May 2021

Behind the Scenes

Every business has a team of people working behind the scenes and the Coop is no exception. As Board Treasurer I would like to shine a light on the Finance Department and team members: Steve Koch, Grace Sauerwald, and Kerry Dashnaw and thank them for all their good work behind the scenes…especially during the pandemic.

A transition is underway this month in the Finance Department and I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Steve Koch, Finance Manager of the Coop. For the past 17 years, Steve has successfully led and managed the Finance Department and will be retiring in June 2021. Much change has taken place during this time. When Steve began working in 2004, the Coop had 1,580 member-owners, 32 staff members, gross sales of $4.2 million, and 3,000 square feet of retail space. Moving to the present moment, the Coop has 5,456 member-owners, 91 staff members, gross sales of $19.6 million, and 9,000 square feet of retail space. Did you notice that I express change in numbers? This was intentional because these types of changes have a direct and seismic impact on the Finance Department. More people, products, and data to track. In addition to the daily work of the office, Steve managed two rounds of member loans ($400,00 in 2004 and $1 million in 2017) and tracked construction costs for the new store and store expansions (large and small) over the years. No easy feat!

I have had the unique opportunity to work closely and collaboratively with Steve during the past six years in my role as the Board Treasurer. Steve’s deep historic and financial knowledge of the Coop has been a gift and supported the work that I do on behalf of the Coop Board. As an accountant myself, I am grateful for his attention to detail, his ability to converse articulately about complex financial matters, and most importantly his integrity that he brings to all his work. Steve, please know that you will be missed.

On behalf of the Board thank you for all the work you have done to leave the Coop in a strong financial position, and we wish you all the best as you step into the next chapter of your beautiful life. Have fun sailing, paddling, and working in your woodshop!

Lynn Dunton is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op board member.

Spotlight on Crowley Cheese

Local cheesemaker Crowley Cheese started churning out wheels of cheddar from the Crowley family kitchen way back in 1824, making it the very first Vermont cheese! Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on Crowley Cheese from June 10th – 16th and all varieties of their cheddar cheese are 20% off for Member-Owners during that week! Read on to learn more about the rich history of this local cheese company and their commitment to producing exceptional cheddar cheese for nearly two centuries:

According to their website, award-winning Crowley Cheese has been made in the Green Mountains of Vermont from the same recipe, in the same manner, since 1824. Hand-made the old-fashioned way, it’s cheese the way it used to be — all-natural, with no additives or preservatives. Pure, simple, delicious: cheese that everyone will love.

Crowley Cheese is made by hand using traditional methods first used by company founder Winfield Crowley. The cheese originates from fresh, whole, unpasteurized milk from cows that are certified BST and BGH-free and is made without additives or preservatives. The texture is distinctively smooth and creamy and the flavor is often described as cheddar “without the bite.”

Crowley’s cheesemaking history originally began in the Crowley Farm kitchen in Healdville, Vermont, in 1824. By 1882, they’d outgrown the kitchen and Winfield Crowley built the present-day Crowley Cheese Factory –  now recognized as A National Historic Place – making it the oldest continuously operating cheese factory in America. Over a century ago, when the Vermont landscape was dotted with dairy farms, Crowley Cheese was one of many small cheese producers flourishing in the state. At that time, almost every Vermont village had at least one cheese manufacturer; some villages had as many as six cheesemakers. Because refrigeration was yet to be invented, farmers were unable to store surplus milk, and so they would wisely bring their excess milk to the nearest local cheesemaker to make something out of it — cheese!

Historic Crowley Cheese Factory in Healdville, VT

By the early part of the twentieth century, the unique qualities that attracted Crowley’s first believers in Vermont were being tasted and cherished by people all over the East Coast. The first Vermont cheese was born, and Crowley Cheese started a romance that would turn into a full-fledged love affair as the century came to a close.

