Next time you’re waiting in the check-out line at the Co-op, let your eyes roam to the stretch of pale yellow wall above the street-facing windows. You may never have noticed the statement posted there: The Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op is dedicated to the health and well-being of the whole community, but it’s a statement that we return to continually, to help guide the decisions we make about how the Co-op grows.
For many of us, choosing to buy healthy food is not just about preference but price. At the Co-op, there are many ways to shop affordably to bring home products you trust – check out Co-op Basics, Co-op Deals, shop our Bulk Department, and use our Special Order system to get case discounts. But if purchasing healthy foods is still a challenge for your budget, Food For All is here to help.
Who is eligible for Food For All?
Food For All is a Member Assistance Program for participants in SNAP, WIC, and Home Heating Assistance, and for clients of CVOEO, HOPE, WomenSafe, and the Open Door Clinic. Currently, around 260 Households take advantage of this program. We are always hoping to grow this number!
What do you “get” from Food For All?
You get a 10% Discount on all purchases, every day (excludes alcohol, by law)
You become a Member-Owner of the Co-op – your $20 share is paid by MNFC, allowing you to build equity, accrue a patronage dividend and have a voice in Co-op Elections
All Food for All member benefits are shared with the people in your household (children, domestic partners, parents living with you, etc..)
How do you sign up?
Fill out an application downloaded from our web site, or pick one up at the Co-op Customer Service Desk.
Show us your current EBT or WIC benefits card (we’ll make a copy when you come in)
Bring us a letter of eligibility from one of our partner organizations (CVOEO, HOPE, WomenSafe, and Open Door Clinic). They’ll know what to do!
If you are not eligible for Food For All but know someone who might be, please spread the word. This Co-op belongs to its member-owners and its community…the WHOLE community. Help us serve you better.
“I spent 13 years investigating every facet of the food supply,” author Jon Steinman wrote recently in an article for Yes Magazine. “It led me to the conclusion that the grocery store is hands down the most influential force shaping food, the planet, and our health. The organic food industry, jump-started in congress by our Senator Patrick Leahy (Thank you, Senator!), has grown to more than $50 billion per year. In Addison County we are lucky to have so many local food options: Many of us shop at the farmers’ market, have a garden, or go directly to a farm to buy meat and eggs or pick up a CSA.
Steinman poses an important question – if ten percent of our food dollars are spent locally, where does the other 90% go? In places where food is less abundant, no matter where you shop, you end up sending your dollars to a handful of multinational companies. They have gobbled up small and regional scale grocery chains: Hannaford, Food Lion, Giant, Stop & Shop, all are now subsidiaries of Ahold Delhaize from the Netherlands; Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, Ralphs are now Kroger brands; Safeway, Shaw’s, Star Market and Vons are owned by Albertsons. Even Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods are all owned by large grocery conglomerates.
“OK, I get it,” I can hear you thinking, “I already shop local, now I’m just subject to more of the shop-local-gospel coming from a board member.” You’re not entirely wrong, but beyond investing your dollars I want you to invest something more precious: Your time.
As member-owners we are all dedicated to local and organic foods, which is the backbone of the cooperative grocery movement. How and where we get our food is the underpinning of so many societal and economic inequalities. Our food dollars are vital, but so is taking time to serve on the Coop Board of Directors. Is there an issue that really fires you up? Climate Change? Wealth Inequality? Health? They are all tied to our food system, and as a board member, you have the opportunity to get involved in those decisions.
How? Run for the board. We lucky 11 members-owners as a board have the privilege of serving all of our member-owners and the broader community. It is incredibly fun and meaningful. We are seeking leaders with diverse perspectives and you can be one of them. Elections will be here sooner than you think, and we are accepting applications for candidates until March 15 (which is only 2.5 months away!). For more information about running for the board feel free to email Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to learn more.
RJ Adler is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member
A common goal you could promise yourself is making food choices that are healthier for you. You might decide that this is the year you reduce plastic waste. Maybe 2019’s resolution didn’t stick, so you give yourself a daily goal such as I will do cardio exercise once a day, every day. Finally, there’s the perennial career-related resolution, I want to be happy at my job.
The Co-op is a wonderful place to work if you are interested in setting self-improvement goals and sticking to them. In addition to offering wellness benefits such as dental, vision, and group health insurance, the Co-op provides its employees with abundant opportunities to bring their best selves to work. Allow me to share my experience: I was hired halfway through 2019 as the HR Assistant, mostly tasked with benefits administration (check out our benefits!) and recruitment details (keep reading this blog post!). All four of those resolutions listed above? Working at the Co-op helped me achieve all of them!
