October 2020

Update About Our Member Worker Program

For decades, one of the benefits offered to member-owners here at our co-op has been the opportunity to work in the store for an additional 10% discount.   Members have typically helped out in the bulk department, dividing large quantities of food items and packaging them into smaller portions.  Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, our member-worker program is temporarily suspended.  The reason is that in order to reduce staff exposure to the COVID-19 virus, we are severely limiting the number of people in our backroom.

Member-workers have been extremely understanding about this, but we are still asked when the program will return. The answer is that we love our member workers, as well as this program, and plan to bring it back as soon as we feel it is safe to do so.

This past August, during our annual election, there was a member vote about putting language about the member-worker program into the Co-op bylaws.  Even though this vote did not pass, the entire Leadership Team (Board and Management) wants to let you know that we are deeply committed to keeping this program going at the Co-op.  We know that it’s both an important way for members to earn an additional discount, and an important option for deeper member-owner engagement in this community-owned business. Meanwhile, you can be sure that when we feel it is safe to start the member-worker program back up again, we will make sure to let you know. Thanks for sticking with us on this.

For more info on the member-worker program, check out this link:

https://middlebury.coop/join/membership-categories/working-member/

 

Spotlight on King Arthur Baking Company

Are you gearing up for the holiday baking season? What a perfect time to stock up on local baking supplies from King Arthur Baking Company! They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from October 29th – November 4th, so member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on their full line of baking products! Read on to learn more about America’s oldest flour company and its mission to create and deliver superior products and knowledge so that consumers experience the joy and passion of baking, all informed by their values as a 100% employee-owned Benefit Corporation:

 

King Arthur is an employee-owned company on a mission to be the ultimate resource and inspiration in the kitchen, to inspire connections and community through baking, and to use their business as a force for good. They were first founded over 230 years ago and while much has changed over the years (including a recent name change from King Arthur Flour to King Arthur Baking Company), they remain committed to the principles upon which they were founded. They believe in the power of baking to make a difference — for people and the planet. They work to build stronger communities and increase access and connection to real foods. They take pride in their responsible sourcing and their “never bleached” guarantee. And they work closely with farmers, millers, and suppliers in a continued commitment toward sustainability.

King Arthur Baking Company Headquarters in Norwich, VT

 

King Arthur Baking Company is a certified B-Corporation and they measure their progress with a triple bottom line — people, planet, and profit. Their products are non-GMO Verified by the third-party Non-GMO project and they source their wheat from American farms, helping grow a strong, sustainable agricultural economy. In partnership with their farmers, they’re working to limit pesticide exposure while increasing sustainable yields in a changing climate; promoting our planet’s health for many years to come. They carry on their centuries-old heritage of stewardship through the quality of their brand, and the steps they take to preserve the vitality of the community and the earth on which we live. Click here to view their Mission & Impact documented through the annual B Impact assessment.

Gluten-Free Baking Made Simple with King Arthur Baking Company’s Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

At King Arthur Baking, they have always believed that everyone deserves equal access to the joy of baking. They strive to ensure that their values are reflected in all that they do. To maintain and extend a history of putting community, their employee-owners, and the planet first, they recognize that they must also address the social injustices that challenge those very values. They have committed themselves to this work not out of obligation, but because it’s ingrained in who they are as a company. They recognize that the work of fostering an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion will never end; there will always be more humbling, difficult, and meaningful work to do. And they commit to rising to the challenge time and time again — because of a strong sense of responsibility to break down barriers that hinder access to baking, a universal craft that has the power to unite people from all walks of life. Click here to read more about their ongoing work towards diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Whether you’re a brand new baker or a seasoned professional, King Arthur Baking is there for you with an incredible volume of resources to help you bake your best. There are handy tips for what to do when your bread falls flat and your cookies crumble, excellent instructional videos to help you understand everything from bulk fermentation to baking the perfect pie crust, and recipes for anything you could ever dream to bake. And if you’re a professional baker, King Arthur Baking offers a library of reference materials and information that will be helpful in bakeries, restaurants, and production facilities. They also offer live classes for every type of baker at every skill level at their facility in Norwich, Vermont. Classes range from introductory demonstrations for beginners to intensive week-long professional courses, with a wide variety of hands-on classes for adults and children. Let them be your ultimate go-to resource for all things baking.

