October 2017

It’s Turkey Time!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and if you’re looking for a turkey for your holiday spread, we’ve got you covered! Here’s how to make it happen:


On November 1st the turkey sign-up sheets will go out. You’ll find them in the front end of the store on our brand new customer service counter! You’ll see one sign-up sheet for local turkeys from Stonewood Farm and another sheet for certified organic turkeys from Mary’s Free Range, Organic Turkeys. We will continue to take turkey orders through Wednesday, November 22nd – the day before Thanksgiving. We have pre-ordered a set quantity and turkeys will be offered on a first come, first served basis.


Stonewood – $3.19/lb (same as last year)

Mary’s –  $4.39/lb


The turkeys will range in size from around 14 lbs to over 30 lbs. When you place your order, you’ll have the opportunity to specify what size turkey you’d like. We’ll aim to get you a turkey within 3-5 lbs of your requested size.

How much turkey should you buy to accommodate your guest list? A handy rule of thumb is one pound of turkey per guest. And note that it’s always better to have too much than too little – especially during the holidays when leftovers are key for feeding out-of-town guests throughout the weekend


Turkey pick up will begin at 11:00 am Monday, November 20th and run through Wednesday, November 23rd. When you come to pick up your turkey, please follow the signs to the meat department and a staff member will be waiting to assist you. 

Questions? Give us a call at (802) 388-7276 or ask any staffer next time you’re in the store!



Check out faster AND help us all avoid credit card fees

Did you know you can increase another aspect of “keeping it local” by adjusting how you pay at checkout?  During the past year, MNFC paid over $150,000 in credit card fees! This startling amount leaves our local community and flows to out-of-state banks. Think about what could be done locally with these funds, either through increased community supports or improvements in customer services.

When you purchase food at the Co-op, you support the hundreds of local producers who live in our area and you are keeping the money in local circulation. And remember, if you’re a member-owner of the Co-op, you own shares in this store and will receive an annual patronage dividend refund based on your purchase history. The shares you hold represent your whole-hearted commitment to community-produced and distributed healthy foods.

While I certainly do not want to “guilt” anyone for using a credit card, there are some options to consider. The use of checks or cash is one possibility to avoid credit card fees, but this is not always convenient.  You could also consider using an MNFC Gift Card for all of your Co-op purchases. This card can be obtained from any cashier.  You decide how much value you want to put on the card, write a check for that amount, then use the gift card every time you shop.  It is like cash and thus should be kept in a secure place. There is a number associated with the card, found on the back and on the receipt when you put money on it. Note this number somewhere secure so if the card is lost, payment can be stopped. I took a photo of my card with my phone.

Any customary Co-op discount you receive stays the same, and the amount remaining on the card shows up at the bottom of your receipt every time you make a purchase.  When the balance runs low, writing another check will load the same card for another period of time.  I tend to reload every month.

There are several advantages to this process:

  • You can budget what you believe is reasonable for you to spend at the Co-op, say for a month’s time, and keep track of your spending.
  • Going through the check out line is extremely quick and efficient. The cashier scans your card, you get a receipt, and you’re done!  Nothing to sign, no check to write, no numbers to punch in, no waiting for change. The cashiers really like the ease of this process and you’re apt to get some unsolicited positive regard from them.
  • Use of the MNFC gift card completely eliminates fees the Co-op has to pay to banks and financial institutions when you use a credit or debit card. Yes, debit cards have fees as well!
  • Finally, remember that an MNFC gift card is a wonderful way to give anyone a present, for any occasion. The gift card can encourage someone new to the Co-op to make their first visit and can introduce longtime customers to this very efficient way of paying for purchases.

This is a very quick and convenient way to pay for purchases, and avoids paying fees to out of state banks … a win-win. This is how I have paid for all of my MNFC shopping over the past two years. Try it, I think you’ll like it!

Louise Vojtisek is a member of our Co-op Board of Directors.  For questions about this article, please contact board@middleburycoop.com.

Spotlight on Scott Farm

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Scott Farm this week to shed a little light on the work they’re doing to preserve heirloom and unusual apples on their 571-acre land trust in Southern Vermont. All of their fruits are 20% off for member-owners from October 26th – November 1st! Read on to learn more about this unique organic orchard and its rich history:



Scott Farm Orchard is a 571-acre gem located in the rolling hills of Dummerston, VT. The orchard is home to over 120 varieties of heirloom and unusual apples. The farm itself is something of an heirloom, settled in 1791 by Rufus Scott. The orchards were planted in 1915, and in 1995 Scott Farm was gifted to the non-profit historic preservation organization Landmark Trust USA.