Today, nearly 200 years later, Crowley Cheese continues to make one of the finest cheeses in America and the recipe remains unchanged. They invite you to visit their original cheese factory to get a glimpse of the cheesemaking process and tour the historic building that echoes with the rich history of the family business. They usually make cheese three days during the week – typically Tuesday through Thursday – but the schedule can be variable, so they suggest calling ahead to confirm production is underway if you wish to see the cheesemaking action in progress. Of course, they welcome you any day of the week to check out the facility, sample their tasty cheeses, and browse the factory gift shop. They’re typically open Monday-Friday, 8 am – 4 pm and Saturday-Sunday 10 am – 4 pm. 

A present look at the oldest continuously running cheese factory in America – Crowley Cheese

To learn more, be sure to visit their website and don’t miss their collection of recipes, from mac and cheese to frittatas, showcasing the best qualities of their cheeses in a variety of meals. 

Spotlight on American Flatbread

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on a company with humble roots here in Vermont – American Flatbread! From May 27th – June 2nd, member-owners can enjoy 20% off American Flatbread’s products (applies only to frozen flatbreads here at the Co-op, not at their fabulous restaurants). Read on to learn more about the history and mission of this locally-born company:

 

George Schenk, the founder of American Flatbread, founded his business with a firm understanding that food is more than what’s on the plate, which he shares in “The Five Faces of Food” and his simple phrase, “food Remembers the acts of the hands and heart.”

“Food is important. What we eat and how it’s grown intimately affects our health and the well-being of the world,” says Schenk. He created American Flatbread based on the philosophy of food for the greater good, and the company remains committed to building upon that legacy.

American Flatbread was born in Waitsfield, Vermont, but demand for frozen flatbreads soon outgrew the humble kitchens of their flagship location. Rustic Crust, the company that now produces American Flatbread frozen pizzas, took over the reins and says that they’re proud that George entrusted them with his mission and they remain committed to upholding it. 

Headquartered in New Hampshire, Rustic Crust continues to work with fresh, all-natural ingredients to bring you the authentic flavor you’ve come to know and love. According to Rustic Crust CEO Brad Sterl, “Our two good-for-you pizza brands make their home in the beautiful New England countryside, and are made by real people and using real ingredients. American Flatbread frozen pizzas feature 100% organically grown wheat crusts and topped with fresh herbs, vegetables, and the finest of cheeses (no rBST growth hormone!). They’re all-natural, with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, and handcrafted from scratch and par-baked in wood-fired ovens.

Truly nutritious, light, crisp, and flavorful — convenience without compromise – American Flatbread pizzas are honestly delicious, the best premium frozen pizza bar none, for people who care about pizza and the planet.

 

Spotlight on Red Hen Baking Company

Our Member Deals Spotlight is beaming on Red Hen Baking Company this week! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of freshly baked breads from May 20th – 26th. Read on to learn more about this wonderful local bakery that’s been turning out fresh organic bread 7 days a week for over 20 years!

 

History

The folks at Red Hen Baking Company are guided by a belief that pure, uncomplicated ingredients and the hands of skilled artisans are the building blocks for great food. Their bakery sprouted from humble beginnings with a staff of 8 on Route 100 in Duxbury, VT back in 1999. They were committed to using organic ingredients since the very beginning and became an established presence in the area’s many cooperative and independent food stores. Their bread was beginning to appear at more and more of the area’s finest restaurants and they became mainstays of the Montpelier and Waitsfield Farmers’ Markets. To this day, these venues still make up the core of their wholesale business.

After 8 years of hard work in Duxbury and a seasoned staff that had grown to over 20 employees (many of whom are still with the bakery today), they had the opportunity to move 5 miles down the road to the neighboring town of Middlesex. It was here that they established their new baking facility in a building constructed especially for their purposes with an attached café in a renovated building that housed the former Camp Meade Diner.

Their café has become known as a local destination and gathering place where people can enjoy not only the breads they’re so well known for, but also their increasingly lauded pastries, sandwiches, and soups. To supplement their own creations, the cafe also features beer, wine, and specialty food from near and far. Next time you’re cruising through Middlesex, be sure to stop in! To keep the community safe during the pandemic, they’ve created a service window that is open daily from 7:30 am – 5:00 pm. Orders may be placed by phone or on the web for a quick, safe pickup from the service window! Read more about that here.