When it comes to making healthy food choices, could there be a better resource than the Co-op? An encyclopedic knowledge about natural foods is not a requirement to be hired here; a willingness to engage with the Co-op community will set you up for success. For instance, I have collected from customers countless recipes for produce that was unknown to me until just a few months ago, and speaking with my more knowledgeable colleagues (familiar faces if you’ve shopped here for years) has sharpened my perspective when I read the label on wellness products as a customer. If you’re interested in deepening your understanding about food systems, agriculture, and production, then you are in the right place to grow your awareness as you develop relationships with vendors, farmers, and producers. Moreover, sometimes we have packaged food that is no longer okay to sell due to an imminent expiration date or squishy produce that staff can take home free of charge; combined with a generous staff discount at the registers, Co-op employees can make healthy choices on a budget.
Reducing plastic waste is a struggle as we face a cultural shift in our communities. I find that pausing my consumption of single-use plastic involves logistical swaps – for instance, carrying reusable bags to the store or remembering my mug means planning my day better. Fortunately, working at the Co-op means being a part of a culture of sustainability. My colleagues have taught me so much about the nuances of composting! Reducing packaging and other generators of plastic waste is easy because the bulk department innovates creative alternatives to encourage sustainable shopping; thanks to the enthusiasm of folks in the bulk department, I have developed the habit of carrying cute spice jars and funky vinegar bottles in my reusable shopping bag, and my wallet is very happy that I made that change.
Let’s talk about “staying in shape”, which means something different to everyone. Full disclosure: most of my job takes place at a desk behind a computer, though I am not in the majority. Most Co-op staff spend their days on the floor, lifting at least fifty pounds repeatedly and frequently. It takes quite a symphony of devoted bodies strategically coming together to put in the physical work needed to make the Co-op the well-stocked and smoothly-operated community hub customers know and love; if you want a job that will keep you moving throughout the day, you could check out our current openings and apply online. I keep my New Year’s resolution by working up a sweat pushing in carts from the parking lot, though I recently heard about a time when some staff wore step counters at work and their step count regularly reached the tens of thousands!
So, if you’ve made it to the end of this blog post, you’re probably wondering about that pesky career-driven resolution: am I happy in my job? At the beginning of 2019, I had made an extra promise to myself: I wanted to reduce stress in my life so that I could be kinder to myself and others. Keeping those resolutions for the first half of the year was incredibly challenging for me. Then, I started working at the Co-op, whose influence made those lifestyle changes dramatically easier. With fun workshops offered throughout the year, we have plenty of professional development opportunities. If you shop at the Co-op during some of its busiest times, you might not think of it as a particularly stress-free environment; however, managers empower staff to provide excellent customer service with independence and to resolve conflicts in constructive terms. Working closely with folks who share values of generosity and reliability has transformed how I engage with other parts of my life, including how I communicate with others and handle stress. I feel very lucky that my job at the Co-op helped me to keep these promises I made to myself for 2019. I look forward to keeping true to these resolutions in 2020, though some may say you can resolve to be a better version of yourself at any time of the year. Who knows what new things I’ll learn from the Co-op next year. Of one thing I am absolutely certain: after a day’s work with great people, I leave the store as a happier version of myself.
So what about you? Do you have a new year’s resolution? Will 2020 bring a change in your career? Check out our current openings here and submit your application today!
Have you ever met someone so passionate about what they do that their enthusiasm is nearly palpable? Alessandra Reillini of Agricola Farm is just that someone and we’re excited to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on her farm this week. All Agricola Farm meats are 20% off for member-owners from December 26th – 31st, so it’s a great time to stock up the freezer. Read on to learn more about this ecologically-focused farm raising animals in the lush pastures of Panton, VT and the passionate Italian farmers that bring it to life:
About the Farmers
Agricola is a small diversified Italian farm in Panton, VT run by Alessandra (Ale) and Stefano (Steu). They, along with their small crew, are the farmers, the butchers, the vendors, and the chefs. Ale originally founded the farm in 2007 with three pigs, four sheep, and big dreams. After earning a Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale School of Medicine, she was lured to the Green Mountain State to UVM where she continues to serve as a Professor of Clinical Psychology when she’s not hard at work on the farm. Stefano is an Agronomist and has a Masters in Agricultural Science from the University of Turin, in Italy. They share a love of good food, good company, an intense work ethic, and a strong commitment to environmental stewardship.