The renowned apple maestro, Ezekiel “Zeke” Goodband, took over the management of the orchard in 2001. His search for old varieties has taken him to abandoned orchards throughout New England and as far as Kazakhstan, the birthplace of apples. A long time ago, Zeke learned that the less he sprayed the orchard, the less he had to spray. Zeke’s formal educational training was in the field of ecology and he realized early in his orcharding career that if he respected the orchard as an ecosystem there were fewer “pest” problems.

Scott Farm orchard before harvest

Their goal at Scott Farm has been to enhance the biodiversity of the orchard ecosystem – the more complex the ecosystem, the more stable it becomes, minimizing the potential for significant pest explosions. They have moved beyond organic into what they refer to as ecologically grown fruit. Scott Farm produces 120 varieties of ecologically grown apples – with beautifully poetic names such as Roxbury Russet, Belle de Boskoop, and Cox’s Orange Pippin, along with unusual apples like Winter Banana and Hidden Rose. Other fine fruits include quince, gooseberries, medlars, Asian pears, plums, elderberries, table grapes, pears, blueberries, nectarines. The apples and quince can be found at the Co-op, and the remaining fruits are sold directly through the orchard’s Farm Market which is open every day at 707 Kipling Road, Dummerston, Vermont from Labor Day to the day before Thanksgiving. Over 75% of the Scott Farm crop stays in Vermont!

Visit their web page to learn more, and don’t miss these fantastic recipes!


Celebrating Non-GMO Month

This October, our Co-op joins over 13,000 other participating grocery retailers across North America in celebrating the 9th annual Non-GMO Month. Created by the Non-GMO Project, this month-long celebration spotlights shoppers’ rights to choose food and products that do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In our Co-op this week, you’ll find a weekly sale featuring a handful of our favorite GMO-free products, plus a coupon in the Addison Independent for $3.00 off any Non-GMO Verified food.

What Are GMOs?

A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. The two main traits of GMO plants include glyphosate-based herbicide tolerance (Roundup Ready®), and the ability for a plant to produce its own pesticide.

Are GMOs Safe?

There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. According to a 2015 statement signed by 300 scientists, physicians and scholars, the claim of scientific consensus on GMOs frequently repeated in the media is “an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated.” To date, there have been no epidemiological studies investigating potential effects of GMO food on human health.

A comprehensive review of peer-reviewed animal feeding studies of GMOs found roughly an equal number of research groups raising concerns about genetically engineered foods and those suggesting GMOs were as safe and nutritious as conventional foods. The review also found that most studies finding GMOs foods the same as conventional foods were performed by biotechnology companies or their associates.

For a comprehensive overview of the available research on GMOs, please download the report “GMO Myths & Truths” published by three leading researchers at Earth Open Source.

More than 60 countries around the world – including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union – require GMOs to be labeled. Globally, there are also 300 regions with outright bans on growing GMOs.

How Common Are GMOs?

GMOs are present in the vast majority of processed foods in the US. Currently, commercialized GM crops include soy, cotton, canola, sugar beets, corn, papaya, zucchini, and yellow squash. Products derived from these GM crops include amino acids, alcohol, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, citric acid, sodium citrate, ethanol, flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), high-fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sucrose, textured vegetable protein (TVP), xanthan gum, vitamins, vinegar, and yeast products.

How Do GMOs Affect The Environment?

Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup® has increased 15-fold since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of resistant super weeds and super bugs which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2, 4-D (a primary ingredient in Agent Orange). These chemicals also pose a threat to beneficial insects like pollinators, which are critical to much of our food supply.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization determined that the herbicide glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup®) is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture and are developed and sold by the world’s biggest chemical companies. It’s also important to note that the companies who produce these chemicals are also the same companies developing the GMO crops that require their use. The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment, these novel organisms cannot be recalled.

How Do GMOs Affect Farmers?

Because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents which restrict their use, banning farmers from saving, replanting, exchanging, and selling seeds as they have done for millennia and upon which their livelihoods depend. As a result, the companies that make GMOs have the power to sue farmers whose fields become contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of inevitable drift from neighboring
fields. GMOs, therefore, pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and national food security. They also pose a threat to an organic farmer’s organic certification status. As a result, many organic farmers fear for their livelihood and their ability to fill consumer desire for organic products.

An additional threat to food security is posed by GMO crops because their seeds are identical clones lacking genetic variation. As GM crops become increasingly common, this narrow germplasm leaves the world with severely
limited crop diversity. When drought, flooding, blight, or another source of plant disease comes along, this lack of diversity leaves us vulnerable to large-scale crop collapse.

