July 2021

Spotlight on New Leaf Organics

We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on New Leaf Organics! This local, organic farm not only keeps our produce shelves stocked with an array of fresh seasonal veggies but also supplies us with an abundant array of veggie and herb seedlings each Spring. Perhaps you have a few of them growing in your garden? All of New Leaf Organics products are 20% off for Co-op member-owners from August 5th – 11th, so it’s a great time to stock up on the flavors of summer in Vermont. Read on to learn more about this female-powered farm and all that they have to offer:

Nestled in the rolling hills near the Bristol-Monkton town line is a sweet little farm called New Leaf Organics. Now in her 21st year in business, Farmer Jill Koppel leads her rockstar all-female crew to produce some of the most beautiful and delicious flowers, fruits, and veggies you’ll find anywhere in Vermont. Their farm has evolved quite a bit over the years, but their core mission remains the same; growing high-quality organic produce, flowers, and plants that improve soil health and strengthen the community.

Their Mission

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

New Leaf Organics grows 5 acres of vegetables, berries, and flowers which are all sold in Vermont. You can shop their online store and/or visit their farmstand. Their online store offers farmstand pickup and delivery options. Farmstand hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 12 pm – 6 pm. While visiting the farmstand, you’ll find  New Leaf’s fresh-picked veggies, berries, and flowers. You’ll also find a great selection of locally sourced products from around the Champlain Valley.

New Leaf Organics Farmstand

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

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

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

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

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

Demos are back!

Sharing of food has always been an integral part of the human experience. When we share food, we share so much more than mere sustenance; we forge relationships, bury anger, evoke laughter, spread love, honor our culture, and inspire wonder. It’s a visceral experience that has the power to bring people together. Here at the Co-op, the ability to invite farmers and producers to visit and share food with the community was one of the practices that made shopping in our store feel special. It allowed those who make our favorite foods to share parts of their unique stories that can’t be shared on their product labels. It allowed us to foster meaningful relationships with the farmers and food producers that keep our pantries stocked and our bodies nourished. It deepened that all-important connection between producer and consumer and allowed us to fully experience the love that was baked into those shared treats. 

Andrew of Good Mix Superfoods is a regular at the Co-op demo counter and we love his visits!

Then the pandemic happened. And sharing food suddenly became synonymous with the sharing of germs.  During a deeply critical time for human connection, we lost one of our most meaningful ways to connect. But, for the love and safety of our family, friends, and community, we realized that it was necessary to press pause. Our in-store demo program was shuttered and we wondered if it would ever be safe to revive it. 

Michaela is the founder/owner of the Yerbary and we love when she comes to share samples of her Master Tonics

But the act of sharing food was sorely missed by many of us, exemplified by the record-breaking turnout at the recent Viva El Sabor tasting event held at Middlebury’s historic Marble Works in late June where more than 1,500 people turned up to show their support for a group of women who were cooking from the heart and sharing their rich culinary tradition. If we were waiting for a sign that it was time to revive our demo program, this certainly seemed to be a strong indicator. We were also reassured by the fact that restaurants had resumed full service without limitations. And major news outlets, such as the New York Times, shared articles penned by food safety experts about ways to share food safely during a pandemic. We realized that these measures were already common practice for Co-op tasting events, even well before the pandemic, and this gave us the confidence to explore the possibility of re-launching our demo program. 

Pauline from Golden Russet Farm sharing her love of locally-grown kohlrabi in 2019

So, we’re tiptoeing back in. And we’re taking great care to do so in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of our community. We’re thrilled to have a handful of demos on the calendar for August and we look forward to seeing how that feels and how the community responds.

Local farmer Jill Koppel of New Leaf Organics has the honor of being the first on the calendar. She’ll be here on the afternoon of August 5th sharing some of her delicious local, organic produce. On Friday, August 6th, weather permitting, we’ll fire up the grill on the Co-op plaza with a representative from Niman Ranch to share some grilled pork chops. We’re so ready to feel the festive vibe that comes from a plaza grilling event!! We’ll have a Maplebrook Farm cheese tasting, a few in-house demos from Drew and Sean of MNFC Meat Department fame, and we’ll round out the month with a wine tasting with our friends from Vermont Wine Merchants. It will be so lovely to raise a glass with all of you! 

John Bellavance and Dean Strang from Smart Chicken grilling up samples on the Co-op Plaza in 2019

Stay tuned to our demo calendar in the store or on the web to see when your favorite farmers and producers will be visiting. And be sure to reach out if there’s a particular farmer or producer that you’d love to meet at our demo counter! 

Our friends from La Riojana cooperative travel all the way from Argentina to share wine with our Co-op community!

Spotlight on Nutiva

Nutiva is enjoying the glow of the Member Deals Spotlight this week and all of their Organic, Fairtrade, and Non-GMO Verified goods are 20% off from July 29th – August 4th! Read on to learn more about their humble beginnings and their mission-driven business model:

The Nutiva story began in 1999 when founder John Ruloc began pursuing his passion to bring healthy hemp seed products to the market. The name for the company is even hemp-derived:  Nutiva — NUT of a cannabis satIVA. His very first product launch was hemp seed bars, followed in 2002 by organic, cold-pressed, minimally processed coconut oil products. They also now partner with 35,000 independent Ethiopian farmers to bring you high-quality organic avocado oil products. 