Baking School at King Arthur Baking Company
 

 

 

 

Elections, The Middlebury Co-op Way

National elections are here again and although they’re always tense for one reason or another, this time they’re especially fraught. The stakes are extra high; the rhetoric is super caustic, and the electorate is bitterly divided. So at a time like this, it’s hopeful to recall that good, fair, democratic elections actually do exist: right here at our co-op.

Every year, the entire membership elects representatives to its board of directors who act on its behalf. The election cycle actually begins long before voting takes place in May. Starting in February, with the help of the co-op’s marketing, education, and membership team, we begin to publicize the election and invite any member-owner who’s curious to consider running for the board. Announcements are put on signs inside and outside of the store; placed in both the electronic and paper versions of our newsletters; bannered on our website; and posted to all of our social media channels. You don’t need special skills or qualifications, we explain; you just need to want to serve your co-op.

To get a sense of what’s involved, we say, download a copy of the new director application packet, or pick one up in the store. Call us, write us, send us an email. Sit and chat over coffee and Zoom. Drop into a meeting to get a firsthand look at your co-op’s governance in action (they’re held online these days, but that makes them even easier to attend in some ways. Just send us a note and we’ll send you a link to the next meeting).

Our recruitment efforts don’t end there, however. Both directors and staff reach out to anyone they think might be interested in running for the board: who knows anyone who might know someone else. We really shake the tree. By mid-March, everyone who wants to run, including incumbent directors, has submitted their application. These applications, by the way, are designed to convey a general sense of who applicants are to the membership and why they are interested in running. They are also designed to be straightforward and easy to complete. We don’t want any barriers to entry in our process. Everyone, absolutely everyone, has a fair shot. (Each year, we review this application process and ask ourselves whether there is anything challenging in it, anything that’s ambiguous, sends a mixed message, or could possibly come across as discriminatory or biased. If there is, we fix it or take it out.)

The application essays are posted on our website, as well as printed in our Annual Report. In April, while the reports are being printed, we continue to publicize the May elections in every way possible. We are always trying to make the elections more accessible to more of our member-owners. A perfect example was this past election when we switched to electronic voting. This took the form of links to a very simple voting page being sent to everyone via email. (Anyone without internet access could also stop by the store to vote.) The result was that we nearly doubled our turnout, which says a lot because we already had very high voter turnouts compared with other co-ops.

So in a time when many election processes are controversial, and surrounded by a noxious cloud of alternate facts, filter bubbles, and distrust, it’s good to know that here, at least, we’re doing it right. (In a future newsletter, I’ll describe the board’s officer election process, which may possibly set new standards among co-ops for fairness and transparency.) As always, write any time with suggestions, comments, or questions: tam@middlebury.coop.

Tam Stewart is the president of the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board of Directors

Spotlight on Champlain Orchards

One of the hallmarks of autumn in Vermont is the abundance of local apples. With this in mind, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on one of the oldest continuously operating orchards in Vermont – Champlain Orchards in Shoreham! They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight this week, so member-owners can enjoy 20% off their stunning array of fresh apples and apple products including sweet apple cider, apple pies, and apple cider donuts from October 22nd – 28th! Read on to learn more about this family-owned, solar-powered, ecologically-managed orchard overlooking Lake Champlain.

 

The story of Champlain Orchards as we know it today began in 1998, when twenty-seven-year-old Bill Suhr purchased 60 acres of orchard in Shoreham, Vermont.  Bill’s motivation and initiative to live off the land overshadowed the fact that apple growing and fruit farming were not in his realm of knowledge, but thanks to the seasoned expertise of long-established neighboring orchardists Sandy Witherell, Scott and Bob Douglas, and Judy Pomainville – who all shared equipment, land, and information, it wasn’t long before the orchard was thriving.  In the early days, Bill delivered 20 bushels at a time in a station wagon to the local farmers’ markets and co-ops. He quickly gained the trust of produce markets around the state through exhibiting a steadfast motivation and passion for delivering high quality, Vermont-grown fruit.

