May 2020

Spotlight on Lawson’s Finest Liquids

Warm weather is finally here and socially distanced barbecues are officially a thing, so we wanted to take a moment to shine our Co-op Spotlight on a local independent craft beer producer that is bound to bring some sunshine to your social scene. Lawson’s Finest Liquids hails from the Mad River Valley of Vermont and their craft brews have earned critical acclaim and an enthusiastic fan following.  Read on to learn more about this celebrated craft brewery, their commitment to the local community, and their heady brews: 

Their Story

In 2008, after 20 years of homebrewing, Sean and Karen Lawson officially founded Lawson’s Finest Liquids in a small building resembling a sugarhouse adjacent to their home. Fast forward to 2018 and the brewery grounds in Waitsfield consist of three buildings occupying more than 25,000 square feet, housing a 34-barrel brewery, taproom, retail store, warehouse, and distribution center. What began as a husband and wife team is now home to over 50 employees. Their specialty maple beers & IPA’s have garnered awards at the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival, and at two National IPA championships.

The Taproom

Sean is a graduate of the University of Vermont, with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and a Masters in Forestry. His first career was as a scientist and educator. Sean continues to lead outings with the Naturalist Program he founded in 1996 at Mad River Glen ski area. Sean served as President of Vermont Brewers Association from 2014-2017 and was an active Board member for nine years.

Karen is also a graduate of the University of Vermont, with a Masters Degree in Public Administration. Her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Psychology was obtained at Franklin Pierce in NH. After graduation, Karen had a 20-year career in Vermont state government.

Sean and Karen were recently named as the 2020 Vermont Small Business Persons of the year by the US Small Business Administration. According to Vermont Business Magazine, the Lawson’s were awarded this honor in recognition of their employment growth, success in the marketplace, company expansion, and community involvement. 

Founders Sean & Karen Lawson


The Lawsons are committed to paying their employees a generous living wage and benefits, which Karen noted as being particularly important in a service-oriented ski town where income often reflects the vagaries of weather and scheduling. In lieu of tipping at their taproom, guests are invited to make a contribution to a featured local nonprofit. This program, known as the Sunshine Fund, features a rotating list of non-profits who serve as the beneficiary for this program. The non-profits are selected based on their work supporting healthy communities, food and economic security, natural resource protection, and sustainable recreation. Since their taproom opening in October 2018, they’ve been able to donate half a million dollars to local non-profit organizations through the Sunshine Fund!

In addition to the Sunshine Fund, the fine folks at Lawson’s Finest also offer mini-grants via their Super Sessions initiative. Through this program, they aim to build impactful connections and strengthen communities while creating memorable experiences by offering pint-sized grants for playful Super Sessions to bring people together in fun ways that build community anywhere Lawson’s Finest is distributed. For example, a group could organize a synchronized cannonball jump in the town pond to raise money for cancer research or sponsor a bike parade and cook-out to honor local school teachers. Quarterly, their employee-run Super Session Selection Squad will choose projects to each receive up to a $250 check to launch a Super Session. Applications will be scored on several criteria including innovation, community-building, fun, and credibility. Click here for an application.


Lawson’s Finest Liquids produces beer of the highest quality with outstanding freshness. They emulate the best of widely appreciated styles of beer, featuring world-class IPAs and unique maple brews while quenching the thirst of beer lovers from near and far.

Core Values

Lawson’s Finest Liquids aims for the highest quality standards in our beer production and in how they build relationships with employees, community partners, customers, and each other. They do this by valuing:

  • Quality
  • Our employees
  • Our customers
  • Communication
  • Community
  • Our company
  • Transparency
  • Philanthropy
  • Genuine personal interactions 

In addition, they value the beautiful Mad River Valley and work to reduce their environmental impact through the conservation of resources. They use earth-friendly products in their operations and re-use and recycle their materials.

Current Services

During this very challenging time, their taproom must remain closed, though their drive-thru retail store allows for easy pickups of your online orders. Click here to learn more about the process and policies for their online ordering and curbside pick-up program. They are adhering to all of the latest guidance from the Vermont Governor’s office and the CDC in order to ensure the safety of their staff and guests. They continue to offer a 40% discount for healthcare workers (please bring your work ID). They want to thank all of their guests for continuing to support Lawson’s Finest Liquids in this new environment, and they look forward to the day when we can all share a cheers over a beer in the taproom again!