They specialize in raising and preparing gourmet meats and are particularly well known for their pasture-raised pork. On their farm, you’ll also find Icelandic sheep and heritage breed chickens, for both eggs and meat, along with apiaries for farm-fresh honey. In 2019 they also began raising ducks and geese and they grow many Italian varieties of vegetables and herbs, which you can sample if you’re lucky enough to attend one of their famous farm dinners, or you happen to visit their lovely farmstand during the summer months. At the farmstand, you’ll also find unique seasonal treats including fresh-baked bread, handmade Italian pasta, wildcrafted herbal teas, and artisanal soaps made with their pork lard, along with a stunning array of their fresh and cured meats.
The Italian Way
Ale, Steu, and the rest of their “Farmily” are committed to raising livestock the traditional Italian Way. What does this mean?
The diet they choose to offer their animals promotes more natural growth. They use less sugar (no corn or whey) and fewer proteins (no soy) than the average pig diet. They also select non-GMO feed and avoid feed that speeds the oxidation process of the meat, such as brassicas and soy. Thanks to their diet and genetics, their pigs are predisposed to grow slower, reaching butchering weight at 14+ months, as compared to the usual 6 months for conventionally raised pigs. Why is this important? Muscles that grow slower are more flavorful. Many chefs describe Agricola Farm’s pork as complex and naturally flavored.
The animals can best express their pigness in pastures. Agricola Farm’s pigs are rotationally-grazed, moving to a new paddock bi-weekly, which allows them to graze the land naturally rich in grasses, legumes, parsnip roots, Jersualem artichokes, fruits, and hickory nuts. Running, digging, and grazing is a great exercise that keeps the pigs happy, entertained, and improves the flavor of the meat. According to Ale, “there is an unexplainable satisfaction in seeing pigs harvesting their own food straight from the land.” Ale and her farmily seed the pastures with grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that they know the pigs will enjoy and they take great satisfaction in watching the pigs forage and feast.
Agricola Farm processes their own meat following traditional Italian techniques for handling and cutting the meat. This allows them to celebrate their heritage while also maximizing the tenderness and flavor of their products.
In short, the Italian Way means healthier animals, a more natural and enjoyable way of life for the animals, greater fertility for the land, and higher quality meat for the consumer.
Ale and her team have been hard at work rolling out an exciting new project — the opening of Agricola Meats in Middlebury! This meat processing facility will allow them the space, equipment, and flexibility to produce their own cured meat products, along with creating unique products for four other local farms. In her blog, Ale shares that, “the new facility allows us to produce a variety of cured meats such as prosciutto, coppa, pancetta, lonzino, and zillions of other products. We are so excited and ready for this shift! Our hearts also warm up because of the enthusiasm that we find for the project all around us: from the farmers that are happy to finally get a fair price for their livestock and create a unique quality product, from the shop owners that are proud to promote a product in which they believe, and from the people that buy the product and discover a delicious and nutritious way to promote responsible agriculture and be part of the green change that is happening at our farms. It has been a wild and happy ride to get this project going and we have countless people that helped us on the way. I feel so humbled that so many people have just offered their time and their expertise and many of them have done that without asking for a compensation, only because they believed in the importance of the project… the importance of supporting Vermont Farms, the importance of supporting a type of agriculture that helps our environment and the importance of creating a top product that can make Vermont proud.”
Here at the Co-op, we’re grateful to work with farmers like Ale and Steu who are so dedicated to the craft of ecological farming and sustainable meat production. It’s critical that we, as consumers, support farmers that prioritize animal welfare and environmental stewardship. Agricola Farm takes pride in their products and they’re excited to become part of your family dinner table.
We’re shining our Co-op Spotlight this week on one of the most awarded specialty food companies in North America- Trois Petits Cochons! Les Trois Petits Cochons has produced award-winning, all-natural pâté and charcuterie since 1975 by crafting small, handmade batches using only the finest high-quality ingredients. Their full product line is 20% off for member-owners from December 19th – 24th – just in time for creating beautiful, crowd-pleasing holiday platters! Read on to learn more about this company that has been producing high-quality, hand-crafted products for over 40 years!
Les Trois Petits Cochons first opened its doors as a small charcuterie in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1975. It has since grown to become the leader in the pâté and charcuterie industry, offering a complete line of artisanal pâtés, mousses, terrines, sausages, saucissons, smoked meats and other French specialties. Their products have garnered a long list of SOFI awards, earning great respect in the culinary world.
Les Trois Petits Cochons is committed to continuing the tradition of making delicious, authentic and quality pâté and charcuterie for its customers. By combining time-honored recipes, choice ingredients, innovative cooking methods and strict quality control they are able to create consistent, handcrafted products. All of this, together with dedicated customer service and a passion for good food, have allowed Trois Petits Cochons to stay true to the small charcuterie where they began over 40 years ago.