 

Champlain Orchards Co-owner, Bill Suhr. Photo Credit: S.P. Reid

Today, Champlain Orchards manages over 220 acres of fruit trees that includes over 120 varieties of apples as well as peaches, pears, plums, cherries, nectarines, apricots, and many berries. They are committed to being careful stewards of their land and grow all of their fruit following strict Eco-Apple requirements, while striving to minimize their carbon footprint and sustainably contribute to their community. Eight acres are certified Organic by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) and the farm is almost entirely solar-powered. All of their fruit is either ecologically grown and third-party certified by the IPM institute or organically grown and certified by VOF.

Aerial View of the Orchard

Additionally, Champlain Orchards runs a cidery. Their orchard-made cider is crafted from fruit grown with a conscience, in beautiful and pristine Vermont. Their cidery is located on-site at Champlain Orchards and every single apple in their hard ciders is pressed, fermented, and crafted at their orchard. This makes for a quality, local product that is fresh, crisp, and deliciously drinkable. They average around 50,000 gallons per year, and growing!

Cider Tasting Room at the Orchard

Champlain Orchards is proud to employ over 40 local Vermont residents, year-round. They also welcome an amazing Jamaican crew during their harvest season, many of whom have been coming to Champlain Orchards for over a decade!  One very exciting addition to the Champlain Orchards family this year is the legendary orchardist Zeke Goodband. Zeke leaves a nearly 20-year tenure at Scott Farm Orchards in Dummerston, Vermont to join the Champlain Orchards crew. According to a recent Seven Days article heralding this merger of apple mega minds, Zeke is described as a “champion of old and odd varieties of heirloom apples. His fruit has brightened up apple bins in co-ops around the state, and his influence has changed Vermonters’ perception of what an apple can be: golden and purple, as well as red and green; russeted or gnarled skin, as well as smooth.” He arrived at Champlain Orchards with scion wood from about two dozen varieties, which he plans to graft onto rootstock to see how they do in this new environment. Goodband and Suhr describe themselves as old friends and kindred spirits. They both admit to working too much and get excited when the conversation turns to apple genetics. They share the same values of fruit growing: making sure it’s safe for the environment and for their families. 

Owner Bill Suhr and Orchardist Zeke Goodband

Other newsworthy headlines from the orchard this year included the very unfortunate COVID outbreak among their orchard crew in early October. The orchard closed for a short time in an effort to contain the outbreak and care for their staff members. Thankfully, all staff members affected have since made a full recovery. Suhr and his wife Andrea Scott worked closely with the Vermont Department of Health to ensure they were doing everything possible to keep their team, customers, and community safe during the crisis. Health Commissioner Mark Levine praised Suhr and Scott for their response and management of the incident. The orchard has since fully re-opened for business and they wish to express their deep gratitude for the outpouring of love and support from the local community. For more information and a list of FAQ’s related to the outbreak, click here. 

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seemed like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and avocados from small farmers. All of their co-op produced, fair trade certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 15th – 21st! Read on to learn more about the ways that this cooperative is creating powerful change in industries dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation:

History:

Equal Exchange was started over 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment, and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.

Today, Equal Exchange is a thriving model of Fair Trade that has exceeded its founders’ original vision. With over 30 years of experience — a history replete with successes, failures, innovative partnerships, exciting new products, and inspiring stories — they are nevertheless humbled by just how far they still need to go. Over the next few decades, Equal Exchange seeks to engage and collaborate with like-minded partners and stakeholders throughout the Fair Trade system in an effort to continue to transform how business is done. Their vision includes breaking new ground by bringing Fair Trade home—by fostering direct relationships with family farmers here in the United States. Their collective achievements of the past 30 years prove that they can create change beyond their wildest dreams. To read more about their history, click here.

 

Equal Exchange – Who We Are. from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

Mission:

Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers, and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world.

Authentic Fair Trade:

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers

 

What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?