Retail Drive-Thru

Their Beers

 In addition to their highly-touted year-round offerings — Sip of Sunshine and Super Session IPA series, Lawson’s Finest offers a rotating selection of beers which can be seen here. Also, click here to check out their 2020 release schedule. 


No, Our Food Supply Chain is Not Breaking!

You may have seen the full-page ads that Tyson Foods put into the Washington Post, New York Times and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 26, warning “The food supply chain is breaking” and “millions of pounds of meat” will disappear from the supply chain.  It’s very true that COVID-19 has hit hard in huge meat-packing plants owned by Tyson Foods, JBS and Smithfield Foods; and many were forced to close as nearly 12,000 meat-packing and food processing workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and 48 have died.  Donald Trump issued an executive order to re-open closed plants soon thereafter, saying that they were “essential infrastructure”; but re-opening doesn’t depend on whether workers receive sick-time, adequate personal protective gear, health insurance or any other protection from the devastation that COVID-19 could wreak on workers and their families.  Nor whether undocumented workers (estimated to make up half of meat-packing plant workers) will have at least temporary protection from deportation.  Now meat-packing plants refuse to release figures on how many workers are testing positive within their plants, only saying that they will close if more than 10% of their workers get sick.

In contrast, while in Middlebury the coop has seen missed deliveries and shortages of some items, we’ve also had an abundance of good food available to us; and as of this writing, not a single worker has tested positive for COVID-19.  Coops are thriving around the country now, as are subscriptions to CSAs.  So what’s going on here? 

First, we need to recognize the differences between an industrial food system and a more localized and relational one.  Industrial food systems like the one Tyson is part of are organized to maximize profit for their stockholders;  Smithfield’s CEO Ken Sullivan assured his Board that he would keep the plants open so that they could continue selling pork to China, where prices were 4-6 times higher than in the US (ironically, because another virus, SARS, which originated in a Chinese Smithfield plant, had killed such so many Chinese pigs that prices swooped up).  And indeed, now that Smithfield has re-opened the Sioux Falls, ND, plant that was the first epicenter for COVID-19 cases, sales to China have soared even as some parts of the US still have meat shortages.

Our Coop does not operate for maximum profits, and that’s one reason prices we charge are sometimes higher than prices for the same or similar items sold through supermarkets.  The Coop tries to sell at fair prices that allow our employees to get decent wages and benefits, compensate farmers fairly for their time, and allow them enough to give their workers decent wages, and provide for community needs such as pantries.

Second, remember that Smithfield pork sausage and Tyson chicken are not essential to health and well-being.  The idea that these plants are essential infrastructure is ludicrous.  That makes the fact that so much of the agricultural bailout for COVID-19 is being scooped up by the biggest farms and businesses even more disgusting:  small-scale farmers are hardly seeing any relief for their loss of business. While most families are getting checks of merely $1200 plus $500 per child, the largest farmers can now get up to $250,000 per person from the new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, with farm corporations receiving up to $750,000.  Contracts for the poorly-conceived food boxes that USDA plans to distribute to food banks are likewise going to big companies like Borden.  And none of the money ear-marked for COVID-19 relief is going to farmworkers, including the people keeping most Vermont dairies going. The money from USDA would be far better spent boosting SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) so that people can buy what they need. SNAP isn’t perfect, but it’s the best social safety net we have. 

Third, the producers, processors and packers who serve the coop are mostly small and medium-scale.  We know many of them personally and we can visit their farms or businesses to see what they do.  They don’t pack workers in tight quarters where they are almost guaranteed to get sick or tell them to use hairnets as face-masks (as Smithfield did).  Similarly, our meat suppliers aren’t using industrial-scale confined-animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where animals easily transmit diseases because they are packed into unhealthy spaces.  Our Coop seeks out ethical suppliers who aren’t trying to short-cut labor and environmental laws.

And finally, it’s the small-scale and local food systems that have been able to adapt most successfully to COVID-19.  They are the most resilient food systems.  Industrial systems still haven’t been able to shift, months after COVID first emerged.  Resilience is hugely important.  This pandemic is not the last crisis our food system will face; pandemics are increasingly likely, given the ways that wildlife habitat is being destroyed and how we live today.  Climate change will create more crises.  Do we want to rely on our local farms as much as possible, or do we want to put our faith with the John Tysons and the Ken Sullivans?  As meat-packing workers have realized painfully, “they don’t care about us”. 

