February 2022

Your Board…Getting Involved in Co-op Governance

It’s an exciting time of year at the co-op as we look ahead to board elections in May. Maybe you’re considering running for the board or are just interested to learn a little more about the board and how it works. As Board Development Chair, I’d love to take a few minutes to share some about who our board members are, what the board does, and how you can get involved.

First, the board is composed of 11 members who are elected to serve three-year terms. This year, three positions are up for election and in the next two years, four positions will be elected each year. The board is made up of a diverse mix of board members who live all over Addison County and hail from around the world. We have a mix of backgrounds including teachers and professors, graphic designers and community engagement specialists, artists, chefs, parents, nonprofit directors, and folks working in public service. This diversity of backgrounds and skills makes our board stronger. Further, we all have in common a passion for the co-op and our democratic principles. 

You may wonder what the board even does? The board has two primary roles: 1) to represent the 5000+ member-owners of the co-op and 2) to provide consistent leadership to support the general manager. Board members craft and monitor policies that ensure our co-op is meeting our mission and our ends. As you know, the co-op is currently undergoing a big leadership transition, with Glenn Lower retiring after 28 years at the co-op and Greg Prescott starting as our new General Manager on April 1st. Our role, more than ever, will be focused on ensuring a smooth transition and the continued strong financial and community-focused position of the co-op.

Each year, we are committed to recruiting new board members to make sure we have fresh voices to bring diverse perspectives to the board room. We see that both institutional knowledge from longer-serving board members and fresh perspectives from newer board members are equally valuable. As a board, we are committed to JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) work, not just in board recruitment but in holding these values central across all of our work. We are working hard to ensure our co-op is increasingly a more welcoming, open, and inclusive space for all member-owners, and we believe that diversity among board members is essential to our work. 

If you are interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to reach out – we always love to hear from our fellow members. If you have thoughts or questions to share with the board, please let us know: board@middlebury.coop. And if you want to run for the board, you can learn more here – applications are due March 13th!

Erin Buckwalter is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member and  is Chair of the Board’s Board Development Committee

Spotlight on Benito’s

We’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight on Benito’s this week! Their full line of fresh Vermont craft hot sauce is 20% off for Co-op member-owners from February 24th – March 2nd — just in time to cook up something spicy for Mardi Gras! Read on to learn more about this unique business with a deep commitment to our local food system:

Benito’s Hot Sauce has been spicing things up from the Green Mountains of Vermont since 2008. What started with a pepper growing and fresh hot sauce-making hobby for family and friends ultimately led founder Ben Maniscalco to begin making sauces for the rest of us. He began cooking and bottling the sauce at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax, Vermont in the Fall of 2008 and eventually moved into his own facility in Morrisville, VT, in 2015. As the business grew, Ben steadily added new sauce varieties to create a well-rounded lineup with a range of heat levels and flavor profiles.

Benito’s Founder/Owner Ben Maniscalco

Maniscalco feels a deep sense of commitment to the local food system and has been able to develop strong relationships with a network of local farmers throughout Vermont. His aim is to source as many of his ingredients as possible from local growers. In 2021 Benito’s sourced over 10,000 pounds of organic Vermont grown chiles, other assorted veggies, and certified organic maple syrup from six local Vermont farms. All of Benito’s sauces are made with non-GMO and certified organic ingredients and avoid the use of filler ingredients like xanthan gum, extracts, pepper mash, pepper resin, corn starch, flour, corn syrup, or any artificial flavors or preservatives. All Benito’s hot sauces are cooked, bottled, labeled, and sealed by Benito himself.

Benito’s is also committed to giving back to their local communities whenever possible. In 2021, they were able to donate over 1,000 meals to the Vermont Foodbank to help Vermonters in need during this exceptionally challenging time.

According to his website, Maniscalco says that “ultimately, the purpose of what we do at Benito’s is not about big-name recognition. I have no desire to become the next Tabasco sauce. I am simply about producing a fresh and unique product that is always made with high-quality local ingredients. I love to hear that people are experimenting with our sauces and participating in the creation and stewardship of local food systems.”

