August 2020

What’s Up with the Big Corn?

Perhaps you’ve been wondering why we have a gigantic wooden ear of corn at the store entry? We call it the Big Corn and it comes out every September during our Eat Local Challenge to help us track the amount of money paid to local farmers and producers throughout the month. Last year, thanks to your purchases of local products, we were able to pay over $430,000 to our local farmers and producers! Help us shatter that record this year by purchasing Vermont products all month long. You can track the progress on the Big Corn and help us reach our goal of $450,000 this year!  And guess what?  Buying local might just win you even more than a kitchen full of delicious Vermont products.  Read on to find out how your local purchases could add up to winnings:

Want to BUY LOCAL at THE CO-OP?  Look for these signs:

Why Buy Local?

1. Local Food Supports Local Farm Families.

Farmers are a vanishing breed, and it’s no surprise given that commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. When you purchase local produce from the Co-op, the farmer gets a larger share, which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

2. Local Food Supports our Local Economy.

Over 60,000 Vermonters are directly employed in Vermont’s food system. Nearly 12,000 businesses are part of Vermont’s food system. When measured by employment and gross state product, food manufacturing is the second-largest manufacturing industry in Vermont.   Milk from Vermont’s dairy farms typically accounts for upwards of 70% of the state’s agricultural products sales, generating $2.2 billion in economic activity annually. A wide range of nondairy farms of all sizes also produces fruits and vegetables, livestock, hay, maple products, and specialty crops for local and regional markets. Vermont’s dynamic and evolving food system is also made up of entrepreneurs creating a variety of value-added products (e.g., cured meats, baked goods, beer, chocolate); thousands of market outlets; sophisticated distribution networks; and dozens of organizations, programs, and volunteer-driven activities that provide business planning, technical assistance, education, and outreach activities.

3. Local Food Builds Community.

When you buy local produce, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.

4. Local Food Preserves Open Space.

As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you’re doing something proactive about preserving the agrarian landscape.

5. Local Food Keeps Your Taxes In Check.

Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes. On average, for every $1 in
revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue
raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend only 34 cents on services.

6. Local Food Supports a Clean Environment and Benefits Wildlife.

A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the habitat of a farm – the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds, and buildings – is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including bluebirds, killdeer, herons, bats, and rabbits.

7. Local Food Preserves Genetic Diversity.

In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, tend to opt for more variety to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation because they taste good and are regionally adapted to our unique growing conditions here in Vermont. These heirloom varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

8. Locally grown food tastes better.

Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from
California, Florida, Chile, or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

9. Local Produce is Better For You. 

Studies show that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some ‘fresh’ produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.

10. Local Food Is About The Future.

By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.

Thank you.  Masking up for each other 

I have asthma.  And, yet, we joke a little in our house about masking up – even as we know it is deadly serious – because we don’t enjoy wearing them. However, we do wear them because we believe in public health. I want to protect you and I do hope you will protect me. If we all mask up my immune-compromised son and 90-year old mother who are part of my family pod may be protected as well. Plus, I really don’t want to get the virus myself, I am a woman in her mid-60’s, with asthma.

Sewing Masks

“Be Mask-u-line,” I say to the men in my life. As I produce yet another version of a 3-layer cotton mask, with adjustable straps (the 7th iteration in design as I try to make a safe mask that someone can comfortably wear all day), I say, “Let me mask-u-late you.” 

The fact that wearing a mask has become politicized is not new. We have been here before. Folks refused to wear masks during the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed upwards of 50 million people.  The idea that personal freedoms are infringed was argued with the introduction of seat belts and numerous industrial safety modifications. 

I am amazed: how can it be that, in our country, thinking about the safety of the collective has, for some, become a personal affront? Some politicians would have us think that caring about the collective smacks of “socialism” or, even worse, “communism,” rather than the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  It does not make sense to me.

We Have Already Been Here

Luckily at MNFC, mask compliance is at 99.9%.   I thank you for wearing a mask, distancing, and looking out for others as well as yourself.

As a member of the MNFC Board of Directors, let me say that I am particularly grateful for your protection of our hard-working staff who are on the line as essential workers. They see hundreds of people a day as they clean, stock the shelves, help and serve you. Thank you for caring both about them and about yourself.


Masks on line

Here are some reminders about wearing a mask.

  • Everyone can wear a mask safely, regardless of age. Some folks do have underlying medical respiratory conditions that make it a little harder to breathe, but for most people wearing a mask will not impair oxygenation or ventilation. Check with your health care provider about your oxygen capacity, if need be. MNFC provides both masks and transparent face shields for our customers.
  • The COVID-19 virus itself is so very small and does not travel through the air alone. It hitches a ride on tiny droplets of saliva and water that are exhaled when folks cough, sneeze, sing, and yell. An N-95 mask has multiple layers of fibers that carry an electrostatic charge that helps trap the tiny particles. But N-95 masks are needed in hospitals and are not readily available. Still, there are studies that demonstrate there are several kinds of masks that effectively trap exhaled air and respiratory droplets, thus protecting people surrounding a mask wearer.
  • Three-layered cotton masks work. Knitted masks do not. Buffs and bandannas do not offer much protection but are better than nothing. Check out this Washington Post article on a study for more information. When masks are worn, there is a demonstrated decrease in viral transmission.
  • Finally, keep the Three W’s in mind to take care of yourself and others:
  1. Wear a mask
  2. Wash your hands
  3. Watch your distance

We can stop the transmission of the virus if we all follow the Three W’s together! 