Nutiva founder John Roulac pictured with his very first product — Nutiva hemp seed bars.

Nutiva is proud to be a fierce advocate for the legalization of hemp-based products and the consumers’ right to pesticide-free, GMO-free foods. In 2003, they also began advocating for reform in the destructive palm oil industry, working with Natural Habitats and Palm Done Right to create a more equitable and sustainable supply chain for red palm oil, shortening, and hazelnut spreads. Every Nutiva product containing these ingredients is Fair for Life Certified, deforestation-free, wildlife-friendly, and Certified Organic. 

In 2015, Nutiva worked with Fair Trade USA to certify their coconut oil in the Philippines and, as a result of this partnership, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Nutiva’s coconut products are deposited into a community-led fund that supports and empowers their growers’ communities. To date, this fund has raised over $450,000.

In 2020, Nutiva launched a zero-waste program through which 95% of its waste products are either reused or recycled in an effort to divert from the waste stream. For their efforts, they’ve earned a Gold Standard Certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council and prevented 1,674 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

One of their most recent projects aims to ensure that their products are free of residues from the toxic and ubiquitous herbicide glyphosate (also known as RoundUp). Nutiva’s chia seeds and avocado oils are the first to become Certified Glyphosate Residue Free by the third-party Detox Project, which shares Nutiva’s commitment to creating pesticide-free superfoods that are healthy for people and planet. Nutiva’s goal is to eventually have all of their products bear this certification. Their entire line is already Certified Organic and Non-GMO Verified.

Since Nutiva was formed in 1999, every product purchased has helped to raise over $5 million to advance sustainable agriculture and grow healthy communities through Nutiva’s various social impact programs.

  • Schoolyard Orchard Initiative – For 6 years, Common Vision and Nutiva have partnered to bring an orchard to every public school in Richmond, California. This Nutiva School Orchard Initiative is an unprecedented, city-wide achievement that has brought fresh, healthy, school-grown fruit to 28 schools, impacting over 13,000 students — 79.5% of who rely on free and reduced lunch.
  • 100,000 Seedlings – In partnership with the global nonprofit Grameen Foundation, Nutiva has donated and helped plant 100,000 coconut seedlings in the Phillippines to revitalize crops and replace trees destroyed by typhoons. These seedlings have since grown into productive, organic coconut trees which help to improve the livelihoods of their local smallholder farmer partners in the Phillippines.
  • Typhoon Relief – In late 2020, the Phillippines were ravaged by three successive typhoons, destroying homes and plantations and leaving many in their smallholder farmer communities at risk. Nutiva has worked diligently to provide labor, lumber, and other supplies to assist with cleanup and rebuilding efforts. 
  • Planting Justice – Transforming the food system one garden at a time, Planting Justice grows food, jobs, and community through urban permaculture and holistic re-entry programs for folks transitioning out of the prison system. Nutiva supports their pursuit of food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing — primarily through paid internships, compost production, and tree planting programs.
  • Kiss the Ground – Awakening millions of people to the climate solution that’s right beneath our feet, Kiss the Ground is a film bringing the story of regenerative ag to a global audience. As supporters of this film from its inception, Nutiva is proud to see Kiss the Ground educating viewers around the world about the ways that healthy soil and agroecological stewardship can provide solutions to the climate crisis.
  • Avo-Conscious – Nutiva’s avocado oil is nurturing farming communities, sustainable livelihoods, and soil regeneration. They’ve partnered with over 35,000 small farmers to grow organic avocados regeneratively in a polyculture with coffee trees. Through this project, they’ve offered tools and trainings to over 5,000 farmers, empowering their farming partners with the most relevant and up-to-date organic and regenerative avocado farming methods and business skills through in-field education. In 2020, 30 Ethiopian women began training in Nutiva’s avocado nursery program. Upon graduation in 2021, each will be capable of supplying 6000 seedlings per year.

To read more about these programs and an assessment of Nutvia’s environmental impact, be sure to check out their 2020 Social and Environmental Impact Report

Spotlight on Jasper Hill Farm

If you’re a lover of Vermont artisan cheese, then you’re likely no stranger to the producer basking in the glow of this week’s Member Deals Spotlight — Jasper Hill Farm. And we think you’ll be thrilled to hear that from July 22nd – 28th, Co-op member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on their vast array of award-winning local cheeses! Read on to learn more about the brothers behind this epic operation, their innovative approach to cheesemaking, and the legendary underground cellars where they age cheeses to ripe perfection:

 

Deep in the heart of the dairy country of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is a dairy farm like no other. A glimpse of the main barn, painted deep-space blue with cows in astronaut attire and a moon made of cheese, provides the first hint that you’ve landed somewhere unique. Brothers Andy and Mateo, along with their wives, Victoria and Angie, knew they needed to do something different when they purchased this derelict dairy farm in 1998 — the same year that one-third of the neighboring dairy farms in the community sold their cows under intense financial pressures. Small-scale farms like this were becoming more difficult to keep up and running – a 50 cow farm like theirs would have to compete with average herd sizes of about 900 cows out west, as all of that milk is priced by the same commodity market. But the brothers were eager to find meaningful work in the place that they loved and wanted to demonstrate the ability to make a good living milking 45 Ayrshire cows on a rocky hillside in Vermont. 

