December 2021

A Fine Balance – Thoughtful Financial Planning

I have had the honor of serving as the Middlebury Natural Food Co-op (Co-op) Board Treasurer for the past six years. For me, this time of year always includes working with the General Manager and Finance Manager to develop the annual budget for the next fiscal year. The Co-op is no longer a buying club nor a mom & pop operation. It is a robust and thriving food cooperative that employs 100+ staff members and serves 6,000 member-owners. I mention this because our Co-op has grown and evolved in the past 40+ years into a complex organization.

Building an annual budget is a bit like putting a puzzle together. In the case of the Co-op, the process starts with projecting annual sales for the next fiscal year. Think of annual sales as the frame, or border, of the puzzle and the interior of the frame as all the competing needs and priorities that must be taken into consideration. Believe it or not, there is an art to building a realistic and financially sustainable budget!  It requires looking at past performance, current trends, and imagining a desired future state. The pandemic has made this annual process especially challenging.

            The Co-op’s annual budget process is guided and informed by our Mission and End Statements:

Mission Statement:

The Middlebury Natural Foods Cooperative is a democratic, member-owned cooperative committed to providing healthy, competitively priced foods; encouraging ecologically sound and healthful patterns of production and consumption; and responding to members’ needs accordingly.

 Ends Statement:

Our cooperative exists so that MNFC member-owners, customers, and the community benefit from:

  • Healthy Foods
  • Vibrant Local Economy
  • Environmentally Sustainable and Energy Efficient Practices
  • Co-operative Democratic Ownership
  • Learning About These Values

The “Ends” guide day-to-day operations, inform decision-making and serve as a constant reminder of the purpose of our cooperative. The Ends represent our cooperative values. As you can imagine, there are many competing priorities to consider and balance as we create a budget that aligns with our mission and values and is financially sustainable.

The Co-op strives to provide the fairest possible prices to customers and at the same time provide fair compensation to employees and fair prices to farmers/producers. It is important to note that the development of the annual budget is primarily focused on people, not profits.

Glenn often shares this graphic at the annual meeting.

Imagine $1 in sales and how it is sliced up by big expense categories. As you can see, 64.3 cents of every dollar go toward paying fair prices to farmers/ producers and 22 cents provides fair compensation (wages & benefits) to employees. The remaining 11.9 cents cover other operating expenses (including administration, physical plant, promotions, governance, taxes, loan interest, Patronage dividend) leaving a small net profit (1.8 cents of each dollar). The net profit is saved for reinvesting in the future and safeguarding our treasured community co-op.

Managing and operating within a financially sustainable budget during a pandemic is a bit like walking a tight rope on a windy day. It requires focus, foresight, and commitment to balancing all the demands, known and unknown, of running a business while embracing our Co-op mission and values.  

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





Spotlight on Spectrum

Spectrum is featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from December 30th – January 1st and their full line of products is 20% off for member-owners. Read on to learn more about why they shine:



In 1986, Spectrum Naturals® brand was founded in Petaluma, CA to bring nutrition and quality into the vegetable oil market. Soon after Spectrum Naturals® brand was founded, Spectrum Essentials® brand was created to produce and market dietary supplements. Both brands were committed to offering premium, wholesome alternatives to conventional products. This commitment stemmed from the brand’s use of organic, non-GMO ingredients and its chemical-free extraction of oils.

Spectrum Naturals® brand soon became a leading innovator in the development of expeller-pressed and certified organic vegetable oils, as well as a leading proponent of testing and verifying the absence of genetically modified organisms in its culinary oils. In 2005, Hain Celestial Group acquired Spectrum® Organic Products, and today, Spectrum® brand is the #1 Natural and Organic Culinary Oil brand!


Spectrum® brand was founded for one simple reason: to provide a reliable source of high-quality, wholesome products. Our brand offers 30+ varieties of Non-GMO Project Verified culinary oils, sourced from worldwide geographies including Spain and Italy. This collection of oils feature premium expeller-pressed and cold-pressed products. As your culinary partner, we are here to educate, guide, and inspire you with tips and resources that will take your dishes to new heights. Explore our products and our website to learn how to give your healthful lifestyle a boost.

Click here to check out delicious recipes and suggested uses for Spectrum products!

