As we approach the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, we are reminded of connection to the seasons, to change, to death and rebirth, to darkness and light. The more I pay attention to the seasons, the more rooted I have become. The more I have embraced the seasonal darkness, the more I have welcomed the inner darkness. Solstice is a journey from the outer world to the inner world, and then after a season of darkness, we can transition outward and toward the light. What we learn internally can help us reflect on the work that is being asked to be done as a community and a country.
In the darkness, we are confronted with our fears. In confronting our fears, we learn and can be liberated, we can be reborn. Anyone who does Jungian shadow work is familiar with this. In the “Power of Vulnerability” a talk by Brene Brown, she says that we have to sit with fear as if it were a professor and learn from it. Buddhist philosophy asks us to invite it for tea. Many would agree that this past year with a pandemic and a divisive political climate has been quite dark. Many would also agree we have grown in this darkness. A seed needs darkness to sprout. A perennial needs winter to rest so it can return in the spring.
Having grown up in northern California, I considered myself a light seeker. Moving to Vermont almost a decade ago confronted me with seasons, winter, and darkness. In my first very hard winters here, an older fellow Californian told me it would take me seven winters. That felt long but oddly it was true! I remember reading somewhere that our body fully regenerates every seven years. Seven has always been a powerful number to me, as it is for many. I hadn’t understood my seventh-generation Vermonter husband’s love of winter and the seasonal shifts. They always felt hard for me. Yet somehow in my seventh winter, something clicked. It was a curious journey with a lot of exploration and support, but I got there. I discovered ways to enjoy winter, like a massive tea collection and the ritual of lighting our wood stove. I found hot baths with oil soothing. I also learned mindfulness practices and lots of vitamins that support seasonal affective disorder. I found ways to acknowledge depression and learn from it through therapy. As I cultivated wellness within, I found more energy to cultivate wellness in my family and in my community. Seasonal death guided me to internal death and rebirth.
My work at the college focuses on developing sustainability programs and cultivating wellbeing in people, places, and the planet. I think about sustainability as an interconnected system where everything and everyone matters. I heard a lecture once where a man said that wellness is at the core of social justice work. The field of sustainability used to only be focused on the environment. My work in particular is interested in the sustainability of self. How do we cultivate wellbeing within, mind, body, soul? How do we hold space for people to do that work? As a college student at Middlebury College, I wanted to “save the world”. As I got older I realized I had to save myself to save the world. So that has become my daily practice. How do I live in alignment with my soul? After that, I ask how am I living in alignment with my husband, my children, my community/my earth. It’s all a ripple effect and if I’m not okay, the rest cannot be okay. We are an undeniably interconnected system. I clearly acknowledge the privilege that comes with this. Therefore, I also continuously ask how do we create more access and more inclusion?
On this cold dark November morning, as I write about the continued darkness and the coming light, I wonder what my future self would say to me. What will life look like in 7 years? Will our country come together? Will we grow with the seasons changing? I believe that we are learning from our collective darkness. Our country is doing its shadow work. We are addressing the injustices that this country was built on. We are going through deaths and rebirths. As a Coop and board that is actively doing anti-racism work, I believe that we are working toward a more just society. It’s messy, and we will make mistakes, but we will keep doing the work. The new era is just beginning, and many folks are waking up and remembering we are stronger together. Seeds of justice and hope are being planted and cultivated in the darkness. For someone who used to fear the darkness, I now say please come in for tea and let me listen and learn.
Sophie Esser Calvi is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member
We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:
Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.
Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties), Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.
The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.
Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand. A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste.
According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.
Our Co-op Spotlight is shining brightly on Badger this week. This small, family-owned, family-run, and family-friendly company nestled in the woods of Gilsum, New Hampshire is beyond worthy of the spotlight. They help define what it means to be a socially accountable, environmentally responsible, people-first kind of business. They are featured in our Member Deals Spotlight this week, so all of their fabulous body care products are 20% off for member-owners from November 26th – December 2nd! We happen to think they make great stocking stuffers! Read on to learn about the ideals, principles, and practices that make their company worthy of such high praise:
Badger was born in 1995 when founder Bill Whyte was working as a carpenter in the cold New Hampshire winters and created an amazing balm that helped soothe and heal his cracked hands. Badger Bill ran the company (as CEO) along with his wife Katie Schwerin (as COO) and their two daughters Rebecca Hamilton and Emily Schwerin-Whyte and it grew to over 100 products and over 90 employees. In 2018 Bill passed the leadership of the company on to Rebecca and Emily making them both CEOs or Collaborative Executive Officers. Click HERE to read more about Badger’s amazing history.