Brothers Andy & Mateo Kehler. Image by Colin Clark.

Over the next 5 years, they worked hard to patch up the barn, build up their herd, improve their pastures, construct a creamery, and carve out a cave that would provide the ideal conditions for aging European-style natural rind cheeses. By 2003, they were ready to sell their very first cheeses and quickly amassed a strong following in the burgeoning American artisan cheese market. An interesting call from neighboring Cabot Creamery would change the course of their plans and set them down a path that involved creating opportunities for other local cheesemakers to get their product to peak potential. Like most cheesemakers, Cabot lacked a space dedicated to cultivating natural rinds. In fact, their warehouses were focused on keeping surface mold away from cheese. The Kehlers were nearby, hungry to grow their business, and most importantly had a temperature and humidity controlled space designed to grow natural rinds. The result was Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and the awards and accolades soon followed, as one of the first batches took home Best of Show at the 2006 American Cheese Society Conference.  Andy & Mateo recognized the potential in these kinds of collaborations and drew up plans for an expanded aging facility beneath one of the pastures of Jasper Hill Farm.

The Cellars at Jasper Hill

Two years later, they formally opened the Cellars at Jasper Hill —  a 22,000 square-foot aging facility featuring seven vaults specifically calibrated for various cheese types. This allowed them to partner with a network of other local cheesemakers and reduce the barriers to entry for those interested in value-added production. According to their website, “ripening work for natural-rind cheeses takes up more than 70% of the labor for a batch of cheese, over its lifetime. By pooling these efforts, farmstead producers could spend more time focusing on the true drivers of cheese quality: milk production and cheesemaking. Instead of sending hundreds of small boxes through the post, refrigerated trucks now pick up pallets of cheese destined for regional and national distributors. The Cellars is now the final stop for cheeses coming from six different creameries. Its mission is to be the standard-bearer for quality and innovation in the artisan cheese industry.”

The award-winning Harbison. Image by Bob Montgomery

Andy & Mateo have a knack for distilling the local landscape into their cheeses. They took this approach to new heights in 2013 when they opened a state-of-the-art laboratory on their farm, complete with a staff of food microbiology experts. The idea for this new endeavor was sparked by their partnership with Harvard scientist Dr. Rachel Dutton in 2010, who was using cheese as a model to research how small microbial communities interact. One of the profound discoveries of Dr. Dutton’s work was the notion that the environment (cows, cheese caves, pastures) and methods (washing, salting, managing acidity) were as important to the development of cheese rinds, if not more so, than the ingredients. Microbes, including yeast and bacteria, are critical partners in the cheesemaking process, turning milk into solids, and those solids into cheeses with distinctive aromas, flavors, and textures. American cheesemakers have very limited options when sourcing the cultures for their cheeses, as there are only three domestic suppliers of these critical microbes, all of which are multinational chemical corporations, including DuPont and Cargill. This significantly limits the number of available cultures and stifles the individualism that artisanal cheesemakers crave.

The happy grass-fed cows of Jasper Hill Farm. Image by Blake Noyes.

With strong science to support Dr. Dutton’s findings, a new lab, and a team of microbiologists lending their expertise, Jasper Hill Farm has been able to experiment with creating their own microbial cultures, which are sourced directly from the milk produced by the cows on their farm. They have also found that their raw milk cheeses, like Winnimere, contain all of the microbes needed to produce a fantastic cheese, thus avoiding the need to add microbial cultures. While this all may sound very high-tech for something as rudimentary farmstead cheese, Andy and Mateo are quick to point out that a cheese will never be better than the milk that it’s made from, you can’t make good milk without healthy animals, and you can’t have healthy animals without a healthy landscape filled with nutrient-dense forage. The microbial ecology of raw milk is the sum of these practices on a farm.

The proof of success lies in the supreme quality of the cheeses coming out of the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Their cheeses have garnered a long list of awards including ‘Best American Cheese’ at the World Cheese Awards and ‘Best in Show’ at the American Cheese Society for Harbison; an American Cheese Society ‘Best in Class’ for Bayley Hazen Blue, and two Top 20 nods at the 2020 World Championship Cheese Contest for Highlander and Lait Bloomer. If you’re worried it might all be going to their heads, a quick trip to their YouTube channel will reassure you that they’re not taking themselves too seriously. The music video parodies are a must-see, as is a clip of their Bayley Hazen Blue being shot into Earth’s outer atmosphere with the help of a weather balloon, an HD camera, and GPS tracking software. The cheese was successfully lofted 100,000 feet up and then retrieved where it parachuted down a couple of towns to the west of the Greensboro, VT launch site. Talk about stellar cheese!!