Local farms aren’t the whole answer:  even the coop can only source 37% of our food locally and local farms can’t provide many of the things we like, such as bananas, coffee and chocolate.  With good legislation that gets more land into profitable farms, we could raise the potential for food production considerably in Vermont. That said, the most pragmatic upper limit for local and regional food is about 75%, since we don’t have the capacity to grow enough grain here.

The Coop cares deeply for all customers, as well as its producers.  As member-owners your continued support will make a difference in how well the coop can show that care:  Dan Barber from Stonefield Farms in New York recently surveyed small-scale farmers and 1/3 of them said they anticipated being bankrupt by the end of this year.  While small-scale farms are ramping up production, labor is hard to find and they are worried customers will switch back to the cheapest food sources as soon as they can. 

We don’t need cheaper food in the United States, we need laws and regulations that ensure a social safety net of reliable, healthy food for everyone (SNAP is a start, but woefully underfunded) and opportunities for decent work.  The coop business model is one of the best alternatives for a food business that demonstrates care for producers and eaters alike.

Molly Anderson is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

Spotlight on New Leaf Organics

Garden planting season is in full swing and we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on New Leaf Organics, who not only keeps our produce shelves stocked with an abundant array of seasonal fruits and veggies but also allows us to offer a stunning variety of locally-grown veggie and herb seedlings for gardeners in the spring!  New this season – their seedlings are available for online order! They want to make growing your own food as easy as possible right now! These herb and veggie seedlings are available for pre-order and pre-packing for your health and convenience. Read on to learn more about this fantastic local, organic farm hailing from Bristol, VT:

Nestled in the rolling hills near the Bristol-Monkton town line is a sweet little farm called New Leaf Organics. Now in her 20th year in business, Farmer Jill Koppel leads her rockstar crew to produce some of the most beautiful and delicious flowers, fruits, and veggies you’ll find anywhere in Vermont. Their farm has evolved quite a bit over the years, but their core mission remains the same; growing high-quality organic produce, flowers, and plants that improve soil health and strengthen the community.

Their Mission

  • to grow high quality, deliciously fresh organic produce and flowers.
  • to maintain and build the health of our soil and water.
  • to keep this land open and in agricultural production.
  • to bring community together in appreciation of good food and eating with the seasons.
  • to help couples create a memorable wedding day brightened with our beautiful flowers
  • to be a healthy and joyous place for kids to roam and discover and help them learn where our food really comes from.
  • to provide a positive and meaningful place to work for our employees and ourselves.

New Leaf Organics grows 5 acres of vegetables, berries, and flowers which are all sold in Vermont. You can shop their online store and/or visit their farmstand. Their online store offers curbside pickup and delivery options. Farmstand hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 12 pm – 6 pm and they offer extended hours during planting season (May 2nd – June 14th) 10 am – 3pm. While visiting the farmstand, you’ll find  New Leaf’s fresh-picked veggies, berries, and flowers and you will also find locally sourced products from around the Champlain Valley. New to the farmstand are delicious grab-and-go vegetarian meals from Blossom Kitchen and Catering in eco-friendly reusable containers you can keep or return for a deposit.

New Leaf Organics Farmstand

You can also sign up for their fruit & veggie CSA. Joining the CSA is a great way to eat the freshest, highest quality, locally grown, organic food without breaking the bank. They have many unique CSA options, so be sure to check out their web page to scan the offerings. 

Looking to send a local, organic bouquet to someone special? New Leaf Organics offers Home Sweet Blooms floral deliveries to homes and businesses in Hinesburg, Vergennes, Middlebury, & Bristol! They also offer a pick-your-own flowers option throughout the growing season. The flower fields are located across the street from the farm stand. 

Need flowers for an upcoming wedding or event? New Leaf Organics raises over 100 varieties of organic, specialty cut flowers and creates exquisite floral arrangements for weddings and events, from casual to formal. Their services, from full-service arrangements and delivery, to “pick-your-own,” to “weddings-in-a-bucket” are a great fit for all your events. Buying direct from the grower ensures the freshest, highest quality flowers at the best price. Buying organic ensures that agricultural chemicals aren’t endangering our environment or the farmworkers who handle the flowers. Click here to read more about why this matters.