Bananas:

According to the USDA, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a whole lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is infamous for unfair labor practices, dangerous working conditions, and perpetuation of global inequalities. You can read more about that here. Equal Exchange envisioned a total departure from this system when it first ventured into fresh produce in 2006 with bananas. Equal Exchange works directly with three small farmer cooperatives in Peru and Ecuador: AsoGuabo, CEPIBO, and APOQ. Through these democratically organized co-ops, farmers leverage collective resources and obtain access to global markets – maintaining agency over their business, land, and livelihoods. 

Community members of Asoguabo Co-op and Equal Exchange Worker Owners in Ecuador

Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. Buying Equal Exchange bananas from your local food co-op not only keeps money cycling through our community but also ensures that communities of farmers in Ecuador and Peru are receiving a fair price for their products, which then keeps money flowing through their communities, as well. In a way, eating fair trade bananas gives you a two-for-one, as you are able to support both your community and the cooperative community of farmers that grew the fruit. It may not have been grown physically close to our Co-op, but it creates an interconnected network of solidarity between communities. You are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.

 

Avocados:

In 2013, Equal Exchange partnered with pioneering farmer cooperatives in Mexico to establish a supply chain for Fairtrade, organic avocados. Their farmer partners are located in Michoacán, Mexico, considered the ‘avocado capital of the world’. Working together, they circumvent a largely consolidated and volatile industry to provide U.S. avo-lovers with the popular fruit.

Equal Exchange visiting the farmers from the PROFOSMI avocado cooperative

These two small-farmer cooperatives, PRAGOR and PROFOSMI, export directly to Equal Exchange. PRAGOR is composed of 20 producer members who each own an average of 10 acres of land, all 100% organic. Many of the members transitioned to organic 10 or more years ago, a revolutionary move at the time. On several of these farms reside the oldest Hass Avocado trees in the region, now 60 years old, still producing avocados. Despite the excitement each producer has for the future, a major challenge is finding trading partners who believe in their mission and will engage in the respectful and fair business relationship their members deserve. As you can imagine, there are not many organizations like Equal Exchange. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world.

Farmer cooperatives increasingly recognize that production through industrialized agriculture methods has placed pressure on the natural environment, and have elected to weave environmental sustainability into their missions, vision, and goals. One such initiative is Las Mujeres Polinizadoras de Tingambato, a women’s apiculturist cooperative that was established by Equal Exchange’s partner cooperative, PROFOSMI. The initiative seeks to offer entrepreneurial skills to economically disadvantaged women through beekeeping. PROFOSMI used fair trade premium dollars to offset the cost of materials and technical training, and the women soon had the tools they needed to become an autonomous and independent cooperative. 

Equal Exchange’s Ravdeep Jaidka and Meghan Bodo with farmer-partner Alfredo stand beside rows of hives from the women’s beekeeping cooperative

 

In an effort to maintain a year-round supply of organic, fairtrade avocados, Equal Exchange began a partnership in 2018 with LaGrama, a Peruvian company providing essential services to small-scale farmers in Peru. A major advantage for Peruvian avocados lies in their seasonality for exports, which roughly extends from May to August. This serves as a good complement to the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. After extensive research with industry partners and a sourcing trip to Peru,  Equal Exchange was thrilled to find partners like LaGrama that align with their mission and vision for change in the avocado industry. 

 

Coffee:

This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence, and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. One of their latest projects, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. You can find the featured Women In Coffee Series coffee, Congo Rising, in our bulk department.

Another fantastic project brewing at Equal Exchange is their Congo Coffee Project. Equal Exchange founded the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States and raise awareness about the alarming rate of sexual violence that takes place every day. Sexual violence has affected thousands of people in the Congo over the last two decades, and for women, men, and children in need of medical attention there are not many options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned, or ignored with nowhere to go.  Survivors of sexual violence seek refuge and assistance at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, a bustling place with more than 360 staff and thousands of visitors each year.  The hospital treats patients with various ailments but has become known as a safe place for survivors of sexual violence to seek treatment and heal from their trauma.   

Since inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $80,000 for survivors of sexual violence and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician responsible for treating survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness of their plight, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. You can read more about that here and you can support Dr. Mukwege’s work by purchasing the Congo Project coffee in our Bulk Department.