Quality Ingredients and Standards
Badger selects ingredients with great care, using only those that fit their rigorous natural standards for healthy agriculture, minimal processing, sustainable supply chain, and health-giving properties. Every ingredient they use is grown and processed with the highest degree of respect for protecting the environment, the workers, and the natural properties of the plants. Nearly all of Badger’s products are made from 100% USDA Certified Organic food-grade ingredients and they utilize as many fair trade certified ingredients as possible. You can view their impressive growing and processing standards on their web page.
B Corp Status
Badger became a B Corporation in 2011 to help assess and improve their business practices and ensure that they’re always doing what’s right for people and the planet. In June of 2018, Badger was named ‘Best For the World’ and ‘Best for the Environment’ by the folks at B Corp, recognizing their efforts to create a positive impact for workers, the environment, and the community. At the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Badger joined a group of over 500 other B corporations in committing to Net Zero by 2030. That means reaching a perfect equilibrium with the earth—drawing all of their energy from renewable sources, and releasing zero carbon into the atmosphere.
This past September, Badger was so excited to officially unveil their 1,384-unit, 486.7-kilowatt array of solar panels! Mounted on their grounds and stretching across their rooftops, the panels produce enough clean solar energy to power all of their operations—and even send extra electricity back to the grid. These panels will eliminate about 636,000 pounds of carbon pollution every year!
Family-Focused Employee Programs
Badger was awarded the Connect 2016 Philosophy Award for its accommodating employee benefits and exemplary work environment. Creating a family-friendly workplace is a high priority at Badger. They aim to be supportive of new parents in their extended work family while considering the well-being of all employees and productivity in the workplace. They offer extended parental leave and a Babies At Work program, which brings together a policy that is best for baby, parent, and business. This policy allows the parent to bring the child to the workplace until it begins crawling, at which time it graduates to Badger’s Calendula Garden Childcare Center. The Center is located just a quarter-mile from the Badger campus and offers high-quality, subsidized childcare for children of their employees. Badger, in a sense, creates its own “village” to support both parent and child!
Another exemplary aspect of employee care is their free lunch program. This is a daily organic lunch served during a paid 30-minute break. Every day their fabulous cooks prepare a free, home-cooked lunch for all of the Badgers made from 100% organic and mostly local foods. During the summer months, much of the produce comes right from their Badger Ecology Center regenerative vegetable garden! Read more about Badger’s impressive employee benefits here.
Badger believes that third-party certifications take the guesswork out of claims made on cosmetics and personal care items. This means that they adhere to the standards and guidelines of any third party agency certifying their products. Their products are certified organic by both the USDA and the NSF, many of the ingredients are Fair Trade certified, and all products are certified gluten-free and certified cruelty-free. Recently, their full line of mineral sunscreens was among the first to bear a new Protect Land + Sea Certification, a seal verifying that a product does not contain any ingredients or contaminants considered harmful to coral reef environments, sea turtles, and other aquatic life.
Take a Virtual Tour with Badger Bill:
We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight this week on a local favorite – Lake Champlain Chocolates! All of their mouth-watering Fairtrade Certified chocolates are 20% off for member-owners from November 19th – 25th! Read on to learn more about this local confectionery that has called Vermont home for almost 40 years and their commitment to responsible sourcing:
The story of Lake Champlain Chocolates began back in 1983 when founder Jim Lampman dared his pastry chef at Burlington’s Ice House Restaurant to create a better truffle than the ones he had been buying for his staff as holiday gifts. Together they began making the most amazing hand-rolled, creamy truffles and the rest, as they say, is history.
From the very beginning, long before eating local was cool, Lake Champlain Chocolates has been committed to sourcing Vermont-grown ingredients whenever possible. They knew that using high-quality Vermont honey, maple syrup, and fresh dairy from local farmers and producers would result in superior chocolates.
