June 2019

Spotlight on Wood’s Market Garden

There are certain fruits and vegetables that seem to announce the changing of the seasons and for us here at the Co-op, the day we receive our first delivery of local, organic tomatoes and strawberries from Wood’s Market Garden, we know that summer is finally here! We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Wood’s Market Garden this week to highlight their magnificent 150-acre organic farm in Brandon, VT. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off all of their glorious local, organic fruits and veggies from June 27th – July 3rd.  Read on to learn more about their farm and the family that makes it possible for us to offer such a beautiful bounty:

Wood’s Market Garden is a fruit, vegetable & flower farm and seasonal market nestled in the quaint town of Brandon, Vermont. Their fields have been producing fresh food for the greater Brandon community for over 100 years!

The farm consists of 150 acres of Vermont farmland and woods. Known far and wide for their delicious sweet corn and plump, sweet strawberries, they also grow over 50 kinds of vegetables and fruits on 60 acres of sandy loam soils. Their produce and vegetable plants are certified organic, and in addition to their field production, they also have 7 greenhouses for raising bedding plants, ornamentals, vegetable starts and the tastiest early tomatoes in the state! Their unique varieties of plants and passion for quality crops keeps people coming back year after year.

Farmer Jon Satz purchased the iconic Wood’s farm from Bob and Sally Wood in 2000. With his passion for growing and sustainable farming practices, the farm and market have blossomed into a destination for beautiful organic vegetables, quality bedding plants and some of the sweetest strawberries around! Jon, his wife Courtney, and their 2 young sons make their home on the farm and enjoy the continued legacy of farming the land that the Wood family started generations ago.

Their farm stand and market are open 7 days a week during the spring and summer season. Outside, it’s a paradise of plants, hanging baskets, creeping vines, and gardens to wander. Perhaps you’ve seen it while driving down Route 7 South through Brandon? You’ll notice Jones Mill Pond, which during the warm summer months is covered with those famous pink water lilies, and Wood’s sprawling acres of lush fields and greenhouses surrounding the pond.

Inside the market, the shelves and baskets are filled with gorgeous fresh produce from the farm. Depending on what’s in season, you’ll find everything from fresh spinach to strawberries to squash. In addition to produce, they have an unbelievable variety of artisanal cheese, organic milk and local dairy products, local meat and poultry, fresh baked goods, maple syrup, honey, jam and more! It’s a foodie paradise at Wood’s Market….a really fun place to shop, and guaranteed to make you smile. Stop in and see them on your next trip through Brandon!

Spotlight on Neighborly Farms

As part of our celebration of Dairy Month, we’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on a fantastic local, organic dairy farm hailing from Randolph Center, VT: Neighborly Farms! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their award-winning organic cheeses from June 20th – 26th!  Read on to learn more about this 210-acre organic dairy farm that calls VT home:

Neighborly-Farms. Round Logo

Established as an operating dairy farm in the 1920s, Rob and Linda Dimmick, along with their son Bobby and his wife, Brooke, are continuing the tradition of family farming. Nestled in the rolling hills of Randolph Center, Vermont, Neighborly Farms decorates the countryside with its red barn and white post and beam farmhouse built in the 1800s. They operate on 210 acres with cropland and grazing fields to support the dairy and a sugarhouse for producing pure Vermont maple syrup. The lush green fields are home to 70 Holsteins in the warmer months and provide hay for the cows during the cold Vermont winters. 

The Dimmick’s are continuing the family farming tradition because they have a deeply-rooted passion for the land and animals. They are a totally organic farm. This means the farm is run in complete harmony with the land and the animals; no antibiotics, no hormones, and no commercial fertilizers. Just pure and natural techniques that keep the cows healthy, happy, and the dairy products wholesome and chemical-free. It means that the high-quality cheeses produced at Neighborly Farms are 100% organic and reflect the terroir of their surroundings. 

Neighborly Farms of Vermont is not just another dairy farm. Their commitment to organic practices and their solar energy system illustrate their love for the land and animals and deep respect for the environment.  They’ve made an active choice to integrate sustainable practices that best care for the earth, their cows, and their neighbors in both this generation and for generations to become. They make cheese the old-fashioned way and believe that caring for the land and surroundings helps them produce the finest cheeses possible.