Business of the Month – Stone Leaf Teahouse

A whistling tea kettle, the spicy aroma of simmering chai, a quiet space to sit, relax, and enjoy the moment…these are all part of the typical experience when you visit our featured Co-op Connection Business, Stone Leaf Teahouse, and it seems to beckon us this time of year when the air turns cool and crisp. Of course, the challenges to community health and safety presented by the COVID pandemic have led Stone Leaf Teahouse owner John Wetzel to make the difficult decision to transition to a slightly adjusted model where you can place your order and sip your tea outdoors on the teahouse patio.  You can also place an order online and select curbside pickup or have the tea delivered right to your door. Perhaps recreating the cozy atmosphere of the Teahouse in the comfort of your own home as you sip your delicious tea can be a fun way to spend a restful weekend day? The indoor area of the teahouse is now open for browsing Stone Leaf’s beautiful collection of teaware!

The staff at Stone Leaf Teahouse has an intimate knowledge of the impressive list of teas offered and John has traveled to many of the farms from which their teas are sourced, gaining an even deeper understanding of the tea’s journey from farm to cup. They have applied their collective knowledge to develop an extremely handy online “Tea Guru” tool that will walk you through the process of selecting a tea that you will love.  Remind them that you’re a Co-op member-owner and you’ll receive 10% off your order! You can also find their premium loose leaf teas in our Bulk tea department. It’s a unique treat to have teas this fresh available in our store. Read on to learn more about the teahouse and its offerings.

About Us:

Based in Vermont, our teas reflect our ideals; grown with skill and heart to cultivate a healthy ecosystem and global community. Each year we visit the tea gardens that produce the finest teas in the world. We connect you to the families that have grown and processed tea for generations.

Established in 2009, Stone Leaf Teahouse was built, well from the stone. Upon returning from travels in India and Taiwan, we searched for the perfect space for storing and serving quality tea. We found that space in the Marbleworks in Middlebury, Vermont…our little “tea cave”. Surrounded by stone, our fresh teas keep fresh, and our aging teas age gracefully.


Our Focus:

We travel to all the regions where we source tea to forge a connection between the grower and drinker, directly importing from China, Taiwan, India, Nepal, and Japan (with more to come as we grow!).

We source teas fresh, buying the best harvests, often multiple times a year.

We connect the tea drinker to the tea garden.

We are students of tea, here to share the connection through a cup of tea.


Would you like to delve deeper into the world of tea? Check out the workshop calendar for some exciting opportunities to learn more! Of course, for now, these workshops will be offered online. You can also visit the Tea House blog to read more about the world of tea, including a fascinating post on the rich and complex history of tea, sugar, and slavery. 

The Menu:

Stone Leaf Teahouse offers an extensive menu of some of the freshest and most unique tea varieties available. Many of their tea offerings are certified organic. To view the full menu, click here.

Please Welcome Greg Prescott, Our Co-op’s New General Manager!

We are thrilled to announce Greg Prescott as the next General Manager of the Middlebury Natural Foods Cooperative. This was a unanimous decision, made by the Board of Directors after a six-month process and a competitive national search. 

Greg began his career in the café at Harvest Co-op in Massachusetts, and he comes to the GM position with comprehensive experience in managing retail grocery operations, and in particular, a career devoted to promoting and selling nourishing, artisanal, and local food. For the last five years, Greg has been our co-op’s first Store Operations Manager. During this time, he has brought innovation and humility to his leadership role. An MNFC colleague noted that:

“Greg is a visionary and sees a bright future where the co-op increasingly benefits the community.”  This colleague further noted: “Greg [has been] innovative in finding ways to move products through the store while at the same time minimizing congestion to maintain social distancing as much as possible. […] Greg is always about rolling up his sleeves and often taking the most undesirable jobs himself.”

In his work at MNFC, Greg has demonstrated a deep commitment to our community, to our Mission and Ends, and to the long-term success of our co-op. Greg pioneered creative, forward-thinking programs such as reusable containers in the salad bar (unfortunately on hiatus due to the pandemic) and reducing plastic water bottles sold in the store—both of which make MNFC stand out not only among retail grocery stores at large but among food co-ops.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Greg’s strategic and calm leadership has been essential in keeping our entire community—MNFC’s staff, member-owners, producers, and shoppers—safe and fed. Greg’s decision-making in the face of supply chain shortages and constantly evolving public health recommendations were described as “bold and thoughtful.”

Greg is devoted to protecting the integrity of MNFC and stewarding the co-op forward during these uncertain times. Member-owners: thank you for entrusting your elected board with this decision as our longtime, beloved leader steps down. 