Quality Commitment

Although Red Hen has grown considerably since those early days in Duxbury, they remain dedicated to creating the very best food from the best possible ingredients. You can’t make great food without great flour (or potatoes or seeds or meal, as the case may be), so a great deal of time and energy is spent sourcing the very best of these items. In many cases, the folks at Red Hen are closely acquainted with the farmers and millers that are responsible for producing the raw materials used for baking their breads. In fact, over 90% of all the flour they use comes from two farmers within 150 miles of the bakery. Each year, 430,000 lbs of local wheat go into their breads!

Members of the Red Hen Baking Crew visiting Les Cedres farm in Quebec where some of the organic grain for their bread is grown.

They employ methods that are as old as bread making itself and these processes guide their days at the bakery. This method of slow fermentation produces a complexity of flavor, a chewy texture, helps the bread to keep longer, and even adds to its nutritive value. Each loaf is then formed by hand and baked in a hearth oven. The Red Hen family of breads runs the gamut from dense whole grain varieties to light and airy ciabatta and everything in between.

Red Hen Baker Randy unloading fresh baked baguettes

Giving Back

Like any good hen, the folks at Red Hen feel a responsibility to do what they can to nurture the community that has nurtured them. There is never a shortage of work to be done and there are so many good organizations doing that work, but each year their staff selects a few organizations that they would like to support. Last year they directed over $26,000 to the following organizations doing work both close to home and further afield:

To learn more about Red Hen Baking, check out their web page! You can view their cafe menu, read all about their diverse bread offerings, and find great tips for storing your bread to maximize freshness.

 

Spotlight on Vermont Salumi

Vermont Salumi is basking in the glow of the Member Deals Spotlight this week and all of their traditional Italian cured meats and sausages are 20% off for member-owners from May 13th – 19th. Read on to learn more about the Italian-American force behind Vermont Salumi and the rich traditions that lend genuine authenticity to his products and processes:

According to his website, Peter Roscini Colman was born in Italy and grew up on Cate Farm, an early pioneer of Vermont’s organic food scene, where he learned the importance of sustainable farming techniques for supporting healthy people, animals, and communities. He spent summers in Umbria with his Babbo’s family, where he has fond memories of “warming up” for lunch at his grandparents’ house by eating piles of prosciutto. This sparked a deep love for the Italian delicacy and a desire to learn to make it himself. As these things often go, his uncle Franco introduced him to Pepe, who introduced him to Francesco and David, and soon, Colman found himself apprenticing with these norcini, the famed butchers of Umbria, who taught him the methods, techniques, and centuries-old traditions of salumi-making.

Vermont Salumi founder Pete Colman pictured in the curing room of his Barre production facility.

Colman’s apprenticeship ultimately led him to launch Vermont Salumi in 2011. Like most Vermont food businesses, Colman began working out of his home and selling to hungry customers at area farmer’s markets. He amassed a rabid following, which necessitated a shift to the production facilities at the Waitsfield Food Hub, and eventually to his own production and aging facility in Barre in 2019. In his new facility, Colman can now produce up to 45,000 pounds of cured pork products a year. The move also allowed Colman to expand his product line to include larger salamis, such as those suitable for deli slicing, and Italian specialties such as capocollo, bresaola, lonza, and maple-cured and smoked cooked hams (called “prosciutto cotto” in Italian).

Vermont Salumi’s mission is to produce great food with classic Italian flavors. Their products are made from simple ingredients, careful craftsmanship, and always begin with antibiotic-free, humanely-raised, regionally-produced meats. Colman and his team prioritize clarity of flavor based on simple ingredients and time-honored craftsmanship. “We make our products to be part of good conversations, reward you at the end of a hard day, and fuel your active life,” says Colman.