At the Co-op, you’ll find a rotating variety of their small-batch cheeses including Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack, Colby, Feta, Green Onion Cheddar, and their staple Raw Milk Cheddar, many of which have been honored with awards from the prestigious American Cheese Society. They hope you enjoy them and they thank you for supporting your local, organic dairy farms!

It’s Patronage Dividends Time of Year – Just What Is This??

As explained on the Co-op’s website, “Patronage dividends are a traditional way for Co-ops to share profits back with their members. As Member-owners of the Co-op, you also own the profits, and a patronage dividend system allows us to share and reinvest those profits in a transparent, mutually beneficial way.”

The annual patronage dividend refund system is four years old.  This year, the Co-op Board of Directors voted unanimously to refund members 50% of the total patronage.  Last year’s refund was 40%. For a variety of reasons, General Manager Glenn Lower suggested we increase the refund to 50% for this year.  By early July, if a member-owners’ patronage dividend is more than $5.00, they will receive this refund in the mail.  Patronage dividends less than $5.00 will be combined and donated to the local food shelf.  Glenn and staff determined that pooling these small patronage dividends to make a meaningful donation in honor of these members was a better use of Co-op resources (time, paper, ink, postage) that would be expended to send these small checks through the mail.

Many of you have received these dividends in past years and wondered why and how this system works.  Member-owners receive a share of the profits from Co-op business in proportion to how much they purchased during the Co-op’s fiscal year (April 1 – March 31).  The more you shop, the more you are eligible to earn.  At the end of the fiscal year, if the Co-op is profitable, we as a Board of Directors review any anticipated projects and financial needs for the Co-op. We then use that information to determine how much of the profits to retain, and how much to give back to member-owners.  The amount retained stays in the Co-op, but please note, it belongs to the member-owners as a group and becomes part of what we own together as an investment in community ownership. The remaining profits are then returned by check or voucher to the member-owners. Law requires that at least 20% of patronage be returned to member-owners.

Nearly 80% of all sales this past year were to current member-owners! The return to each member-owner is slightly less than 1% of their purchases for the year. An estimate of the break down is below:

  • If a member spent $10/week=$4.70 will be donated to the food shelf
  • If a member spent $25/week=$11.74 in the patronage check
  • If a member spent $50/week=$23.48 in the patronage check
  • If a member spent $100/week=$46.95 in the patronage check
  • If a member spent $200/week=$93.91 in the patronage check

With 5,880 current member-owners, 3,717 members will receive a check for $5.00 or more, and the remaining patronage for the 2,163 members with a refund below $5.00 will be pooled for that donation to the food shelf. 

For more information about patronage, please see Your 2019 Patronage Dividends Check Explained

Sophie Esser Calvi is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

Spotlight on Vermont Soap

Vermont Soap is basking in the Member Deals Spotlight this week! From June 13th – 19th, member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on all of their organic, locally made body care and cleaning products, so it’s a great time to stock up and save. Read on to learn more about this company on a mission to help us keep clean using 100% natural and non-toxic alternatives to the chemical-based personal care products on the market:

 

 

History

More than 20 years ago, Vermont Soap Founder and self-proclaimed “Soapman” Larry Plesant bought a small environmental products company that also manufactured small amounts of liquid castile soap. The purchase covered little more than the castile soap recipe and a machine that filled the bottles, but the price was right, and the Soapman never looked back. He was driven to create natural soap products as a result of his own challenges with sensitive skin and the lack of options available at the time for individuals who experienced adverse reactions to chemical detergents. From these humble beginnings sprang a vibrant local business that now produces dozens of home and body care products and ships them across the US and beyond. 

Mission Statement:

We recognize that human beings are now at a critical juncture in relation to our planet and that viable alternatives must be created to lead us into a sustainable future.
Vermont Soap was created to manufacture and market high quality, unique and natural personal care products of usefulness and value; and to be an example of how corporations can be a tool for positive social change.
We emphasize the wholeness and integration of the company departments through communication, participation in the growth process, and acceptance of responsibility among co-workers.
We pledge to conduct our business in an environmentally aware manner emphasizing reuse and recycling, the use of natural base ingredients, and the application of appropriate technology.

 

 

The Election Results Are In!

The votes are counted and the results are in!  If you made it to this year’s Annual Meeting, you’re already in the know about the election.  But if not, here’s a quick synopsis of how it went:

Please welcome newly elected Board Member Erin Buckwalter.  Erin has spent her adult life working and volunteering in the Vermont food system and is passionate about connecting with people through food and agriculture.  She is the current Market Development Director at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.  To learn more about Erin, please see her candidacy statement in our Annual Report.