As always, if you have questions, please reach out to the board at

In cooperation, 

The MNFC Board of Directors

Amanda Warren (President), Kate Gridley (Vice President), Lynn Dunton (Treasurer), Ilaria Brancol (Secretary), Erin Buckwalter (Board Development Committee Chair), Nadine Canter-Barnicle (Communications Chair), Esther Thomas (JEDI Committee Chair), Molly Anderson, Ollie Cultrara, Samantha Langevin and Tam Stewart 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 23rd – 29th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:



Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.


The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warner & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate


Spotlight on Trois Petits Cochons

We’re shining our Co-op Spotlight this week on one of the most awarded specialty food companies in North America-  Trois Petits Cochons!  Les Trois Petits Cochons has produced award-winning, all-natural pâté and charcuterie since 1975 by crafting small, handmade batches using only the finest high-quality ingredients. Their full product line is 20% off for member-owners from December 16th – 22nd – just in time to pick up something special for your holiday feast. Read on to learn more about this company that has been producing high-quality, hand-crafted products for over 40 years!


Trois Petits Cochons first opened its doors as a small charcuterie in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1975. Founded by two French chefs who met in Africa while gallivanting across the globe, they decided to open in the bohemian Village, and with the help of an American backer – the third piggy – the shop was born. It has since grown to become the leader in the pâté and charcuterie industry, offering a complete line of artisanal pâtés, mousses, terrines, sausages, saucissons, smoked meats, and other French specialties. Their products have garnered a long list of SOFI awards, earning great respect in the culinary world.




Three Little Pigs is on a mission to create more enjoyable, everyday moments through casual, well-made charcuterie that is as fun and easy to enjoy as it is high-quality and delicious. They are committed to continuing the tradition of making delicious, authentic, and quality pâté and charcuterie for their customers. 


Environmental Commitment:

The team at Les Trois Petits Cochons is committed to sourcing and producing the highest quality all-natural specialty food products in a responsible and sustainable manner.

They believe in:

  1. Transparency – Customers should be able to know where their food comes from and be able to buy from companies committed to sustainable animal husbandry. 
  2. Trust & Relationships  – They believe in partnering with those who can make the best product in the most responsible manner. They personally visit all of their major suppliers, the majority of whom are family farms, to make sure they are upholding the standards set by Les Trois Petits Cochons.
  3. Local – Les Trois Petits Cochons always begins their search locally. Many of their suppliers come from within 100 miles of their production facilities, but sometimes to find that special ingredient they need to go further afield, including to France where they source many of their ingredients like wild mushrooms or espelette pepper.

Be sure to check out the fabulous collection of recipes on their web page!


Spotlight on La Panciata

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly this week on a local Italian-style bakery hailing from Northfield, Vermont — La Panciata! Their full lineup of local bread and baked goods will be 20% off for Co-op member-owners from December 9th – 15th. Read on to learn more about this second-generation family-run bakery and their commitment to carrying on their family’s Italian bread-baking traditions:

Founders Glenn and Lori Loati began baking for their community back in 1992 when encouragement from a friend prompted them to begin selling their loaves at the Montpelier farmers market. By the end of that first summer, the Loati’s had garnered a dedicated following who hoped to continue being able to buy their favorite bread year-round, so Glenn and Lori forged a relationship with Hunger Mountain Co-op, and the rest, as they say, is history. The business continued to expand, as did the offerings, which began with a small selection of traditional Italian breads and has since expanded to include sliced sandwich breads, cookies, English muffins, and several varieties of authentic Italian biscotti — all original family recipes.  They continued to upgrade equipment and facility space to accommodate the increasing demand and expanded their delivery networks to include a few more Vermont Co-ops and local retailers like ourselves.

Glenn and Lori Loati at the bakery in 2012

Glenn and Lori are Vermont natives who met at Spaulding High School in Barre, though Glenn’s family roots are in Italy. He traveled back to his ancestral home in the early 1990s and apprenticed with a baker in Carrara on the Italian coast to hone his craft. This experience allowed him to develop the traditional family recipes that continue to be the mainstays of La Panciata’s lineup while also influencing the development of their signature American-style sliced breads and baked goods by adapting Italian techniques to produce a new range of flavors, textures, and styles. The name “La Panciata” is an Italian expression meaning ‘fat and happy,’ like the feeling you get when you finish a great meal with a full belly and a sense that life is good.

In keeping with the family tradition, Glenn and Lori passed the torch in 2016 to their son Justin and his partner Bonka. Both in their early 30s at the time and equipped with degrees in computer engineering, Justin and Bonka were excited to update and streamline the business operations at the bakery while still staying true to the original family recipes that their community has grown to love.  They continue to run the business with the originality that Glenn and Lori initiated while bringing new life and individuality to the bakery.