Alimentari Roscini, also known as AR Market, the new retail venture from Pete Colman of Vermont Salumi

One of many pandemic-related pivots was the addition of a retail outlet to Vermont Salumi’s production facility in Barre. The name for his new venture, “Alimentari Roscini,” or shortened to AR Market, is a nod to his Italian roots. The word “Alimentari” roughly translates as “grocery” and “Roscini” is the surname of Colman’s Italian family. Colman wanted a direct market for his artisanal cured meats and also recognized that the town of Barre was sorely devoid of any fresh food options. AR Market fills this niche by offering Vermont Salumi’s cured meats along with fresh meats, cheeses, dairy products, beer, wine, and fresh produce, all with a strong emphasis on local. The market occupies half of the storefront and the other half offers a deli and wine bar where visitors can choose from a rotating list of sandwiches, salad, soup, and other grab-n-go options. The wine bar is open every Friday night from 4-8 pm, offering charcuterie, wine, beer, and a selection of some of the best artisan cheeses that Vermont has to offer. 

Here at the Co-op, you’ll find fresh Vermont Salumi sausage in five flavors, along with three flavors of their artisanal salami. 

The Congo Coffee Project

Equal Exchange is well known for revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and avocados from small farmer cooperatives. They’ve become experts at creating powerful change in industries dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation and their Congo Coffee Project is no exception. You’ll find this coffee featured in our Weekly Sale from May 6th – 12th and we wanted to take a moment to shine a bit of extra light on the profound impact that your purchases of this coffee are having on survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

From the time of colonization on, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been shaken by conflict. In recent decades, combatants fighting for land and resources have used sexual violence as a tactic, affecting thousands. For women, men, and children who are rape survivors in need of medical attention, there are not many treatment options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned, or ignored with nowhere to go. In 2011, Equal Exchange’s Quality Control Manager Beth Ann Casperson helped found the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States while offering healing for survivors and raising awareness about the alarming rate of violence.

Beth Ann Casperson – Quality Control Manager at Equal Exchange who helped initiate the Congo Coffee Project.

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 an opportunity to heal from their extensive and brutal trauma. 

Since its inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $100,000 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. One dollar from each Congo Coffee purchase goes toward supporting Dr. Mukwege’s work to assist the women, men, and children who have been impacted by sexual violence. Click here to read more about the impact of your Congo Coffee purchases and see a breakdown of how the funds are allocated. We also invite you to learn more about this project by tuning into this podcast titled Conflict, Coffee Farmers, and the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Spotlight on Grace & Miss Mouse

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly this week on a local family-run soap company hailing from Bellows Falls, VT, known as Grace & Miss Mouse Soaps! All of Grace & Miss Mouse’s soaps and bath bombs are 20% off for member-owners from May 6th – 12th — just in time to pick up something sweet for the mamas in your lives! Read on to learn more about the mother-daughter team that brings you these body care products and the inspiration behind their unique scents and product names:

Over 15 years ago Judy Lidie’s eldest daughter treated her to a special birthday trip to an inn and spa nestled in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont, which would ultimately spark the inspiration for Grace & Miss Mouse Soaps. While enjoying her stay at the inn, Judy fell in love with the little handmade soaps they offered, which smelled amazing and made her skin feel softer than she’d ever felt. She knew right away that she had to learn to make her own soap and began her quest immediately upon returning home. She bought books on soap making and spent countless hours reading, researching, and experimenting through good old trial-and-error with friends and family who were willing to help her test and adjust her recipes until she felt satisfied that she’d made the perfect bar. She decided to name the company after her greatest inspiration, her granddaughter Grace. 

Judy’s cold-process soaps are made in small batches right here in Vermont using only the highest quality ingredients. Each bar is hand-cut and produces plenty of lather that is kind to the skin and never drying. The unique and cleverly-named scents are long-lasting, but never overpowering. And they leave your skin feeling every bit as soft and luxurious as those initial spa bars that Judy first fell in love with 15 years ago. After her first few years in business, Judy began expanding her product line to include colorful, fragrant bath bombs and other fun body care products.