Having a hard time deciding which sauce to try? Here’s a breakdown of Benito’s hot sauces and their heat and flavor profiles:

  • Original Naranja – for the seasoned hot sauce enthusiast but also a crowd-pleaser. It is a solid medium/hot and goes well on anything.
  • Joe’s #1 Jalatillo – has a jalapeno/tomatillo/garlic/ citrus lime flavor (great on Mexican food).
  • Mango Habanero – your classic summertime sweet-hot with an extra fresh flavor. No added sugar though, just fresh mangos in every batch.
  • White Hot – nicknamed “the guido killer”, this sauce is an onion, garlic, and ginger-based bhut jolokia (ghost) fortified torture trip…but with flavah!!!
  • Old Coy Dog – fresh Vermont-style take on a classic red southern-style hot sauce. We use the ghost chile but not all that much vinegar because we don’t make hot vinegar, we make hot sauce!
  • Local Tang – A Vermont favorite at farmers’ markets and local festivals. It combines Vermont-grown Fatali, Paper Lantern, and mild Trinidad peppers to produce an irresistible tangy heat that is perfect for eggs, tacos, and burritos.
  • Poto Rojo – our hottest blend made with Carolina Reaper Chile Peppers and organic Sicilian Blood Orange Juice. Yeah sure it is pretty warm, it has a bright southern sour flavor with a nice escalating heat.
Local organic Fresno chiles grown for Benito’s by Deep Meadow Farm in Ascutney, VT


Spotlight on Cabot Creamery

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Cabot Creamery this week to shed a little light on this 101-year-old cooperative creamery, established at a time when cows outnumbered people in Vermont. Cabot’s full line of dairy products is 20% for member-owners from February 17th -23rd! Read on to learn all about their humble beginnings, the local farmers that are part of this cooperative, and how the Cabot name became synonymous with dairy in Vermont:


The Cabot Creamery, headquartered in Waitsfield, VT, is a cooperative made up of more than 800 dairy farm families located throughout New York and New England. They also manage four plants in three states, employing over 1,000 people, who make “The World’s Best” cheese and dairy products.

The Cabot story reaches back to the beginning of the 20th century. In those days, the cost of farming was low and most farmers produced way more milk than they could market. So, in 1919, farmers from the Cabot area figured that if they joined forces, they could turn their excess milk into butter and market it throughout New England. Ninety-four farmers jumped on board, purchased the village creamery (built in 1983), and began producing butter.

Lucas Dairy Farm – Orwell, VT

Over the next two decades, as the nation’s population flocked to urban areas, Cabot’s farmer-owners thrived by shipping their milk and butter south. While the national economy shifted away from agriculture, the Vermont economy was still largely based on dairy farming. In fact, in 1930, cows outnumbered people! It was at this time that the company hired its first cheesemaker and cheddar cheese entered the product line for the first time. By 1960, Cabot’s membership reached 600 farm families at a time when the total number of operating farms around the nation was in sharp decline.

Steady growth continued and 1992 was a pivotal year in Cabot’s history as their farmer-owners merged with the 1,800 farm families of Agri-mark, a southern New England co-op dating back to 1918. 

Four Hills Farm – Bristol, VT

Today, Cabot blends state-of-the-art facilities and a savvy entrepreneurial spirit with the timeless values and personal commitment to quality that comes from being 100% owned by their farm families. In the Middlebury facility, they installed a  huge new piece of machinery that allows them to process 4,000 more pounds of cheese curd per hour than the 8,000 pounds the previous machine handled. This 22-ton piece of equipment known as the CheeseMaster will increase the production of the 26 truck-sized vats — each holding enough milk to make 6,000 pounds of cheese — that get filled daily.

The Middlebury facility runs 24 hours a day/seven days a week and serves to make and age Cabot’s famous Vermont Cheddar. The plant also processes whey liquids, which are leftover from the cheesemaking process, to produce whey proteins and permeate, which is sold around the world. Additionally, the facility serves as a warehouse for cheese and whey products, with the capacity to store up to 2 million pounds of cheese. On a daily basis, over 100 Vermont and New York dairy farmers supply the milk for the Middlebury plant, although that number increases on weekends and holidays when other plants are closed. Addison County is one of the largest membership areas in the farmers’ coop, helping to supply the milk that comes to the plant every day.

Cher-Mi Farm – North Orwell, VT

To learn more about the eight farms in Addison County that are part of the Cabot Cooperative, click on the links below:



Spotlight on Daily Chocolate

Looking for something sweet for your sweetie? Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with your partner, observing Galentine’s Day with your best gals, or simply treating yourself to some self-love this Valentine’s Day, we think that a special treat from Daily Chocolate is a perfect way to celebrate. Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on this local chocolatier and all of their decadently delicious products are 20% off for member-owners from February 10th – 16th. Read on to learn more about this sweet little chocolate shop hailing from Vergennes, Vermont, and the people who put the love into the chocolate:

Daily Chocolate opened in 2006, the creation of Florey Mahoney and her partner Chris White. Three years later, after planting firm roots at 7 Green Street, the shop was purchased by Jen Roberts and Judd Markowski, an extended family of the shop’s originators.