 

 

Chocolate:

The global cocoa and chocolate industries are riddled with profound social and economic problems. Workers on cocoa farms are often subject to unacceptable forms of exploitation, including debt bondage, trafficking, and the worst forms fo child labor. The standard models for global cocoa trade have left farmers impoverished, economically vulnerable, and powerless to advocate for better conditions.  The small farmer-grown cacao sourced by Equal Exchange demonstrates the power of alternative trade in an industry built on exploitation and forced labor. Under Fair Trade standards, the farmers and co-operatives must abide by key covenants of the International Labor Organization, including those forbidding inappropriate child labor, and forced labor. All Equal Exchange cocoa is sourced from Fair Trade, organic small farmer co-operatives in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. Even the sugar in their chocolate bars is fairly traded and sourced from a small-farmer co-op in Paraguay. To read more about child labor in the cocoa industry and the efforts made by Equal Exchange thus far to eradicate this issue, click here

Laura Bechard of Equal Exchange and Orfith Satalaya Tapullima of Oro Verde cacao co-op

Supporting Small Cooperative Farmers During the Pandemic:

Equal Exchange works with farmer co-ops in over 20 countries, and their model is to actively seek and partner with marginalized farming communities. These remote communities face significant challenges during the best of times. During
a pandemic, the challenges become more acute. Equal Exchange intentionally works with farmers who have organized themselves into democratically-run cooperatives. They believe this structure helps change the balance of power long-term. They’re seeing that during the pandemic, the co-op systems have provided lifelines to farmers, helping them in ways that would not have existed were it not for the existence of the co-op.

Here are a few of the ways that these democratic farmer co-ops realized and responded to their members’ needs, in ways that their national governments or health care systems could not:
  • Cocoa co-op Acopagro in Peru used recent advanced Fair Trade premium payments from Equal Exchange to provide food, masks and cleaning supplies to co-op members in 2 different communities where they work. 
  • Coffee co-op members from San Fernando in Peru focused on the fact that they had productive land at a time when many of their children were living or studying in the city without reliable access to healthy food; they collectively filled a truck with their homegrown produce and delivered the food to their children. 
  • Banana co-op AsoGuabo in Ecuador used Fair Trade premium funds to purchase PPE for medical workers in the community and mobilized its logistics operations to transport medicines and supplies to local hospitals. This was critical support at a time when transportation was significantly restricted as a result of curfew measures.
  • Sugar Co-op Manduvira in Paraguay donated money to local health clinics, intentionally directing part of their limited resources to other trusted organizations that in turn help their members.
Manduvira-Co-op in Paraguay

Celebrating Fair Trade Month AND Non-GMO Month!

This October, we celebrate both Fair Trade Month and Non-GMO Month — highlighting two labels you may have seen on food packaging and want to know a bit more about. We believe that transparency in food production and labeling is essential. Shoppers have a right to know if the products they purchase exploit people and planet. Shoppers also have the right to clear on-package labeling, allowing them to find products that align more closely with their values. 

What is “Non-GMO Project Verified”?

GMOs (or genetically modified organisms) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and/or virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional breeding methods. Farmers were sold on the promise that GMOs would allow them to increase crop yields and reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides. Unfortunately, neither of these promises has proven true. Pesticide and herbicide use are at record highs and continue to climb.  In fact, 150 million additional pounds of herbicides are sprayed in the US each year in order to control the superweeds and superbugs that have developed resistance to the previous year’s chemical cocktails. Farmers have been forced to scale up to industrial levels of mono-crop production in order to remain profitable, squeezing out small diversified family farms. This has led to the collapse of many rural communities, while also diminishing biodiversity, destroying the health of our soil microbiome, causing significant loss of prescious topsoil, sending pollinator health into serious decline, and destroying water quality. These factors all have a significant impact on human health and the health of our planet. 

GMOs are present in over 70% of processed foods, and without a requirement for clear on-package labeling, thanks to the DARK Act, most consumers are unaware and unable to make an informed choice. Thanks to the third-party certification provided by the Non-GMO Project, we now have a way to determine with confidence which products are free from genetically modified organisms. A Non-GMO Project verification means that a product is compliant with the Non-GMO Project Standard, which includes stringent provisions for ingredient testing, traceability, and segregation.