The goal is to bring you their best. To make high-quality chocolate that amazes with exquisite flavor and creates a moment of pure joy. It’s also why they’ve never added preservatives, extenders, or additives, and why they’ve worked diligently to remove GMOs from all of their chocolates and use organic and Fairtrade certified ingredients whenever possible. With each new product, the goal remains the same – to create something special, and to give you the best experience.
A Family Affair:
Lake Champlain Chocolates is a second-generation, family-owned business, just like the generations of Vermont family farmers that provide them with fresh butter, cream, maple syrup, and honey. And just like the generations of cacao farmers in places like the Dominican Republic and Guatemala — with whom they have direct partnerships. Today, Jim’s son and daughter, Eric and Ellen, are defining the future of Lake Champlain Chocolates by developing award-winning organic products and spearheading sustainable sourcing initiatives. Along the way following the Lampman family principles: Dare to do better. Always do it with Passion. And do it your way.
Making great-tasting chocolate is hard work and the team at Lake Champlain Chocolates believes that every person in this process should be treated and compensated fairly and that their actions should make a positive impact on local and global communities. When you purchase Fairtrade chocolate, more money goes back to the farmers, allowing them to lift themselves out of poverty and build a better life for their families. It also allows these farmers to invest additional Fairtrade premiums in community development, ensures a ban on forced labor and child labor, and encourages environmentally-sustainable farming practices. Go ahead and indulge your sweet tooth and feel good knowing that 100% of the chocolate they use at Lake Champlain Chocolates is Fairtrade certified.
Why Buy Fairtrade Certified Chocolate?
- Farmers and workers are justly compensated and have safe working conditions (this includes prohibiting the use of forced labor and child labor).
- Farmers are empowered to lift themselves out of poverty and help to build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.
- Cocoa farmers and co-ops receive an additional premium for investing in community development.
- Farming communities develop skills that help them use the free market to their advantage.
- Farming villages become better stewards of the environment — using sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices to preserve local habitats and increase biodiversity
B Corp Certification:
Lake Champlain Chocolates joined a growing community of more than 2,500 certified B Corporations worldwide who are united under one common goal – to redefine success in business. Rather than focus solely on profits, certified B Corporations are leaders of a global movement of people using business as a force for good. They meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability and aspire to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Unlike other certifications that look at individual products, B Corporation evaluates the entire business — assessing the yearly impact on the environment, workers, customers, community, and government. This new type of corporation is purpose-driven to create benefits for all, not just shareholders, working together to be the change we seek in the world.
For Lake Champlain Chocolates these performance standards provide a valuable third-party measurement tool, assuring customers and suppliers that LCC’s business practices meet the highest standards. “Achieving B Corp Certification is the next step towards fulfilling our company’s vision to become the gold standard of chocolate companies in the United States, a respected leader other companies aspire to be,” says Eric Lampman, LCC President. “For more than 35 years, our practices have been guided by one core value – ‘everything must measure up to the chocolate.’ And this includes making a positive impact on our local and global communities by respecting our employees, fostering long-term partnerships with our suppliers, and practicing environmental responsibility.”
The folks at Lake Champlain Chocolates would love to show you around! Visit their flagship store on Pine Street in Burlington to watch their master chocolatiers craft extraordinary chocolate right before your eyes. Watch a brief video to learn how chocolate is made, where it comes from, and what makes their chocolates so delicious. And while you’re there, be sure to treat yourself to one of their specialty confections like Almond Butter Crunch, their famous chocolate truffle or enjoy a hot chocolate, espresso, or ice cream from their café. Their factory tours are free, self-guided, informative, and fun! Chocolate is typically produced Monday-Friday; however there can be changes in the production schedule without notice.You may visit Monday – Sunday, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, though to see the most action in the factory, it is recommended to visit Monday-Friday before 2:00 pm.
Lake Champlain Chocolates also offers free outdoor chocolate tastings (weather permitting) at their Pine Street location on Saturdays from 12:00 – 4:00.