Also, please welcome returning Board Members R.J. Adler and Amanda Warren.  We look forward to working with you again this term!  

This year, Co-op Members voted to Update our By-Laws.  The votes were overwhelmingly in support of the recommended updates (see Annual Report to reference these) – with 97% of the votes returned in favor of the recommended changes.

Thank you so much for giving us your input, submitting your vote, and doing your democratic duty as Co-op Member-Owners!

Spotlight on Blue Ledge Farm

We’re thrilled to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on a local cheese-making family that produces incredible award-winning cow and goat’s milk cheeses, while also keeping a strong focus on environmental stewardship. All Blue Ledge Farm cheeses will be 20% off for member-owners from June 6th – 12th!  Read on to learn more about their farm in Salisbury, VT and the steps they take to care for their land while also producing fabulous cheeses :

 

 

Blue Ledge Farm is a first generation, family owned and run goat dairy and cheese-making operation established in 2000 by Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt. Their mission is to create a high-quality product built on the cornerstones of respect for consumers, land, and animals as well as their local community.

They initially started milking four goats at Blue Ledge Farm and began processing cheese two years later. Today they milk over 100 goats twice daily and produce eleven types of cheese, from very fresh to semi-aged bloomy rind cheeses, to harder cheeses aged three months.

The 150 acres of Blue Ledge Farm consists of woods, hayland, pasture, and wetland. Recognizing the ecological value of the wetland ecosystem, they recently preserved the fifty acres of wetland on their farm through the Vermont Land Trust. Their 125 goats spend spring, summer, and fall days browsing in the woods, return to the barn for 4 pm milking, and lounge around in a grass pasture as evening sets. It’s no wonder that they recently became certified as an Animal Welfare Approved Farm!

Sustainable farming practices are a top priority at Blue Ledge Farm. They compost their bed-pack manure and apply it to their fields, thereby completing the nutrient cycle from grass to goat and back to grass. In 2008 they built an underground aging facility, or “cave” which is naturally cool and moist, conditions that the cheese likes, and being underground it takes less energy to keep the temperature and humidity at desirable levels. They have partnered with Efficiency Vermont on several projects over the years, from a variable-speed efficient milking machine to more efficient cooling compressors, to newer fluorescent light bulbs, all in an effort to lower their impact on the environment. At the heart of their operation is the clean-burning EPA-Approved bio-mass furnace, which allows them to heat their home, cheese-house, and barn, as well as all of the hot water used in the cheese plant, with locally-produced wood pellets! In 2015 they covered the south facing roof of their barn with solar panels which provide nearly half of the farm’s electricity usage all summer long!

On the Co-op shelves, look for Blue Ledge Farm’s goat’s milk cheeses, including La Luna, Crottina, Lake’s Edge, Riley’s Coat, and four varieties of fresh chèvre. You’ll also find a cheese called Riley’s 2 X 4, which is made with a blend of cow and goat’s milk. Additionally, be sure to try their cow’s milk cheeses, including Camembrie, Middlebury Blue, and their newest cheese – Richville! Which one is your favorite?

 

Featured Co-op Connection Business- Wild Mountain Thyme

Warmer weather is finally here! If you’re putting away your flannel and wool to find there’s not much left in your closet, we invite you to check out Wild Mountain Thyme! They’re a part of our Co-op Connection program (they were one of the original businesses to participate in this program!) and they offer a 5% discount to card-carrying Co-op member-owners! 

This funky, iconic Main Street shop was first opened by the late Allen Israel in 1971. His partner Paula Israel came on board in 1976 and has been running the show ever since. The store has been a fixture of downtown Middlebury since the very beginning, offering an eclectic and well-curated mix of clothing for women and children, jewelry, art, gifts, and decor. But, perhaps the best thing about this store is the people behind the counter. Paula, Jen, and Kitty create a fun, friendly atmosphere that keeps loyal local customers coming back. One enters the store as a customer and leaves feeling like an old friend.

When asked to share their favorite thing about working in the store, Jen says its “absolutely the people. It’s such a pleasure to get to know our customers and help them find what they’re looking for. And I also adore my co-workers. We make such a great team and we have a lot of fun together.” Owner Paula echoed these sentiments. “I’ve met all of my lifelong friends in this store. It’s a pretty special place.”

 

 

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