 

What is “Fairtrade Certified”?

When we buy products from local farmers and producers, it’s relatively easy to ensure that they are produced in a way that supports the health of our environment and the wellbeing of people who labor to produce the food. When we’re purchasing products from afar, particularly those that simply don’t grow in our climate, like coffee, chocolate, and bananas, it can be more challenging to feel confident that these products reflect your values. These industries are typically dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation. These farmers and workers often live on less than $2 per day and lack access to essentials such as clean water, adequate shelter, and nutritious food. They must often endure unsafe working conditions and forced child labor.

When you see the Fairtrade Mark on a product, you know that farmers were paid at least the cost of production as well as an added Fairtrade Premium to invest in their businesses and communities. You know that child labor was banned and that measures were in place to protect the local environment and water supply. This label also ensures that workers’ rights were upheld and they have the choice to organize and advocate for themselves and their communities. You may notice that there are several different Fairtrade labels. If you’d like to learn more about the various Fairtrade certifications, click here. 

Joisy Tuanama Lumba, a member of the Huingoyacu community of ACOPAGRO Co-op, who grow the Fairtrade cacao in Equal Exchange chocolate chips

Why do we need such labels on food at all?

“Natural” food and “fair” food are big business these days and “greenwashing” has become a serious problem. By making unverified or uncertified claims about how their food is grown or processed (“self-made marketing claims”), some unscrupulous companies capitalize on shoppers’ willingness to pay a bit more for high-quality food that supports both people and planet. In response, there is a sea of different labels popping up with claims that sound really good, but have little backing them up.

So how does an informed shopper know what’s backed up and what’s empty words? Choosing well-recognized, independent, third-party seals on products is the best place to start. Seals like Non-GMO Project Verified and Fairtrade Certified are rigorous standards with meaningful rules that must be followed in order to receive the seal. This may actually require laboratory testing and supply chain transparency that allows for “identity preservation.” That typically requires the strict segregation of ingredients that are compliant with the standards from ingredients that are not.

Both the Non-GMO Project and Fairtrade America are nonprofits driven by their missions to change how food is made in order to better serve people and planet. The Non-GMO Project has been verifying products since 2010 and Fairtrade has been operating internationally since 1989. Both nonprofits publish their Standards on their websites to give shoppers transparency, first and foremost. It also helps to check which brands are using these labels: Brands both large and small voluntarily showcase this compliance by including either the Fairtrade or Non-GMO Project seal on their packaging (and in some cases, both seals). This provides further assurance to shoppers that it’s not a new fad but a sustainability tool used by brands to have a positive impact on people and planet.

Vineyard workers from the La Riojana co-operative in , Argentina

How do Fairtrade and the Non-GMO Project overlap?

The rigorous Fairtrade Standards ban the use of GMO seeds. This is partly because farmers may get stuck in an exploitative cycle when they rely on big agribusinesses for genetically modified seeds, rather than buying seeds from a variety of sources. Furthermore, Fairtrade and others in the field are not yet sure of the impact GMOs may have on the environment, which farmers rely on for their livelihoods.

What you can do?

Shop the labels! All month long, our Co-op will be highlighting products that are Fairtrade Certified and Non-GMO Project Verified. See the Weekly Sales display and the Member Deals display to find many of these items featured at a great price. Also, be sure to check out page 2 of the Addison Independent to find coupons to help take those discounts even deeper.  Support brands working towards a more sustainable future, and try something new!

A few of our favorite local Non-GMO Verified products

Want to learn more?

Get the scoop on Fairtrade. Sign up to receive Fairtrade America’s newsletter and follow them on social media — @FairtradeMarkUS

Follow the Butterfly with the Non-GMO Project. Check out their recipes and like them on social media — @NonGMOProject.