For the first 12 years that she was in business, Judy was a one-woman show, handling all aspects of the business while also working a “day job” and raising her three daughters with her husband Roy. She was eventually able to take early retirement from her job and, for the past three years, Judy is thrilled to have her daughters and her husband helping out with the soap business, allowing her to expand production and enjoy a lot more family time while doing the work that she loves. Her eldest daughter Jessica makes all the bath bombs, sugar scrubs, bubble bars, and does a lot of the labeling and shipping, Middle daughter Danielle (usually known as DL) makes all of their beautiful soaps, and Michelle, the baby, creates their labels and all company forms. Husband Roy handles the large deliveries throughout Vermont and picks up the oils and lye needed to make their products. Roy also custom-built all of their wood soap molds, their bath bomb press, and handles all shop maintenance. That leaves Judy to handle all of the accounting, billing, purchasing, inventory, and customer service. 

We were curious to know the inspiration behind the clever names and scents like Little Black Dress, Hippy Dippy, Dragonfly, and IPA Suds. According to Judy, “some of the names originated with off the cuff comments one of us said when we smelled a new fragrance, some of them are just good old traditional names, and some are named after family members, like Missy Shell (Michelle), Biker Chick (named after Jessica, who is an avid bicyclist), and Amazing Grace, after the namesake of the company, my only granddaughter, Grace Elizabeth.” When asked about the family favorites, Judy says, “it’s hard to pick one favorite! I love Honey Comb, Champagne Sparkle, and Holly Jolly. Jessica loves Biker Chick and Holly Jolly. Danielle loves Sweet Pea & Rhubarb and Michelle loves Missy Shell!

We hope you’ll try them all and let us know your favorites!

 

 

Business of the Month: Vermont Sun Fitness Centers

Could your wellness routine use a Spring makeover? Check out Vermont Sun! They’re our featured Co-op Connection Business this month and they offer 50% off their lifetime membership fee to Co-op member-owners!

Vermont Sun has been keeping our community fit since 1985. Whether you’re visiting their facilities in Middlebury or Vergennes, you’ll find their clubs geared up with the essential elements of a great workout. Their fitness equipment vendors are the best in the industry, and their club owners stay current with the latest technology! They offer a wide variety of cardio, strength, and free weight equipment to ensure that you get the best possible workout.

In an effort to protect and promote community safety during these challenging times, Vermont Sun has adopted a rigorous health and safety plan. Here’s what to expect when you visit:

SAFETY PRACTICES

  • Masks are required to enter the building and should be worn at all times even while exercising.
  • To enter Vermont Sun, you must have been in Vermont for at least 14 days or 7 days with a negative COVID test.
  • If you or someone in your house are sick, has a temperature, or has a pending COVID-19 test, stay home.
  • Check-in! It is required by the state to keep accurate records of all visits.
  • Use hand sanitizer when you enter and before you leave.
  • Consider bringing your own personal items such as towels, mats, and water bottles. Water fountains will be available for filling bottles only.
  • Wipe down each piece of equipment after you use it, and dispose of the wipes appropriately.
  • Plan your workout routine ahead of time and consider coming dressed in your workout gear to avoid lingering and socializing. This will allow more members to work out given the reduced occupancy necessitated by distancing requirements.
    Please read here for more information.

FACILITIES AND PROGRAMMING

Both Vermont Sun locations are open Monday thru Friday 6 am-8 pm, Saturday & Sunday 7:30 am-4 pm. This includes the pool as well! They’re currently offering a limited class schedule, with in-person and remote options, which are posted on their website. To attend one of their live virtual classes call ahead to register at least 10 minutes prior to class start time.

Their facilities also offer racquetball courts, saunas, and indoor pools for lap swimming, rehab, or recreation.

Need help to ease safely back into a workout routine? Or maybe you’re just looking to set some new fitness and nutrition goals and could use a professional guide? Vermont Sun offers Personal Training services and Nutritional Counseling from a knowledgeable staff of certified, credentialed specialists.

In short, Vermont Sun has everything you need to help make your fitness goals a reality! Stop in and find out for yourself why they are voted the #1 Fitness Center in the region year after year! And don’t forget to tell them you’re a Co-op member-owner!

 

 

 

 

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