We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Elmer Farm this week to celebrate this 90-acre organic farm and the farmers who bring it to life. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their glorious spread of organic vegetables from November 12th – 18th! Read on to learn more about the history and heritage of this farm, which has been providing food for this community since the early 1800’s!
Driving into East Middlebury on Route 116, it’s hard to miss the beautiful patch of flowers bordering the white farmhouse at the entryway to Elmer Farm. What you might not see from the road are the amazing fields of vegetables that are grown on this fertile, organic soil. Elmer Farm is a conserved 90-acre farm growing 8 acres of mixed vegetables, flowers, and herbs, all of which are certified organic. Annual inspections and certification by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) ensure that the crops are grown responsibly and safely without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.
The farm originally belonged to the Elmer family in the early 1800’s and has a long heritage of providing food for its community. The receding glaciers bestowed the farm with a wonderful mix of fertile soils and sandy loam, perfectly suited to growing vegetables and grains. It’s on this fruitful land that Elmer Farm now grows more than thirty-five different vegetables, an array of flowers, and culinary herbs. This includes over 200 different seed varieties, many of which are heirlooms. With a goal of maintaining long-term soil health, the crew at Elmer Farm also manages an additional 15 acres of rotating cover crop, keeping one-third of their acreage in production and two-thirds resting.
A number of years ago, representatives from HOPE, Middlebury College, ACORN, and the local business community, along with several local farmers, including Spencer from Elmer Farm and Will Stevens of Golden Russet Farm, got together to discuss the possibility of increasing the amount of locally grown food offered at HOPE’s food shelf. This group recognized that Addison County farmers grow vast amounts of beautiful, healthy organic fruits and vegetables, which are often unavailable or too pricey to those who need it most. They also recognized that these farms often had excess produce available that would not be destined for retail markets, which could instead be diverted to the food shelf. Fast-forward to the present day, and the idea hatched by this group has evolved into an incredibly successful program that is bringing thousands of pounds of healthy, local foods to those in our community who need it most while also diverting a lot of food from the waste stream.
At the Co-op, you can find Elmer Farm’s organic cabbage, red & yellow onions, butternut squash, baby bok choy, radishes, leeks, scallions, kale, chard, and their famous carrots!
There’s no doubt about it — 2020 has been an incredibly stressful year. Carving out a bit of time for self-care to combat stress may sound like common sense to some, though it’s often the first thing to get pushed to the bottom of the priority list when we find ourselves in challenging situations. But by taking some time out to engage in self-care, we may relieve some of the pressure and bring out the best version of ourselves, allowing us to rise up and meet the challenges of daily life in a pandemic.
Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety and depression, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimize frustration and anger, increase well-being, improve energy, and more! And it doesn’t necessarily require a trip to the spa, which is good news since we are trying to stay at home as much as possible, many spa services are currently unavailable, and/or we’re trying to stick to a very tight budget. Below are a handful of DIY self-care recipes that are simple to prepare and highly customizable to our personal preferences. These also make fantastic gifts, because we all know at least one person in our lives that could use an extra serving of self-care this holiday season!
Sometimes we might feel like getting out the flour and the baking powder and doing the measuring and mixing, but other times call for a quick baking fix and that’s when we like to reach for products from Immaculate Baking Company! They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from November 5th – 11th, a perfect time to ease into the holiday baking season, and all of their products will be 20% off for member-owners. Read on to learn more about this “honestly delicious” company and their humble roots:
It was back in a garage in 1995 that Immaculate Baking Company founder Scott Blackwell started his business with a simple dream: bake great-tasting treats and inspire the natural artist in all of us. Immaculate has grown beyond his wildest dreams, but it still remains true to those original values. And Scott’s baking ventures began even before that day in the mid-nineties. In first grade, he sold candy bar kits, and, sensing a budding love for food, Scott’s grandmother taught him the art of home baking.
So, was it easy to go from his grandmother’s kitchen to become the founder of the Immaculate Baking Company? Hardly. Scott paid his way through college baking and supplying 28 restaurants with pies. After college, he became a distributor for a major ice cream brand then moved to South Carolina where he opened a restaurant, Immaculate Consumption. Visitors loved his sandwiches, baked goods, and fresh-roasted coffee. Inspired by patrons’ enthusiasm for his coffee and treats, Scott sold the restaurant and worked out of his garage to sell fresh-roasted coffee beans and cookies, all wrapped in plain brown paper.