The Bayley Hazen Blue Moon launch. Image by Ryan Nolan.

 

What Does It Mean To Be A Member-Owner?

Are you a member? Do you have a co-op card? Are you a member-owner? Can I use my mom’s membership? What about my partner’s membership? Can I serve on the board if someone in my household is a member-owner? These are all questions that circle around on a daily basis, and as a board we recently discussed that there can be confusion on what it actually means—both literally and symbolically—to be a member-owner of the Middlebury Natural Foods Cooperative.

The confusion I see most often (and I’ll admit is what I also got confused about before joining the board!) is: who exactly is a member-owner? A member-owner is an individual. Although the benefits of being a member-owner, such as the physical co-op card, the weekly Member Deals in the store, and Co-op Connection discounts, extend to the member-owner’s household, a member-owner is one person only. This one person holds equity in the co-op in the form of the annual $20 membership payment, which accrues up to $300 in share purchases, at which point they have purchased a full share. This investment is also fully returnable if an individual decides to end their membership at the co-op for any reason. 

While individuals within the member-owner’s household receive the discounts and benefits, the member-owner themselves is the only person who can vote on essential issues and elections. A member-owner can sell their shares to another when they join households; however, that individual is giving up their vote. For this reason, many individuals in long-term partnerships ultimately decide to keep their shares so both members of the household can vote. Furthermore, the person who is technically the shareholder in the household is the only one who can serve on the board. 

Although it may seem simply like semantics, the term “member-owner” is enormously significant. Being a member is so much more than the discounts. As the MNFC website states: “Co-op membership is co-op ownership!” Unlike having a frequent buyer’s card at a pharmacy, or a membership to a gym, being a member-owner of the co-op means you own part of the business. 

Each year, if the co-op has been profitable, member-owners receive a portion of the profits directly back. This is called the “patronage dividend” and member-owners receive these checks in July. Although it may seem like a mouthful, the term “member-owner” is what the co-op’s staff and board members use both because it is the most accurate, and because it reflects such an important sentiment. As a member-owner, you literally own the store and are part of a community of friends and owners. By being a member-owner of the co-op you are voting with your dollars and making a statement about the importance of community-owned businesses. 

So is it worth it to be a member-owner? I’ve often seen people calculate how much they would need to spend at the co-op to “pay back” their membership fees through their patronage dividend. This is certainly an important question; however, it does not represent the full picture of what it means to be a member-owner. For me, voting with my dollars, and spending my money investing in a local and cooperatively owned business is a deeply meaningful use of my money.

Amanda Warren is the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board President

Spotlight on Alaffia

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Alaffia this week and Co-op member-owners can enjoy 20% off of their full line of Fair Trade Certified, Co-op-made body care products from 15th – 21st! Many Alaffia products are already featured in our Co-op Basics program, so this Member Deals discount will be in addition to the everyday low price on those items! It’s a great time to stock up and save! Read on to learn more about Alaffia and their efforts to alleviate poverty and empower communities in West Africa through the fair trade of shea butter, coconut, and other indigenous resources:

 

Alaffia was founded in 2004 with Fair Trade as the fundamental foundation of their organization, which is comprised of the Alaffia Village in Sokodé, Togo; the Alaffia Coconut Cooperative in Klouvi-Donnou, Togo; and the Alaffia headquarters in Olympia, Washington. Their cooperatives handcraft indigenous raw ingredients, and the Alaffia team in Olympia creates the finished products. Proceeds from the sales of these products are then returned to communities in Togo, West Africa through Alaffia’s nonprofit arm, the Alaffia Foundation, helping to alleviate poverty and advance gender equity through the Fair Trade of Indigenous resources and community empowerment projects. With every purchase, you directly support Alaffia’s social empowerment projects.

 

What impact have your Alaffia purchases had in these communities thus far?

 

 

Each year in sub-Saharan West Africa, 160,000 women die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Over her lifetime, a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to 1 in 4,000 in developed countries (UNICEF, 2015). There are several reasons for the high maternal mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, including extreme poverty and inadequate infrastructure.  It is possible to save lives with basic health care and gender equality.

Alaffia’s Maternal Health Project has two parts; The first is a direct approach by which Alaffia provides funding for full pre-and postnatal care, including special and urgent needs, to women in rural Togo. Alaffia product sales have paid for the births of 5,597 babies in rural Togolese communities through the Togo Health Clinic system!

The Alaffia Women’s Clinic Project is the second part of their women’s health efforts. In 2007, they formed partnerships with local Togo clinics to provide information and training on all women’s health issues, including nutrition, preventing female genital mutilation, and much more. They believe that saving mothers is a necessary step in reducing poverty. When a mother dies, her surviving children’s nutrition & health suffer, and they are more likely to drop out of school, reducing their ability to rise out of poverty.