Justin and Bonka Loati

At the Co-op, you can find a rotating lineup of La Panciata’s products including their traditional Italian Pane Toscano and Pane Siciliano and authentic Italian biscotti in four flavors. You’ll also find several varieties of their sliced sandwich bread, cinnamon raisin bread, and English muffins. The Loati family feels confident that once you have tried La Panciata bread, you will be hooked and ready to sample the broad range of flavors, textures, and styles that they have to offer.


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 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!



Co-op Connection Business of the Month – Maple Landmark

Looking for local and sustainably made toys for the kids on your holiday shopping list? We invite you to check out our featured Co-op Connection Business  – Maple Landmark! They’ve been making eco-friendly educational wooden toys, games, and gifts since 1979. Have you visited their factory store on Middlebury’s Exchange Street? Show your Co-op card and receive 10% off your purchases! Read on to learn more about this fantastic local business and their sustainable practices:


Maple Landmark is a company of 40+ people dedicated to making great products right here in Middlebury, Vermont. Their business began in 1979 in President & Owner Mike Rainville’s parents’ basement and today they occupy a 28,000-square-foot facility where they make the vast majority of the products they sell. Primarily, they sell to thousands of toy stores, gift shops and catalogs nationwide, but they also have a sweet little factory store that shouldn’t be missed by those of us lucky enough to live nearby. They take pride in being a local company that supports other local companies that operate in a responsible and sustainable manner.

A Family Business

The business was started by Michael Rainville. Since then, three more generations have joined the rank and file at Maple Landmark. The youngest are Michael’s sons, Adam and Andrew. One generation up from there is Michael, his wife, Jill, and sister, Barbara. Up from there is Michael’s mother Pat and occasionally his father, Claude. 

Michael serves as president and CEO, running day-to-day operations. Jill is Office Manager, overseeing the paperwork. Barbara is the Marketing Manager, attending trade shows, working on public relations and helping in the finish room. Adam is a Project Manager, developing new products and improving old processes. Andrew heads up Communications, working on advertising, social media, and email blasts, and attending trade shows. Pat is the Supervisor of our finish room and is responsible for the application of all paints and finishes in addition to hand-painted items. Claude helps in his free time, shredding paper for packing and mowing the lawn.

Sustainable Materials

The wood Maple Landmark uses is from native species. They use rock maple primarily, as well as some pine and cherry. These are some of the best materials for wooden toys and gifts and we are fortunate to have them locally available.

The majority of wood that grows tends to be lower grade material. Since Maple Landmark makes small items, they are able to use downgraded lumber by simply cutting around the defects. This strategy saves on the demand for the rarer, more premium grades. They also make use of small dimension material that is cast off from other plants.

Just as they are careful to fully utilize the wood they buy, their suppliers are careful about how it is harvested. For the entire history of their company, they have purchased the majority of their lumber from one local source, Lathrop’s Maple Supply of Bristol, Vermont. Tom Lathrop is located just nine miles up the road and supplies not just maple, but pine, cherry, and other species as well.

Click here to learn more about the use of lumber for Maple Landmark products.

Eliminating Waste

The folks at Maple Landmark have prioritized the recycling of materials from the very start, rooted in a combination of good old-fashioned Yankee frugality and concern over the use of our limited natural resources. They look for opportunities to reuse materials and maximize efficient use of the materials they have on hand. Despite their effort to make use of every inch of material, some scrap is inevitably generated. Instead of sending it to the landfill, they advertise free kindling wood. Local folks stop by on a regular basis and help themselves. They deeply appreciate that the by-products of their production do not go to waste and can help to keep local families warm at night.

Additionally, their wood shavings are collected by a large dust filtration system, which drops the waste into a hopper outside. Local farmers take chips and dust to their farms to use for cattle bedding. The farmers are happy to get the bedding needed at no cost, and the cows are happy to have a clean bed. 

The Maple Landmark team recognizes that over-packaging of products is a major waste issue and thus uses very minimal packaging for their products. They also ship their products in reused upcycled packing materials. Click here to read more about their recycling and conservation practices.

Holiday Happenings

A Visit from Santa!

On December 11th, Santa and his elves will be paying a visit to Maple Landmark! With safety in mind, the visits with Santa will be offered drive-thru style. Click here to reserve a timeslot!

How It’s Made