Are GMOs Labeled?

An overwhelming majority of consumers in Vermont and across the US have long been rallying for clear, simple, on-package labeling so that they can know at a glance if a product was produced with genetic engineering. In July of 2016, Vermont became the first state to make it happen as our groundbreaking GMO labeling law went into effect. The law required mandatory labeling of food for retail sale if produced with genetic engineering (GE) and banned the use of the label “natural” for food made with GE ingredients. The rollout was off to a smooth start and it felt like a significant victory for transparency in food labeling and consumers’ right to know.

Unfortunately, our celebration was short-lived. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) proposed a compromise GMO labeling bill (S.764) nicknamed the DARK (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act. Vermont’s leaders fought hard to defeat the DARK Act as it moved through the House and Senate but despite their best efforts, the proposal passed both the Senate and the house. It was delivered to the White House on July 19th and was signed into law shortly thereafter. In a nutshell, this law dissolved Vermont’s labeling law and falls well short of consumer expectations.

This law leaves a significant number of GE products unlabeled due to a definition of GE food which ultimately excludes some sugars, oils, and corn products. Companies are also able to opt out of clear, accessible on-package labeling by using digital “QR” codes that are unreadable by approximately half of rural and low-income Americans without access to smartphones or cell service. There are no penalties for lack of compliance, and no authority to recall products that are not properly labeled.

We’re deeply disappointed to see Vermont’s strong labeling law replaced by the DARK Act, but we also recognize that we should all be incredibly proud of what we accomplished over the past few years. Today, if you go into grocery stores in Vermont and across the nation you will find genetically engineered foods labeled for the first time – Vermont was a driving force in making that happen! National food manufacturers like Campbell’s and Dannon announced that they will continue to label their products, and others are expected to follow suit. In the end, a lot more people know what is in their food because of what we managed to accomplish here in Vermont.


Avoiding GMOs at the Co-op

The fight for meaningful and clear food labels will continue. In the meantime, if you wish to avoid GMOs while shopping in the Co-op, look for products bearing a certified organic label and/or products bearing the third-party certification of the Non-GMO project. Ask questions about where food comes from and how it is made. Perhaps the product has been imported from one of the 60-plus countries around the world that have banned GMOs. Or, perhaps it’s a local product from a small farmer or producer that may not bear an organic or non-GMO label, but can assure you that their products are grown or produced without the use of GMOs.

Spotlight on Lotus Foods

We’re casting our Co-op spotlight on Lotus Foods this week to bring awareness to their grassroots rice revolution that is helping to bring sustainably grown, organic, and non-GMO rice to your dinner table! All of their products are 20% off for member-owners from October 19th – 25th. Read on to learn more about the groundbreaking agricultural practices that are making this possible and the impact that it’s having in rice-growing regions of the world:


Lotus Foods was founded in 1995 with the intent and vision to support sustainable global agriculture by promoting the production of traditional heirloom rice varieties, many of which may otherwise be extinct, while enabling the small family rice farmer to earn an honorable living. They learned that up to one-third of the planet’s annual renewable supply of fresh water is used to irrigate rice and recognized that this practice is not sustainable. These wasteful agricultural methods are depleting our water resources faster than they are being recharged, creating water scarcity. For this reason, in 2008, Lotus Foods committed to partnering with small-scale farmers who radically changed how they grow rice, using less to produce more.

Lotus Foods feels strongly that sustainability is premised on an ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, and a culture of peace. They believe that eradicating poverty and promoting social and economic justice must begin with agriculture and must be accomplished in a way that protects and restores the natural resources on which all life depends. At the crux of this challenge is rice, which provides a source of living to more than two billion people, most earning less than $200 per year.


A Grassroots Rice Revolution

More Crop Per Drop is how Lotus Foods refers to their rice grown using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI is a not a new seed or input, but rather a different way of cultivating rice that enables small-scale farmers to double and triple their yields while using 80-90% less seed, 50% less water, and less or no chemical inputs. That’s revolutionary!

Why is SRI so Important?

This unique agricultural method addresses some of the most important challenges we face this century – namely to feed several billion more people with dwindling land and water resources and without further degrading the planet’s environment. SRI has been largely grassroots-driven, fueled by marginalized male & female farmers and the non-profit organizations (NGOs) who advocate for their welfare, like Oxfam, Africare, WWF and many dedicated local NGOs and individuals. The reason these farmers are so excited about SRI is that it represents an opportunity for more food, more money, better health, and more options – in short, for a way out of poverty.