 

Spotlight on Lotus Foods

Happy non-GMO month! We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Lotus Foods this week to bring awareness to their grassroots rice revolution that is helping to bring sustainably grown, fairly traded, regenerative, organic, and non-GMO rice to your dinner table! All of their products are 20% off for member-owners from October 8th – 14th. Read on to learn more about the groundbreaking agricultural practices that are making this possible and the impact that it’s having in rice-growing regions of the world:

lotus-foods-logo

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

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

do-the-rice-thing-logo

A Grassroots Rice Revolution


In 2008 Lotus Foods committed to partnering with small-scale farmers who radically changed how they grow rice, using less to produce more. More Crop Per Drop™ is how Lotus Foods refers to their rice grown using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).  SRI is a not a new seed or input, but rather a different way of cultivating rice that enables small-scale farmers to double and triple their yields while using 80-90% less seed, 50% less water, and less or no chemical inputs. That’s revolutionary!

Why is SRI so Important?

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

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

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

Most of their rice varieties are already certified organic, while others are in the process of becoming certified, and still, others are working to help develop a certifying program in their country of origin. These organic and transitional rices are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or ionizing radiation. Their rices are 100% fair-trade certified and non-GMO verified. In 2016 Lotus Foods became a fully certified B Corp or Benefit Corporation. B corporations are legally obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers, and environment. It’s our conviction that we can change the world for the better by how we conduct our business.

Going Beyond Organic

Lotus Food’s traditional White and Brown Basmati Rice has qualified for Regenerative Organic Certified™ (ROC™) Silver. It is the first rice to achieve this rigorous new standard, which goes beyond existing Organic and Fair Trade certifications in promoting farming that enriches rather than degrades soil and values animals and workers. ROC certification requires organic certification as a baseline while adding additional criteria for soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness.

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

Cambodian More Crop Per Drop™ farmer

Co-op Connection Business of the Month – County Tire

Winter weather is just around the corner, so it’s a great time to start thinking about winter tires.  We invite you to check out our Co-op Connection Business of the Month – County Tire! Not only can they fix you up with new tires, but they also offer a wide range of automotive services and they have a special deal for Co-op member-owners! Present your member card to receive 10% off parts and 5% off tires! Read on to learn more about the oldest locally-owned tire shop in Addison County:

If you need tire or automotive care, trust County Tire Center, Inc! Located at 33 Seymour Street Middlebury, VT 05753, County Tire Center, Inc. is your trusted source for all of your automotive and tire needs. Owners Steve and Lisa are there to ensure that your visit to County Tire Center, Inc. will not only solve all of your automotive needs but will be one that you will be sure to share with others. They take pride in quality service and the ability to meet customers’ needs in a timely manner.

Servicing customers in the greater Champlain Valley of Vermont and New York, County Tire Center, Inc. has the automotive expertise and friendly, reliable service you need to get you back on the road fast! From tire sales and batteries to shocks, struts, brake, and transmission services, they can handle all of your vehicle needs to keep you running in top shape.

With their years of experience, they offer quality parts and services at the best prices possible. They take pride in their work and strive for great customer satisfaction on each visit. Their goal is to keep your vehicle running in the best possible condition and they will not settle for “good enough.” They went into business in order to bring a higher quality to automotive work in the Middlebury area and intend to have each customer leave happy while offering the most competitive prices in the area.

With their excellent selection of Bridgestone, Firestone, and Nokian tires, they can fit any vehicle make and model. They strive to ensure customer satisfaction and vehicle safety and will do whatever it takes to make sure that you and your vehicle only receive top-quality tires and equipment. They understand that your vehicle is a large investment and they welcome your business in protecting that investment.

If you need general automotive services, computerized tire balancing, general tire service, oil changes, brake service, custom auto detailing or performance tires, consider County Tire Center, Inc. Do you have an electric or hybrid vehicle? County Tire Center, Inc. is an authorized Hybrid/EV repair center offering a wide range of services to keep your hybrid or electric vehicle in top condition. Please feel free to contact them at 802-388-7620 or online to discuss the many options and services offered.

How do they stay small and sell big? It’s simple: years of experience. County Tire Center, Inc. has been in business since 1982. Their mission is to offer you the latest in parts and products, at the best prices with unparalleled service. They pledge their best efforts to make your experience both beneficial and enjoyable. Once you try County Tire, we’re sure you’ll be back for more!

 

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