 

 

The future of African communities depends on the education and empowerment of young people. Since Alaffia founded their shea butter cooperative in 2003, they’ve provided school uniforms, books, and writing supplies to children in Togolese communities to offset the financial burden these items have on poor families. They also donate desks and install new roofs on schools to make learning a more enjoyable experience. Since 2011, Alaffia product sales have funded the construction of 16 schools throughout Togo and provided school supplies to 37,521 recipients. They now partner with retail stores to collect school supplies – if you would like to help collect pens and pencils for this project, please contact them at foundation@alaffia.com.

 

 

In rural areas of Togo, students walk up to 10 miles a day to attend school. There are no buses, and families cannot afford private transportation. As a result, school becomes very time-consuming, and most students decide to quit school in order to fulfill their family obligations. In rural areas, less than 10% of high school-aged girls and only 16% of boys attend school (UNICEF). In 2004, Alaffia began collecting and sending used bicycles to Togolese students to encourage them to stay in and complete school through their Bicycles for Education Project. Now, with over 10,817 bicycles sent and distributed, they are seeing a real impact on exam scores and retention in rural schools. 95% of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.
Alaffia collects used bicycles in and around their communities in Washington and Oregon, with the help of their retailers, volunteers, and staff. All costs of this project – from collecting, repairing, and shipping bicycles, to customs duties, distribution costs, ongoing maintenance, and follow-up – are paid for through the sales of Alaffia products. This project brings communities in the US and Togo together. Bicycles that would otherwise be destined for the landfill are encouraging students in Togo to stay in school so they can lead their communities out of poverty. To find out how you can be involved, visit their web page or email foundation@alaffia.com

 

 

Deforestation and climate change have had a devastating impact on West African farming communities. Alaffia product sales have funded the planting of 99,964 trees by Togolese farmers to help mitigate erosion and improve food security for their families. They also conduct trainings to discourage the cutting of shea trees for firewood and charcoal to preserve this important indigenous resource for future generations. Through their Alternative Fuels Project, they investigate sustainable fuel alternatives, such as bio-gas and bio-oils, to reduce the demand for wood and charcoal.

 

 

In Togo, it is extremely difficult for visually impaired people to obtain eyeglasses. An eye exam costs as much as one month’s wage and a pair of eyeglasses can cost up to four months of wages. Alaffia collects used eyeglasses at retail locations throughout the US and employs an optometrist in Togo to correctly fit and distribute the glasses. A pair of eyeglasses is life-changing for a child struggling in school, the elderly with failing vision, and adults who have never been able to see clearly. To date, Alaffia has collected over 30,852 pairs of glasses.

 

 

 

Wellness Wonders: Adaptogens

There is no doubt that this past year has paid a stressful toll. We’ve been put through the wringer of school and childcare closings, furloughs, lost jobs, worries about our own health and safety, worries about the health and safety of our loved ones, and a disconnection from our normal social supports. These stressful life events cause physiological stress responses in our bodies, making it an especially crucial time to double down on self-care. This is why we’re choosing to shine a Wellness Wonders spotlight on adaptogens! 

What is an adaptogen?

According to our friends at Moutain Rose Herbs, Adaptogens are invaluable allies for coping with the normal day-to-day aggravations of life: work pressures, family responsibilities, financial worries, seasonal mood slumps, over-reliance on caffeine, and so on. When our nervous system is in overdrive, our bodies may experience aches and pains, melancholy, heightened anxiety, sleeplessness, difficulty with focus, suppressed immune response, and other similar stress responses. Adaptogens are a category of herbs and mushrooms that can help us find relaxation and calm to enjoy normal and healthful cycles of activity and rest.

Rhodiola

Although this classification is a bit loosely defined, there are a few generally recognized qualities that characterize specific herbs and mushrooms as adaptogens. They can help restore overall balance and strengthen the functioning of the body as a whole without impacting the balance of any individual organ or bodily system. Adaptogens facilitate these changes through a wide range of actions and plant energetics, rather than through one specific action. Adaptogens may help improve focus, support normal immune system functioning, or exercise some other broad-spectrum normalizing influence on unbalanced physiological processes.

Dried astragalus root

By definition, the active properties of an adaptogen must be safe, non-toxic, and non-habit-forming, even when taken over a long period of time. When taken daily as a tea or extract, these herbs can help improve mental functioning and allow our bodies to adapt more easily to stressful situations by curtailing an overactive adrenal response. However, adaptogens should not be used to push us beyond our limits and cannot replace the benefits of good, restful sleep and proper nutrition. These plant allies better support our wellness when taken to address a specific need or when used as gentle long-term tonics.

Eleuthero

What kinds of adaptogens are available in our Wellness Department?