The team at Les Trois Petits Cochons is committed to sourcing and producing the highest quality all-natural specialty food products in a responsible and sustainable manner.
They believe in:
Transparency – Customers should be able to know where their food comes from and be able to buy from companies committed to sustainable animal husbandry.
Trust & Relationships – They believe in partnering with those who can make the best product in the most responsible manner. They personally visit all of their major suppliers, the majority of whom are family farms, to make sure they are upholding the standards set by Les Trois Petits Cochons.
Local – Les Trois Petits Cochons always begins their search locally. Many of their suppliers come from within 100 miles of their production facilities, but sometimes to find that special ingredient they need to go further afield, including to France where they source many of their ingredients like wild mushrooms or espelette pepper.
We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 12th – 18th — just in time for your holiday parties! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:
Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.
Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties), Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.
The Creamery also made a recent switch to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.
Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand. A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk are used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that his hyper-local with very minimal waste.
According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.
Looking for local and sustainably made toys for the kids on your holiday shopping list? We invite you to check out our featured Co-op Connection Business – Maple Landmark! They’ve been making eco-friendly educational wooden toys, games, and gifts since 1979. Have you visited their factory store on Middlebury’s Exchange Street? Show your Co-op card and receive 10% off your purchases! Read on to learn more about this fantastic local business and their sustainable practices:
Maple Landmark is a company of 40+ people dedicated to making great products right here in Middlebury, Vermont. Their business began in 1979 in President & Owner Mike Rainville’s parents’ basement and today they occupy a 28,000-square-foot facility where they make the vast majority of the products they sell. Primarily, they sell to thousands of toy stores, gift shops and catalogs nationwide, but they also have a sweet little factory store that shouldn’t be missed by those of us lucky enough to live nearby. They take pride in being a local company that supports other local companies who operate in a responsible and sustainable manner.
A Family Business
The business was started by Michael Rainville. Since then, three more generations have joined the rank and file at Maple Landmark. The youngest are Michael’s sons, Adam and Andrew. One generation up from there is Michael, wife, Jill, and sister, Barbara. Up from there is Michael’s mother Pat and occasionally father, Claude. On the very top is “Grandma” as she’s known around the shop. This is none other than Michael’s 98-year-old (as of 2017) grandmother, Harriett Brown. While she doesn’t come to work regularly anymore, she did well into 2016 and still makes appearances every now and then.
Michael serves as president and CEO, running day-to-day operations. Jill is Office Manager, overseeing the paperwork. Barbara is the Marketing Manager, attending trade shows, working on public relations and helping in the finish room. Adam is a Project Manager, developing new products and improving old processes. Andrew heads up Communications, working on advertising, social media, and email blasts and attending trade shows. Pat is the Supervisor of our finish room and is responsible for the application of all paints and finishes in addition to hand-painted items. Claude helps in his free time, shredding paper for packing and mowing the lawn.
The wood Maple Landmark uses is from native species. They use rock maple primarily, as well as some pine and cherry. These are some of the best materials for wooden toys and gifts and we are fortunate to have them locally available.
There are virtually no old-growth forests left in Vermont, the region was heavily logged in the 1800s. Damaging floods in the late 1800s and early 1900’s not only knocked out the water-powered mills that processed the timber but they also taught a lesson in not laying entire mountainsides bare to runoff and erosion. Vermonters have a reputation for being stubborn but we also use our experiences to learn better ways.
In the early 1900s, Vermont was 20% forested, now it is 80% forested. The forests are growing back, even more rapidly than the rate of harvest. As dairy farms consolidate and abandon marginal hillside property, the wilderness once again begins to take over.
The majority of wood that grows tends to be lower grade material. Since Maple Landmark makes small items, they are able to use downgraded lumber by simply cutting around the defects. This strategy saves on the demand for the rarer, more premium grades. They also make use of small dimension material that is cast off from other plants.
Just as they are careful to fully utilize the wood they buy, their suppliers are careful about how it is harvested. For the entire history of their company, they have purchased the majority of their lumber from one local source, Lathrop’s Maple Supply of Bristol, Vermont. Tom Lathrop is located just nine miles up the road and supplies not just maple, but pine, cherry, and other species as well.
Click here to learn more about the use of lumber for Maple Landmark products.
The sawdust generated at Maple Landmark goes to a couple of local farmers for use as cattle bedding. Their wood scraps are put out for locals to use for kindling. They use very minimal packaging for their products and ship their products in reused upcycled packing materials. Click here to read more about their recycling and conservation practices.
Looking for a unique and personalized holiday ornament? Don’t dump your stump!