In the days after Thanksgiving, I hold tight to my feelings of gratitude for the many blessings in my life, one being the abundance of delicious local food I enjoyed during our holiday feast! As I reflect on this feeling, I’m reminded of something a speaker at a conference I attended years ago said, “What you appreciate, appreciates”. This remark has stuck with me and comes back to me often, especially in my day-to-day work with farmers. There is so much to appreciate in the work of farmers, but not all are as obviously visible as the food that we find in the aisles at the Co-op.
Farmers steward our landscape and through their work, they sustain Vermont’s signature working landscape – the pastures, crops, and barns along our roadways that form the foundation of our state’s iconic image. Many farms pride themselves in implementing practices to actively build the health of the soil. Through this caretaking, they increase the resilience of our ecosystem by building up the capacity for the land to store carbon and increase stormwater storage. These practices are important ways that farmers are increasing the resiliency of the land to weather as our climate changes. Moreover, many farmers also implement special programs to make sure that all members of their communities, regardless of income, can also access their products.
For all these reasons and more, I appreciate the work of farmers. While it’s natural to think about gratitude and farmers when we sit down to a delicious meal, I think it’s important to also remember all the other benefits our society gains when we support local producers. And, if you’re still basking in the gratitude of the season, try reaching out to a local farmer to share your thanks for all they do. I know they’ll be glad to hear it and you’ll feel good too. If you don’t know a farmer, have a look around the Coop at the posters introducing you to the farmers who sell their products right on our shelves.
Erin Buckwalter is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member.
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 December 2nd – 8th — just in time to pick up a few stocking stuffers! 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!
Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly this week on a family-run cheese factory hailing from the hills of Plymouth, Vermont known as Plymouth Artisan Cheese! From November 26th – December 1st, member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on our full line of Plymouth cheeses, many of which are wax-dipped making them ideal for mailing to friends and family hoping for a taste of Vermont this holiday season. Read on to explore the rich history of the second-oldest functioning cheese-making facility in the country and the family that revived its age-old cheesemaking traditions:
Plymouth cheese was first founded in 1890 by Colonel John Coolidge, father of President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. The factory still occupies the original building constructed in 1890 by Colonel John Coolidge, who created Plymouth Cheese to turn extra milk on his dairy farm into a product with a longer shelf life. Located on the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, for more than 125 years, it is the second oldest functioning cheese factory in the country. The recipe used by Coolidge was consistent with the typical granular curd recipe that the first European settlers brought with them in the 1600s.
The dairy farm remained in the Coolidge family for several generations until 2009 when cheesemaker and Vermont native Jesse Werner fulfilled a lifelong dream by purchasing the business. Jesse is a graduate of the Vermont Institute of Artisanal Cheese (VIAC) at the University of Vermont where he studied the craft including chemistry, microbiology, cultures, and artisanal cheese design. He went on to apprentice with Marc Andre St. Yves of Fromager Conseil ENC/INTERNATIONAL. When the opportunity to take over arose, Jesse jumped.
Jesse then embarked on the momentous task of reviving the Plymouth Cheese Factory and that original 1890’s granular curd cheese recipe, which he found while bringing the antique cheese factory and its equipment back to life. The revamped facility houses the complete cheesemaking process with all production, storage, waxing, and aging occurring right there on campus. To craft their cheeses, Plymouth Artisan Cheese uses only the finest, pasture-raised raw cow’s milk, free of additives, antibiotics, and rBST. The milk is sourced from a single dairy herd from a sustainable, seventh-generation family farm 40 minutes up the road from the Coolidge homestead. The rich, open-bodied texture of granular curd cheese requires skillful cutting and continuous stirring of the curds — an artform that Jesse is proud to practice. Paying homage to traditional cheesemaking techniques, Plymouth Cheese continues to hand-dip many of its cheeses in colorful wax — the way it was done over 125 years ago on the Plymouth homestead.
Jesse runs the business with the support of his brilliant wife, Sarit, who has a strong background in Graphic Design as the former head graphic artist for Ralph Lauren’s Blue Label. Sarit is responsible for designing the brand and packaging, with its signature vintage brass cheese stencils and period typography. She also manages Plymouth Artisan Cheese’s Marketing, Sales, and social media presence. In true family business fashion, Jesse’s parents pitch in by bringing the cheese to the people and supporting backend operations. Together with their team members, Jesse and family are keeping the Plymouth tradition alive, producing cheese that is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate.
Today, Plymouth is the closest cheese you can find to the blocks that graced the kitchen tables of America’s first farmers. Their lineup includes eight vibrantly colored waxed-block variations of the original Plymouth recipe and two cave-aged wheels (a washed rind called Grace’s Choice and a Tomme de Savoie-style called Plymouth Tomme). Three of their waxed blocks — Sage & Herbs, Original, and Hot Pepper have earned coveted awards from the American Cheese Society.
The public is invited to visit the Plymouth Cheese Factory, which is open daily from 11-4 for self-guided tours to explore the historic factory and observe Jesse and his assistants as they create Plymouth Cheese. More often than not, Jesse will come out and wax poetic about his beloved craft. In addition to their factory store, they also have a charming museum and education center on the second floor that takes patrons back in time to experience the history of cheesemaking in Vermont. They are confident that once you have tasted their cheeses you will appreciate and understand their obsessive attention to detail and passion for preserving and growing the natural working landscapes here in Vermont.
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 18th – 24th. Read on to learn more about this local confectionery that has called Vermont home for almost 40 years and its 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 11th – 17th! Read on to learn more about the history and heritage of this farm, which has been providing food for this community since the early 1800s!
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 1800s 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 red, green and napa cabbage, kale, onions, butternut and delicata squash, baby bok choy, radishes, leeks, chard, garlic, turnips, rutabagas, beets, parsnips, and, of course, their famous carrots!
Sometimes we feel inspired to pull out the flour and the baking powder and do 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 4th – 10th, 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 its 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?
Check out their webpage to learn more and check out their fantastic collection of recipes!