Your Co-op carries a wide variety of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms reputably sourced from Vermont and beyond. Here is some information on four of the most popular adaptogens available at the Co-op:

  • AshwagandhaWithania somnifera is a perennial shrub in the nightshade family. It has been used for thousands of years throughout Asia and still holds an important place in herbal formulations today. In Ayurveda, ashwagandha root is highly valued as an adaptogenic tonic to help cope with stress and support overall cognitive health. Ayurveda practitioners believe that it is a helpful sleep aid and is often used to balance various conditions that arise from ‘vata dosha’ imbalances. It is believed to encourage youth and vitality. It is considered a grounding and nourishing herb and supportive to female well-being. Bitter, sweet, astringent in flavor and energetically warming (mildly, this well-loved root can be decocted, integrated into herbal tea blends, and tinctured.
  • AstragalusAstragalus membranaceus is a sun-loving perennial in the Fabaceae family native to China, Mongolia, and North Korea. Astragalus root was historically used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a Qi tonic and was often found in classical herbal formulas dating all the way back to the first century AD. Astragalus is reported to support immune health and is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help increase energy and resistance to stress. The dried root can be tinctured, decocted as astragalus tea, and simmered into soups, stews, and broths.
  • EleutheroEleutherococcus senticosus, also known as Siberian Ginseng, has been part of the herbal repertoire in Chinese medicine for thousands of years due to its purported ability to support mental clarity and emotional stamina during stressful situations, boost physical endurance, help with sleeplessness, and (according to Ayurvedic medicine) support healthy immune system functioning. Eleuthero root is often prepared as a tea or extract.
  • Rhodiola– Known for its ability to support healthy stress response and optimal adrenal functioning, Rhodiola rosea is one of 90 rhodiola species utilized for thousands of years throughout Europe and Asia. In fact, rhodiola’s medicinal use dates back to the time of the Greek physician, Dioscorides, who documented its use in 77 C.E. Rhodiola was employed in Russia to boost the stamina of Olympic athletes and was even taken by cosmonauts to support physical and mental performance. The floral-scented, purple-hued root is typically steeped into a tea, blended into herbal infusions, and tinctured.
Sampling of adaptogens available at the Co-op

 

Which adaptogens are right for you?

Choosing the adaptogen that works best for you in the right form and dose requires a bit of trial and error, as the needs of our bodies and the way that stress manifests itself within each of us are as unique as our fingerprints. It’s best to first consult with your physician about incorporating adaptogens into your routine and our Wellness team is always on hand to help you along the way! 

 

Spotlight on Lucas Family Farms

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly this week on Lucas Family Farms! Member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on all of Lucas Family Farm’s local, grass-fed meats and pasture-raised eggs from July 8th – 14th. Read on to learn more about this regenerative ranch, their deep commitment to environmental stewardship, and the family that brings it to life:

 

Lucas Family Farms is a family-run ranch in Orwell, VT, that produces 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef and lamb, as well as non-GMO, pasture-raised eggs. The farm is owned and operated by Josh and Janelle Lucas and their three children, who are all active participants in the day-to-day workings of the farm.

The Lucas Family

 

Raising livestock on their farm is part of a much broader goal that extends beyond producing high-quality food; their livestock offer a means of regenerating their soils, increasing the soil’s ability to retain water, provide nutrients, support biodiversity, and sequester carbon, ultimately offering critical ecosystem services that benefit us all. The Lucas Family practices a type of grazing known as Management Intensive Grazing (MiG) which is a flexible approach to rotational grazing where paddock size, stocking density, and length of grazing period are adjusted to balance forage supply with animal nutrient demand through the grazing season. Practicing MiG has the potential to produce productive, high-quality forage while maintaining or improving soil health factors such as soil organic matter levels, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration.

 
The happy cows at Lucas Family Farms enjoying lush pasture with the Lucas family homestead in the background
 

Livestock have been implicated in many injurious processes including land degradation, excess water use, nutrient excretion, fossil fuel use, and emission of greenhouse gases. However, when livestock are raised on their natural diets of grasses and other diverse forage, they have great potential to positively impact human health and the health of our environment. According to the Savory Institute, raising cattle on pasture for their entire lives can offer benefits ranging from increased animal welfare, preservation of ecosystem services, promotion of deep-rooted perennials on croplands, and recycling of plant nutrients. Properly managed grass-fed cattle are capable of regenerating land by restoring soil microbial diversity and increasing soil organic matter, making land more resilient to flooding and drought. This practice can also boost nutrient content, resulting in more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, more antioxidants, and more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat that’s been shown to reduce heart disease and cancer risk. And because grasses trap atmospheric carbon dioxide, the grass-fed system is a critical tool for sinking carbon and combating climate change. 

 
The girls pitch in with setting and moving paddock fencing as part of the family’s Management Intensive Grazing (MiG) program

 

The pasture-raised eggs produced by Lucas Family Farms offer similar nutritional benefits. According to a 2010 study from Pennsylvania State University, researchers found that one pasture-raised egg contains twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin A concentration is also 38% higher in the eggs of pastured hens compared to commercial hens’ eggs. 

 

Happy pastured hens at Lucas Family Farms

 

From an animal welfare point of view, pastured hens also have significant advantages, due to the fact that they are allowed to roam freely on fresh pasture where they’re free to forage, run, perch, bathe, and socialize as much or as little as they choose. It’s important to note that chickens are omnivores and their optimal diet includes plants, insects, seeds, and even small animals like mice and frogs. Luckily, pastured hens have easy access to all of these foodstuffs, and they’re fresher and more nutritious than anything that can be purchased at the feed store.