According to Farmer Jill, “I’ve been lucky enough to find a dedicated crew of farming “geeks” who get equally as excited about discovering a great new variety to try or the thrill of our first seeds germinating in the Spring. Having a great crew keeps the farm dynamic and is better every season because of them. My kids, Ruby and Ada, and husband Skimmer make sure we don’t work the whole Summer away… Thanks for your interest in our farm! Supporting local farms like ours ensures that high-quality agricultural soils will be kept in farming for generations to come and proof that together we really can keep Vermont agriculture alive and thriving!”

For the latest info and insight into how the season is sprouting, blooming, and unfurling, follow them on Instagram @organicsnewleaf and Facebook @newleaforganics

Jill and Karey at the Farmstand

Co-op Connection Businesses Re-open!

Owning a small, independent business in the era of mega-stores and online retail giants is daunting during the best of times. The addition of state-wide closure mandates and stay home, stay safe orders made necessary by the global pandemic presented local small business owners with a new set of challenges they could not possibly have planned for. And yet, despite all of the hurdles, our beloved local businesses have rallied! We’ve marveled at the creative ways that many have adeptly pivoted their business plans to accommodate a rapidly changing set of circumstances. We’ve held our breath hoping that those who were unable to shift to online retail due to the nature of their services would be able to endure lengthy closures. And we’ve been heartened to see the many ways that this community has continued to support their favorite local brick-and-mortar stores, despite the challenges.

Moments like these remind us that this community is truly special and make us want to shout from the rooftops as these resilient local businesses begin to re-open their doors. Of course, the caveat is that they must re-open in a way that continues to prioritize community health and safety, so please remember your masks, stay home if you’re sick, observe all social distancing protocols, and take note of posted procedural changes at each place of business. It will take all of us doing our part to make this re-opening of our community businesses successful. 

The Co-op is proud to partner with 20 other local businesses in town through the Co-op Connection and we’ve been particularly excited to see many of them begin to re-open their doors. There are many who provide close-contact services that will require them to remain closed for a while, but there are still ways to support these folks. We’d love to take a moment to celebrate these 20 businesses that make our downtown such a vibrant place and highlight their current offerings. Please note that these hours and conditions are subject to change. Please call ahead or click each business link below to view their web page for the most up-to-date information. This list was last updated on 6.2.20:

  • County Tire Center – Open! Visit Monday – Friday between 8 and 5 for all of your tire, auto, and hybrid/electric vehicle needs. Rest assured they can assist you in a safe and socially-distant manner — they continue to take all precautions to keep the community and their employees safe. Call ahead to schedule your appointment, then call them when you arrive. Make your payment by phone or through their walk-up window.
  • Danforth Pewter –  Open at their Seymour Street location! Drop by (with your mask) and pick up some gifts for the graduates in your life or treat yourself to something special. They’re open Monday – Saturday 10-5 and Sunday from 11-4. Limit 10 customers at a time to allow for proper social distancing. Drop in and show them your support!
  • Green Peppers Restaurant – Open for curbside pickup until 7 pm daily! Order and payment by phone, schedule your preferred pick-up time, retrieve your order at the scheduled time at their outdoor pick-up station located at the front entrance. From Mark and the rest of the Green Peppers crew: “We thank you all so much for supporting us during this time. You are warming our hearts with your generosity! We will continue to be here to warm your bellies with yummy food!”
  • Honey Holistic Esthetics – Due to the close-contact nature of the services provided at Honey Holistic Esthetics, they must remain closed until further notice. However, if you’d like to show your support for this business, please consider ordering a gift card for yourself or a loved one. 
  • Juice Amour -Their Middlebury location is offering online ordering, orders by phone, curbside pickup, and free daily delivery on orders of $25 or more to Middlebury, Bristol, Vergennes, Lincoln, and Monkton! Order online (choose “shipping” option for delivery) or give them a call at (802) 989-7271. Choose from fresh-pressed organic juices, salads, tacos, meal kits, healthy treats, and more! 
  • Jumelles Wellness Midwifery – Due to the very essential nature of this business, this family-centered practice remains open for telehealth and home visits.  Visit them on the web to schedule a consult for home birth midwifery care, doula services, lactation counseling, and childbirth education.
  • Kiss the Cook – The Middlebury location is open for curbside pickup Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11-2 to help equip all of your newfound pandemic culinary prowess. Call (802) 923-6143 to place an order. Gift cards may be purchased online. 
  • Main Street Stationery – Open for phone orders and curbside pickup to meet your needs. Many of us are now working and schooling from home, so whether it’s homeschooling supplies, home office supplies, or all of the essentials to restock your arts and crafts collections, call (802) 388-6787 to place your order and arrange pickup.
  • Maple Landmark Woodcraft – Their retail showroom is now open Monday – Friday from 8-5 and Saturday from 9-4. Masks are required and they must limit the number of patrons to 4 at a time. Martha Rainville says “We look forward to seeing your smiling (masked) faces soon! If you’d prefer not to come in, we are always happy to ship (order online) or do curbside pick-up!”
  • Middlebury Fitness –  As of June 1st, Middlebury Fitness is open! They have adapted the facility so that it now exceeds the CDC and Vermont Health Dept. safety guidelines. They are eager to welcome back old members and welcome new members as they continue to serve our community as we all navigate these challenging times. You can read more information about their reopening here:
  • Middlebury Sweets – Open for online orders, curbside pickup, and limited local delivery! Satisfy your sweet tooth and support this fun local business by ordering online or calling call 802-388-4518 between 10 am – 2 pm.
  • Natural Medicine of Vermont – Due to the essential nature of her work, Dr. Miller-Lane remains open and is scheduling telemedicine appointments until Monday, June 1.  Please call 388-6250 to schedule a telemedicine visit by phone or email Dr. Miller-Lane says, “Be well, stay safe and we look forward to supporting you in whatever way we are able.”
  • Otter Creek Used Books – Open! Did you read every book in your house during quarantine? Otter Creek Used books is ready to help you refresh your library! Visit Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm and please observe all posted guidelines for safe browsing.
  •  Otter Creek Yoga – Due to the close-contact nature of the classes provided at Otter Creek Yoga, the studio will remain closed until further notice. However, you may join Joanna Colwell for virtual classes via Zoom on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:30 am or subscribe to her youtube channel to enjoy a class when the time is right for you. It’s a perfect way to recenter yourself and counter the stress of these unprecedented times. Your support is critical during this lengthy closure, so if you’re enjoying the virtual classes, please consider making a donation or purchasing a gift card via the links on their webpage.
  • Pro Skin Studio – Due to the close-contact nature of the services provided at Pro Skin Studio, they must remain closed until further notice. However, if you’d like to show your support for this business, please consider ordering a gift card for yourself or a loved one.
  • Stone Leaf Teahouse – Open for online orders and local pickup. What better way to de-stress than with a fresh, hot cup of tea? Order online and pick your tea up Monday – Friday from 11 am to 3 pm. They have many new fresh teas from the Spring 2020 harvest for you to try and a fascinating new blog post to read while you enjoy your freshly brewed cup!
  • Shafer’s Market & Deli – Open 7 days a week for curbside pickup or delivery to Weybridge, Cornwall, Middlebury, and East Middlebury. The ice cream window is open, too! Hours are Sunday – Tuesday 7 am – 5 pm, Wednesday and Thursday 7 am – 8 pm, Friday and Saturday 7 am -9 pm. Call 388-6408 to place your order today!
  • Texture Salon – Due to the close-contact nature of the services provided at Texture Salon, they must remain closed until further notice. However, if you’d like to show your support for this business, please consider ordering a gift card for yourself or a loved one.
  • Vermont Sun Fitness Center – Will open at 6:00 am Wednesday, June 3rd!  Hours will be Monday thru Friday 6 am-8 pm, Saturday & Sunday 7:30 am-4 pm. This also includes the pool. They hope to begin a limited class schedule as early as the week of June 8th. They’ve been working hard to ensure their facility exceeds the CDC and Vermont Health Department safety guidelines. Please wear your mask and follow all posted safety procedures. To learn more about their safety protocols, click here.
  • Waterfalls Day Spa – Due to the close-contact nature of the services provided at Waterfalls Day Spa, they must remain closed until further notice. However, if you’d like to show your support for this business, please consider ordering a gift card for yourself or a loved one.