Lotus Foods sees SRI as a logical extension of their mission. They offer six exceptional SRI-grown rice varieties, and call them More Crop Per Drop to bring to special attention to water as a diminishing resource. Fully one-quarter to one-third of the planet’s annual freshwater supplies are used to irrigate and grow the global rice crop. And in Asia, where most rice is grown and eaten, about 84% of water withdrawal is for agriculture, mostly for irrigating rice. Water scarcity is having an increasingly significant impact on agriculture. According to the WWF, “The SRI method for growing rice could save hundreds of billions of cubic meters of water while increasing food security.”  Check out this cool video from the Better U Foundation to learn more about SRI:

What about Organic Certification, Fair Trade Certification & Non-GMO Verification?

Most of their rice varieties are already certified organic, while others are in the process of becoming certified, and still others are working to help develop a certifying program in their country of origin. These organic and transitional rices are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or ionizing radiation. Their rices are 100% fair-trade certified and non-GMO verified. Lotus Foods has also been B-Corp certified since February of 2012. B corporations are legally obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers, and their environment. Lotus Foods shares the conviction that we can change the world for the better with how we choose to do business.

At the Co-op, you’ll find several varieties of Lotus Foods rice in our bulk department, and in the grocery department, you’ll find their packaged rice and also their delicious rice ramen noodles. Visit their website for excellent tips and recipes!


Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seemed like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, bananas, and avocados. All of their co-op produced, fair trade certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 12th – 18th!


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.


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.

Authentic 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 started 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. Check out this short documentary to learn more about the Women In Coffee project:


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

Spotlight on Organic Valley Co-op

October is Co-op Month and we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight this week on America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers – Organic Valley!  All Organic Valley products are 20% off for member-owners from October 5th – 11th! Read on to learn more about Organic Valley’s rich history, their commitment to their farmer-owners, and to the environment:

In the 1980’s, a dairy farming crisis was underway. The price for milk fell below production costs and the dairy farmers producing it were facing economic extinction. Farmers were told to “get big or get out”. Industrial, chemical farming was presented as the only existing option for survival. Never mind its effects on our health, our animals, and our environment.

There were many farmers who simply didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers at the mercy of corporate agriculture. Thankfully, in 1988 a Wisconsin farmer named George Siemon hung posters calling like-minded farmers in his community to band together. Family farmers filled the Viroqua county courthouse and all agreed that there had to be a better, more sustainable way to continue doing the work they loved in a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how their farmer-owned cooperative was born.

This pioneering group of farmers set high organic standards, which eventually served as the framework for the USDA’s organic rules. The cooperative first focused on organic vegetables, calling themselves the CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool) Cooperative, and within a year they expanded to include organic dairy. Demand for their organic products grew, as did farmers’ interest in joining the thriving cooperative. Interest came from farmers and consumers all over the country, and it became clear that they needed a new name to represent their broader base. With that, the CROPP cooperative became Organic Valley. 


Now, almost 30 years later, Organic Valley continues to produce some of the highest quality organic dairy, vegetables, soy, and eggs. They remain farmer-owned and remain true to the powerful working model that puts the environment, wholesome quality food, and the farmer first.

Click HERE to read more about the family of farmers that make up the Organic Valley Co-op and find out if there are any near you!

Click HERE for the top 5 reasons to choose organic.

Click HERE to read about sustainability initiatives at Organic Valley.

Click HERE for fabulous recipes.

Business of the Month – Stone Leaf Teahouse

A whistling tea kettle, the spicy aroma of simmering chai, a quiet space to sit, relax, and enjoy the moment…these are all part of the experience when you visit our Co-op Connection Business of the Month, Stone Leaf Teahouse, and it seems to beckon us this time of year when the air turns cool and crisp. Located in the heart of Middlebury’s Marbleworks, the Teahouse offers an oasis of calm in the center of an otherwise bustling little town. The staff has an intimate knowledge of the impressive list of teas offered and owner, John Wetzel, has traveled to the farms from which their teas are sourced, gaining an even deeper understanding of the tea’s journey from farm to cup. Even the greenest tea novice will feel right at home as John and his crew help you pick out the perfect tea to sip during your visit. Remind them that you’re a Co-op member-owner and you’ll receive 10% off! You can also find their premium loose leaf teas in our Bulk tea department. Most of the 2017 teas are in stock and it’s a unique treat to have teas this fresh available in our store. Read on to learn more about the tea house and their offerings.

About Us:

Based in Vermont, our teas reflect our ideals; grown with skill and heart to cultivate a healthy ecosystem and global community. Each year we visit the tea gardens that produce the finest teas in the world. We connect you to the families that have grown and processed tea for generations.