 
Hens and cows enjoying adjacent pasture at Lucas Family Farms

Rebuild Better Together!

On Saturday, July 3rd, your Co-op is joining co-operatives and credit unions around the world in celebrating International Co-ops Day.  This year’s theme, Rebuild Better Together, highlights the resilience of co-ops during the pandemic and the role they are playing in helping our communities rebuild in a more inclusive and sustainable way. International Co-ops Day has been celebrated annually since 1923, and the theme this year was chosen by the ICA and the United Nations to raise awareness of how co-ops have helped their communities weather the pandemic and are contributing to efforts to rebuild the economy. 

“Across our region, food co-ops have worked to keep their communities safe while ensuring access to healthy, local food,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA).  “And as we work to build back better, we know that our co-ops will be taking the lead in working together to ensure a more healthy, just, and sustainable future for everyone.” The NFCA is a regional federation of more than 40 food co-ops and startups, locally owned by more than 163,000 members and employing over 2,340 people. 

During the pandemic, co-ops have been leaders in working to ensure that shoppers could access healthy food while remaining safe, including online ordering, curbside pick-up, and special shopping hours for at-risk consumers.  At the same time, they remained committed to local producers, selling more than $100 million in local products annually – or over 25% of store sales, on average.  Thanks to your local purchases, your Co-op is proud to have sold over $6.5 million in Vermont products, representing 34% of total store sales. Last year, more than 12,000 people joined their Neighboring Food Co-ops throughout the region, reflecting a growing interest in food security, community ownership, and economic inclusion. Member-ownership at your Co-op reflected this positive trend, as just shy of 5,500 local households became member-owners or maintained member-ownership in your Co-op by the end of the fiscal year.

Our curbside pickup team worked hard to create systems and fulfill orders to allow community members to minimize their exposure during the pandemic.

The challenges of the past year illuminated the value of resilient local and regional food systems and laid bare the weaknesses inherent in a centralized, industrialized model. Pre-pandemic, Americans were made to believe that a consolidated, vertically integrated food system aimed at increasing profits through efficiency and low wages was the only way to affordably feed ourselves. But images in the news of farmers destroying crops, dumping milk, and euthanizing livestock while a record number of Americans lined up at food banks and applied for food assistance programs in order to feed their families forced us to awaken to the reality that this system is fatally flawed. The pandemic-related disruptions to our national food supply forced many of us to rethink how we feed ourselves. In the process, we became more acutely aware of where our food is coming from and gained a renewed sense of appreciation for the hands that feed us.

Store shelves at the Co-op were abundantly stocked with local foods from the 400+ local farmers and producers that we partner with, while shelves at large chain grocery stores remained empty. We were even able to forge many new partnerships with local farmers and producers to fill voids caused by national supply chain disruptions. This awakening has instilled a more deeply vested interest in figuring out how we can prepare for greater food security on a state and regional scale and food co-ops are well-positioned to play a pivotal role.

Grocery Manager Jen worked hard to secure plenty of toilet paper to keep our shelves stocked during the national TP shortage

Structural changes in our economy have also brought renewed attention to the co-operative model. As member-owned, democratically-operated entities, co-operatives offer an alternative to traditional shareholder- or proprietor-owned business structures allowing co-ops to make unique contributions to economical activity, community vitality, and worker well-being. The very structure of a cooperative requires that it be responsive to the needs of its member-owners and, in turn, to the local community. The nature of cooperatives is inherently both locally based and participatory, embodying a direct connection between member needs and the services provided. Because of this, cooperatives are able to contribute directly to community vitality and stability, modeling equitable and inclusive economic practices. 

  • For every $1,000 spent at a food co-op, $1,604 is invested back into the local economy.
  • Food co-ops create 9.3 jobs per $1 million in sales, compared to 5.8 at traditional grocery stores.
  • Food co-operatives pay about 7% more than traditional grocery stores for the same work. Our co-op was proud to increase our starting wage to $15 per hour this year.
  • Compared to conventional grocery stores, food co-ops recycle nearly double the volume of plastics and food waste.
  • Local products make up an average of 21% of food Co-op sales (and represent 34% of sales at your co-op!), compared to the national grocery store average of 1.8%.
  • In 2020, your Co-op donated $127,289 to local nonprofits and in-kind food donations to our local food shelves.

 

“In the last year, we have witnessed how the co-operative model has been working towards the well-being of people and respect for the planet, underscoring what the co-operative movement stands for,” says Bruno Roelants, Director General of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA).  “We will indeed rebuild better together, and I’m confident that we will see many stories of how the co-operative movement can help communities become stronger in the post-pandemic world.”

Your Co-op General Manager, Glenn Lower shares that “we are so proud of how well this Co-op served our community over the past year; a year filled with more challenges than ever before in our Co-op’s history. The Co-op truly exemplified what an essential business can be by providing healthy food for the community, an economic outlet for Vermont producers, and good jobs for our committed staff. Through our solidarity, we demonstrate every day how we are stronger together and how we can have a positive impact on our world.”