 Thank you for caring.

Kate Gridley is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

Spotlight on Common Sense

We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on one of the newest additions to our local lineup in the Wellness Department – Common Sense! Based in Bellows Falls, VT, this natural body care company has been making high-quality, all-natural body care products for over 35 years. From August 20th – September 2nd Co-op member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of products! Read on to learn more about them and their commitment to authenticity:

According to its website, Common Sense began manufacturing natural soap and body care products 35 years ago. At that time, health food stores were small and natural products were not in the mainstream. Some of their earliest large-scale batches of soap involved using a plastic barrel for the tank and a canoe paddle as a mixer! They worked on perfecting their trade and within a little while had come up with a few simple products. Their goal was to produce effective products at an affordable price — hence the name Common Sense Soap. Many years later the same values hold true for Common Sense Soap. Their interest in learning to make natural products was based on the simple conviction that making “natural” products was the right thing to do.

Learning was painstakingly slow at first. Raw material suppliers had no interest in supplying know-how on the natural authenticity of raw materials. They recall asking a large supplier whether their emulsifiers were naturally derived and still remember the response:  “Son, no one cares about those things. All anyone cares about is feel, fragrance, and appearance.” As a result, they only made very simple products because they had no objective information regarding the processing of many raw materials. 

With natural products now firmly planted in the mainstream, economic survival mandates that raw material suppliers provide objective information regarding raw materials. New brands are continually introduced but most are just marketing endeavors. It’s rare to find a brand that actually formulates and makes its own products. And it’s even rarer to find someone who has been doing this for many years. Common Sense is an exception. They aren’t newcomers trying to sell something with nothing behind it. They work hard to produce quality products that are useful, safe, and affordable. 

During this pandemic, handwashing remains one of the most effective ways to protect oneself from the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Common Sense offers many kinds of soaps and lots of moisturizers, as well – which certainly come in handy when handwashing occurs with such frequency.  Their sales motto is simple: “A good product will sell itself.” 


Spotlight on Bee’s Wrap

We’re shining this week’s Member Deals Spotlight on a mission-driven local business creating innovative, award-winning products to help us curb our dependence on plastic — Bee’s Wrap! From August 13th – 19th all Bee’s Wrap products are 20% off for member-owners, so it’s a great time to stock up on these reusable, rugged, eco-friendly, locally-made, fully compostable wraps. Read on to learn more about this local company, their mission, and their fierce advocacy:


Bee’s Wrap was born in 2012 as its founder, Sarah Kaeck, was growing ever more deeply concerned about the persistent effect of plastics on our planet. She began by asking a simple question: How could we eliminate plastics in our kitchen in favor of a healthier, more sustainable way to store our food?

What she discovered was a lost tradition made new again. By infusing organic cotton with beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin, Kaeck created a washable, reusable, and compostable alternative to plastic wrap. What she also understood from the very beginning was that there must be a consideration of the entire life of the products we make and consume, from their creation and manufacturing to their eventual end. This is where biodegradability comes in: A product that is biodegradable can be easily returned to the earth. As their website states, “It’s a technology as old as time, and everything made in nature returns to nature with time. There’s no complicated recycling process, and no need to send your Bee’s Wrap off to a special facility. Made from four simple ingredients, Bee’s Wrap comes from the earth and is designed to return to the earth.” As your wrap begins to wear out, the team at Bee’s Wrap hopes that you’ll look on those signs of wear as a welcome reminder of the natural cycles that surround us.

Looking beyond the impact of the products they create, Bee’s Wrap is committed to using their business as a vehicle for social change, bettering the lives of their customers, employees, community, and the planet. As a proud B Corp and certified Green America company, Bee’s Wrap is committed to social change to help better the lives of its customers, employees, community, and planet. In 2019 they were awarded Green America’s People and Planet Award, which recognizes outstanding small businesses with deep commitments to social justice and environmental sustainability. They were also the 2019 recipient of B-Corp’s 2019 Best For The World: Environment award for the business’s top-notch attention to environmental stewardship. Bee’s Wrap is actively working with partners such as 1% for the Planet, The Bee Cause, The Rozalia Project, and National Geographic, pledging their support to ocean conservancy, beach cleanups, and environmental stewardship. 