Established in 2009, Stone Leaf Teahouse was built, well from the stone. Upon returning from travels in India and Taiwan, we searched for the perfect space for storing and serving quality tea. We found that space in the Marbleworks in Middlebury, Vermont…our little “tea cave”. Surrounded by stone, our fresh teas keep fresh, and our aging teas age gracefully.

Our Focus:

We travel to all the regions that we source tea to forge a connection between the grower and drinker, directly importing from China, Taiwan, India, Nepal, and Japan (with more to come as we grow!).

We source teas fresh, buying the best harvests, often multiple times a year.

We connect the tea drinker to the tea garden.

We are students of tea, here to share the connection through a cup of tea.


Would you like to delve deeper into the world of tea? Check out the workshop calendar for some exciting opportunities to learn more!  The upcoming “Tea Through the Senses” workshop sounds particularly enjoyable. You can also visit the Tea House blog to read more about John’s tea travels and tips on brewing the perfect cup of tea!


I Own a Grocery Store with Some Friends

Happy Co-op Month!! In honor of this special time, we’d like to share one of our favorite articles about what it means to be a member-owner of a co-op, written by Mandy Makinen of National Co-op Grocers:


I am probably the last person you would expect to own a grocery store, and yet, I do. In fact, I own three. I am a Midwestern, married suburban mother of two, my car is twelve years old and most of my fashion finds come from the thrift store. I don’t fit the bill for corporate honcho, and my bank account corroborates that truth.

So how do I manage to own not one but three successful grocery stores? I guess in true “industry disruptor” style, I found a unique solution to a common problem: how to get the kind of food I want, and have my voice heard by a place where I shop. That solution is food co-ops. My local food co-op offers me fresh local food, a way to support my community and the opportunity to invest in the co-op, ensuring it remains a resource in our community for good.

To be honest, I’m mostly in it for the food

I can still remember the first time I tried a fresh, organic and locally grown sugar snap pea. The crisp, tender pod was a shimmering, almost translucent spring green, the texture was light and juicy and crunchy, the flavor sweet and slightly floral in a way that only a freshly picked pea can taste. I had this amazing experience in the produce aisle of my co-op, the specimen unceremoniously thrust at me by a tall guy with a beard and a flannel shirt, the very same guy, it turned out, who had grown the peas, picked them early that morning and brought them to the store to sample to customers, like me.

As a sales technique, it worked, you better believe I bought some. But unpredictably, it had a life-changing effect on me because it opened my eyes to the existence, and value, of locally grown food. It turns out that locally grown food is not just better tasting, it’s better for the local economy because it keeps people employed in the rural areas that surround where I live and it’s traveled a much shorter distance to arrive on my plate. Another unexpected bonus of buying locally grown food has been that fresher vegetables actually have more plant sugar in them (it’s chemistry!) so they have been a much easier sell for my kids. When vegetables taste the way nature intends them, people more naturally enjoy them. It’s neat how that works.

Like a boss! Creating jobs and making investments

Most of us don’t expect a lot more than food out of our grocery store, but why shouldn’t we? Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures but to be real, it’s one of its greatest chores, too. Buying and eating food is not optional, so it makes sense that we should have somewhere to buy food that is just here to help us meet that basic need, not to make money for business executives that live in other states. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of sending my money to Wall Street while Main Street closes up shop. Food cooperatives are locally owned by the people that shop there, like me, and my investment means that I get to vote for our board of directors and weigh in on important governance changes. If I wanted to, I could even run for the board!

Even better, when I buy food at my co-op more of the money I spend goes back to the local community via local producers and patronage refunds (a return on your investment, similar to a stock dividend or profit sharing but your amount is proportionate to how much you spend). Also, co-ops provide good jobs, most of them with benefits, to people in my neighborhood. Because co-ops are community-based (and because I’m an owner!) it’s easy for me to see how my shopping choices can benefit my community directly.

You can own a food co-op, too

There are many reasons why it’s smart and fun (yes, fun!) to shop at and invest in your local food co-op, I could never cover all the reasons here. For me, shopping the co-op is a great way to get the fresh, local and healthy food that I love (plus super tasty treats and snacks!) and at the same time, participate in an organization that is working to meet the needs of my community first and foremost. That community focus will never change as long as it exists because that’s what being a co-op means, and that’s what makes it different from other stores.

Just like you don’t need a wallet full of Benjamins to own a food co-op, you don’t need a Ph.D. to know that co-op ownership just makes sense.