Emergency Medical Technician.  Chenoa has been attending births since 1997. While pursuing her Bachelors of Art at the University of Oregon, she completed training as a birth doula through DONA (Doulas of North America.) Chenoa immediately began a three-year, traditional midwifery program.

Following the midwifery program/apprenticeship, she continued her training through another apprenticeship in a high-volume birth center in Portland, Oregon, specializing in water births.  During that time, Chenoa also volunteered with Doula Circle, a program that provided doula services for teen mothers, a commitment that she currently maintains by offering childbirth education and support to families.  In 2006, Chenoa moved with her family to Vermont, where she began working as the primary midwife at a group midwifery practice in Addison county. In 2010 Chenoa volunteered as the primary midwife for a busy birth center in Jacmel, Haiti with twin sister Nieve Shere leading to the eventual collaboration between Jumelles Wellness Midwifery and Riverside Natural Health Center in 2013.

Chenoa is certified by the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP & BLS) in cardiopulmonary resuscitation for adults, infants, and newborns. She is a member of the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM), Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), Vermont Midwives Association (VMA), and National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM)

Chenoa lives on a small farm in Cornwall, Vermont with her husband and three children.

Services Provided:

  • Home birth midwifery care including prenatal, birth & postpartum
  • Water birth & birth tub rental
  • Laboratory work
  • 24/7 on call service for labor & urgent matters
  • Complete newborn exams & screenings
  • Lactation consulting & breastfeeding support
  • VBAC (Vaginal Births after Cesarean)
  • Childbirth education classes
  • Doula services
  • Acupuncture for fertility, pregnancy, birth & postpartum through collaborative care

Visit their webpage to learn more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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