Bee’s Wrap also recently joined dozens of other Vermont businesses to advocate at the Statehouse for climate action policies in 2020. As Kaeck shared in a recent blog post, “I feel it is important that our elected officials hear from the Vermont business community, as we are important stakeholders in Vermont’s economy and have an impact on the environment we all share. Bee’s Wrap’s focus is on reducing the usage and availability of single-use plastics, increasing the accessibility of renewable energy, and prioritizing the reduction of climate pollution, and we support the comprehensive 2020 climate policy agenda outlined by VPIRG. Vermont’s small size and long history of participatory democracy provide an opportunity for Vermont business (and individual Vermonters) to have direct, substantial, face-to-face conversations with their own state representatives and legislative leaders. Bee’s Wrap participated in this event to advocate for our business values and shared priorities for bold climate action. We did this alongside our corporate peers, demonstrating together that the need for action is vital and urgent.”

Reducing the reliance on plastic takes time, and every effort you make counts. Whether you’re using Bee’s Wrap for on-the-go snacks or storing dinner leftovers, you’re one step closer to making it possible to ditch disposable food storage for good. Today, Bee’s Wrap is a leading alternative to plastic wrap. From their headquarters right here in Middlebury, Vermont, they’re creating wraps that provide a versatile and durable solution for sustainable food storage.






Spotlight on New Leaf Organics

We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on New Leaf Organics! This local, organic farm not only keeps our produce shelves stocked with an array of fresh seasonal veggies but also supplies us with an abundant array of veggie and herb seedlings each Spring. Perhaps you have a few of them growing in your garden? All of New Leaf Organics products are 20% off for Co-op member-owners from August 6th – 12th, so it’s a great time to stock up on the flavors of summer in Vermont. Read on to learn more about this female-powered farm and all that they have to offer:

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. You’ll also find a great selection of 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

Featured Co-op Connection Business – Otter Creek Used Books

“The bookstore…had its own special aroma, the incomparable and unforgettable scent of books and dust, paper and ink, type and binding, the dazzling anticipation and excitement of seekers after books.” – Marvin Mondlin & Roy Meador, Book Row.

This is the feeling one has the pleasure of experiencing upon entering Otter Creek Used Books. This special gem, located in Middlebury’s historic Marbleworks, is owned by Barbara Harding and it’s one of the newest local businesses featured in our Co-op Connection lineup. Harding has owned the store for thirteen years. Nine of those years were in the current location and four were in the previous location in downtown Middlebury’s now-demolished Lazarus building. Harding never thought she’d own a bookstore, but while taking a walk downtown one day on a break from her work at the Addison County Chamber of Commerce where she worked to promote travel and tourism, she discovered that the used bookstore was for sale. She walked in to inquire about the price and made the decision that very day to become its new owner. Talk about a leap of faith!

Harding says that she’d always loved books, particularly used books, and has fond memories of walking out of libraries and used book stores with her arms full as a kid. She had a passion for turning this particular book store around, as she’d witnessed its decline over the years and knew it had the potential to be something special. And she has most certainly succeeded in giving it new life, not once, but twice, as the move to the new location nine years ago necessitated another rebirth of sorts.  Now, in the wake of a lengthy and unplanned closure due to the pandemic, Harding once again finds herself in a position to bring this unique little bookstore back to life and she’s determined to do so.

Much is the same as it was pre-pandemic, though there have been some minor changes to store hours and procedures. The shop is now open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am – 4 pm and Harding is not currently accepting books for store credit. While she’s working hard to get back on her feet, she’s politely asking those with existing store credit to hold off on cashing it in. The lengthy closure provided Harding the opportunity to do some rearranging, expanding some categories, condensing others, and she’s bringing in new inventory daily. 

When asked if she has a favorite book in the store, Harding insists that she couldn’t possibly choose just one. She confesses that when certain coveted titles arrive in the store, she tends to keep them in a small stack near her desk so that she can enjoy their presence for a period of time before eventually deciding that she’s ready to part with them. Long-time customers often ask to see what’s in her pile and she jokes that she’s reluctant to share until she’s truly ready for them to have a new home.  A recent title in her coveted stack is Vermont Place Names:  Footprints of History. It’s the third time Harding has come across this particular book and she knows where each of the last two copies landed, so she’s hoping to find another really good home for this one. That is…as soon as she’s ready to move it from her pile. Her general preference is for non-fiction and one of her priorities when initially purchasing the store was to have a dedicated Vermont section, which was absent from the store at that time. Visitors to the store will now find a robust selection of Vermont titles from Frost to McKibben and everything in between. 

In a recent blog post, Harding expressed her appreciation for those who have helped her get through this challenging time. “Thank you to all who called, emailed, walked in to check on me, order books as well as gift certificates, asked for a stack of books to be brought outside to venture through. It was encouraging and helped me get through in ways you’ll never know.” 

There no better time than now to rally around this local treasure. Whether you’re already a loyal customer or it’s your very first visit, you’ll find it to be a warm and welcoming space full of all of the magic and mystery that make a used book store so alluring. There’s something there to satisfy every interest, and Barbara will be there behind the counter to greet you with a smile. 

Barbara Harding, owner of Otter Creek Used Books