For years, Scott struggled to get his business out of the garage and into the mainstream. To boost his spirits, he’d take road trips around the southern U.S where he discovered folk art. He was inspired by their stories, their frequently hardscrabble lives, and how resourceful and creative they were in constructing their beautiful, deceptively simple pieces. Scott decided to pay tribute to these often unsung artists by featuring their work on his cookie and coffee packaging. And their resourcefulness inspired him to get creative.
In 1997, Scott went to a food trade show on the West Coast and handed out cookies. The next week, orders began to roll in from high-end food retailers and just two years later, his cookies began winning awards at food shows. Immaculate Baking quickly outgrew Scott’s garage and rapidly graduated to a huge facility in North Carolina. Over time, the brand expanded from refrigerated cookie doughs made with organic flour and sugar to include convenient canned dough products like Cinnamon Rolls, Biscuits and Scones, and even many gluten-free options.
Fast forward a few years to 2012, when Immaculate Baking Company joined the family of passionate bakers at General Mills. Nowadays, they make a whole bunch of certified organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO products that they know you’ll love because they love ‘em too. And, after all these years, they still stick to those original values from Scott’s garage in ‘95… They celebrate creativity and soulful goodness by making honestly delicious goodies wrapped in a gallery of inspiring folk art. What’s not to love about that?
A whistling tea kettle, the spicy aroma of simmering chai, a quiet space to sit, relax, and enjoy the moment…these are all part of the typical experience when you visit our featured Co-op Connection Business, Stone Leaf Teahouse, and it seems to beckon us this time of year when the air turns cool and crisp. Of course, the challenges to community health and safety presented by the COVID pandemic have led Stone Leaf Teahouse owner John Wetzel to make the difficult decision to transition to a slightly adjusted model where you can preorder your tea online, have it shipped to you, or pick it up curbside Monday – Saturday between 11 am and 4 pm. Perhaps recreating the cozy atmosphere of the Teahouse in the comfort of your own home as you sip your delicious tea can be a fun way to spend a lazy weekend day?
The staff at Stone Leaf Teahouse has an intimate knowledge of the impressive list of teas offered and John has traveled to many of the farms from which their teas are sourced, gaining an even deeper understanding of the tea’s journey from farm to cup. They have applied their collective knowledge to develop an extremely handy online “Tea Guru” tool that will walk you through the process of selecting a tea that you will love. Remind them that you’re a Co-op member-owner and you’ll receive 10% off your order! You can also find their premium loose leaf teas in our Bulk tea department. It’s a unique treat to have teas this fresh available in our store. Read on to learn more about the teahouse and its offerings.
Based in Vermont, our teas reflect our ideals; grown with skill and heart to cultivate a healthy ecosystem and global community. Each year we visit the tea gardens that produce the finest teas in the world. We connect you to the families that have grown and processed tea for generations.
Established in 2009, Stone Leaf Teahouse was built, well from the stone. Upon returning from travels in India and Taiwan, we searched for the perfect space for storing and serving quality tea. We found that space in the Marbleworks in Middlebury, Vermont…our little “tea cave”. Surrounded by stone, our fresh teas keep fresh, and our aging teas age gracefully.
We travel to all the regions that we source tea to forge a connection between the grower and drinker, directly importing from China, Taiwan, India, Nepal, and Japan (with more to come as we grow!).
We source teas fresh, buying the best harvests, often multiple times a year.
We connect the tea drinker to the tea garden.
We are students of tea, here to share the connection through a cup of tea.
Would you like to delve deeper into the world of tea? Check out the workshop calendar for some exciting opportunities to learn more! Of course, for now, these workshops will be offered online. You can also visit the Tea House blog to read more about the world of tea, including a recent fascinating post on the rich and complex history of tea, sugar, and slavery.
Stone Leaf Teahouse offers an extensive menu of some of the freshest and most unique tea varieties available, including 38 varieties of tea from the 2020 harvest. Many of their tea offerings are certified organic. To view the full menu, click here.