As part of Co-ops Day celebrations, food co-ops across the Northeast are demonstrating their commitment to their communities and to building more inclusive economies as we work to rebuild in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Celebrated internationally on the first Saturday in July, Co-ops Day in the United States coincides with Independence Day, offering a unique opportunity to focus on the democratic values of the co-operative business model. Based on the principle of one member one vote, co-ops reflect American ideals of democracy, self-help, self-responsibility, and social responsibility. And because co-operatives are focused on meeting member needs rather than maximizing profit, they are focused on goals identified by their members, including social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

To explore the ways that food co-ops are helping to rebuild better together by strengthening communities, keeping it local, making good food affordable and accessible, building a more racially just food system, and responding to the climate crisis, be sure to see the latest Food Co-op Impact Report complied by National Co-op Grocers (NCG).

Spotlight on Butterworks Farm

Butterworks Farm is basking in the glow of the Member Deals Spotlight this week and all of their local, organic, grass-fed dairy products are 20% off for member-owners from July 1st – July 7th. Read on to learn more about this local farm worked by three generations of the Lazor Family over 46 years to bring you high-quality products with a deep emphasis on regenerative practices that promote soil building, carbon sequestration, water retention, and biodiversity:

Over forty-six years ago, Jack and Anne Lazor came to Westfield, VT fresh out of college with degrees in Agricultural History (Jack) and Anthropology (Anne) and a desire to live “happily ever after as a couple of back-to-the-landers.” By 1979, the couple was selling yogurt, cottage cheese, and raw milk locally to a growing fan base. Over the next several decades, Jack and Anne continued to blaze new trail as leaders in organic farming, laying a firm foundation for the robust local food system whose fruits we’re lucky to enjoy today.

Along the way, Jack managed to find time to teach classes in organic agriculture at the University of Vermont, give frequent inspirational keynote addresses at organic farming conferences, fervently advocate for the adoption of organic practices, particularly within the dairy sector, and write a book called “The Organic Grain Grower” which Mother Earth News dubbed “the best resource we’ve seen for small-scale grain growers everywhere.” Jack was known for being an avid perpetual student as he and Anne exhaustively researched ways to farm with environmental stewardship at the forefront. 

In 2010, Jack was diagnosed with prostate cancer and spent seven years on dialysis for cancer-related kidney failure. Over that period of time, Anne kept Jack and the farm running, serving as Jack’s home dialysis technician and a caring presence for the entire Butterworks team. After a long and courageous fight, Jack lost his battle with cancer in November of 2020. Jack and Anne’s daughter Christine Lazor grew up at Butterworks Farm and now has a family of her own. A deep love for the team, the farm, the animals, the products, and the mountains keep her inspired as she and her family carry on the rich farming traditions that her parents began.

Jack & Anne Lazor

Anne and Jack Lazor were awarded NOFA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and were the first organic farmers to be inducted into the Vermont Agriculture Hall of Fame. NOFA-VT was also proud to launch a soil health cohort program this year to honor the legacy and wisdom of Jack Lazor. This cohort will promote farmer-to-farmer education and relationship building in an effort to address both short-term mitigation strategies around soil health as well as long-term systems change. This cohort will prioritize farmers who are, or wish to become great educators and will continue to share what they learn with other farmers through mentorship or by hosting workshops in the future. In this way, the funds will continue to pay it forward and honor Jack’s legacy for years to come. Several Addison County farmers including Chad & Morgan Beckwith of Ice House Farm were honored as part of the inaugural class of soil stewards. To see the full list, click here.

 

The lucky cows of Butterworks Farm are a herd of very friendly and sometimes precocious Jerseys. Each has her own name and stanchion in the barn during milking. Jerseys were chosen for their ability to produce exceptional milk on a 100% grass-fed diet. High fiber and mineral-rich grasses, legumes, and forages are always available to the cows in the lush, rotationally grazed pastures of summer and the sweet hay in the winter solar barn.

Their farming methods have evolved over the years. For the first forty years, they were grain growers and hay producers. Cereal crops such as oats, wheat, and barley, along with row crops like corn and soy fit neatly into their crop rotations with grasses and legumes. From the straw for the animals’ bedding to the grain the cows ate, everything was grown on the farm. Over the years, as their soil health and fertility increased, the quality of their forages improved until they realized that they could likely reduce the amount of grain that was being fed to the cows. By 2016, they had phased out grains completely and became a 100% grass-fed dairy, rotating the cows on fresh pasture every twelve hours.  

 

Jack shared in a Butterwork’s Farm blog post that, “our transition to 100% grass-fed is well worth it.  Despite the fact that we will need more land and sharpened management skills to do this, we are very happy to promote more grass and less grain (and subsequently less tillage) on the land that we steward.  More grass means more fibrous root systems in the soil.  Less grain means less tillage and better soil health.  Less tillage means less burning of fossil fuels and less disturbance to the delicate balance of microorganisms in our soils. Our primary goal in farming is to take more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and through photosynthesis, lock it up in the Earth’s crust as humus and organic matter.  Higher carbon levels in the soil are the number one weapon that we as humans have to reduce and eliminate the effects of a changing climate.”

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