Jen continued to operate the Daily Chocolate for the next ten years, vastly expanding the menu, and growing its reputation for creating delectable and unique confections. Under Jen’s creativity, she expanded the wholesale markets throughout Addison and Chittenden Counties. Thanks to Jen, Daily Chocolate can be found at numerous coffee shops, farms, and healthy food markets. Helping Jen along the way was Christina Caniyo, author, apothecary, and chocolatier, who was with the shop since it first opened in 2005. Also, a regular at Daily Chocolate, Vergennes artist and chocolatier Bethany Farrell.

On December 1st of 2020 Daily Chocolate changed hands once again. Leading the shop into a new decade is artist and chocolatier Dawn Wagner.

Dawn’s first foray into chocolate was in the mid-’90s at Lake Champlain Chocolates. During her three years there she created some of the factory’s finer chocolates, produced entirely by hand, including many sculptures and other decorative pieces. After moving to NYC to pursue her theatrical career, Dawn continued to make chocolate both professionally for El Eden in the East Village, and privately through her own company cocoSNAP!

In 2016, after nearly 20 years in NYC working both Off and On-Broadway, Dawn, and her husband, actor Jeremy Holm made their triumphant return to Vergennes, Vermont. An old family friend to Jen’s husband Judd, Dawn immediately began working seasonally at Daily Chocolate beside Jen, and very happily joined the team full-time in the spring of 2019.

It is one of Dawn’s dreams-come-true to not only operate a chocolate shop but to be able to do it surrounded by friends and family in her home town.

Quality Ingredients

Daily Chocolate works hard to choose the finest ingredients for our recipes. We use natural, whole foods, free of artificial flavors and colors. Our chocolate is soy-free, and all of our recipes have been modified to remove corn syrup and white sugar. We are committed to shopping locally and organic whenever possible. We are happy to support our local farmers by using Monument Farms dairy, local Vermont maple syrup, & honey, Lincoln Peak Wine, and Cabot Creamery’s butter.


Daily Chocolate is committed to the wellbeing of our planet. Over the past few years, we have worked hard to reduce excessive plastics and increase recycled and biodegradable packaging and shipping materials. Please don’t forget about the luckiest chickens in Addison County, the recipients of the contents of the Daily Chocolate compost bin.

Ethical Practices

We are grateful for the equatorial farmers of West Africa and South America who grow the magical Theobroma Cacao plants that give us chocolate. We promise to source ethically and work with companies who comply with international standards, to end child and slave labor, and to pay these hard-working farm families a fair wage.


Making Chocolate is like making theatre. It’s magical, a little mysterious, and when done correctly, it’s moving. Here at Daily Chocolate, we are committed to keeping our ideas fresh, our flavors inventive, and our look beautiful.

Spotlight on Caroline’s Dream

We’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight this week on a local favorite that provides handcrafted, lovingly created products to keep our skin healthy and glowing even through the depths of a Vermont winter – Caroline’s Dream! Our entire line of Caroline’s Dream small-batch skincare products is 20% off for member-owners from February 3rd – 9th, so it’s a perfect time to stock up your skincare stash! Read on to learn more about the maker of this skincare line and the inspiration behind her brand:

The seed for Caroline’s Dream was planted over 24 years ago when founder Susan Shashok began her quest for a line of chemical-free skincare products suitable for her sensitive, acne-prone skin. That fruitless search inspired Susan to tap into her knowledge of herbs, agriculture science, and entrepreneurship to explore the possibility of creating a product lineup of her own. After many experimental batches tested on herself, her friends, and her family, Shashok dialed in on the precise alchemy from which her signature line of highly effective, handcrafted skincare products would rise. Her products are free of sulfates, parabens, and animal testing, and are crafted using sustainably-sourced ingredients and environmentally friendly packaging.

Throughout the creative process, Susan drew inspiration from her grandmother Caroline, who had a deep love of medicinal herbs, a pride in handcrafting, and a Pennsylvania Dutch work ethic. As the daughter of two artists, Caroline is described by Susan as “not of myth or legend but a real woman that should never be confused with being ordinary.” Though she passed away when Susan was a teenager, her legacy is alive and well both in the treasured physical works of art that she bestowed upon her family — quilts, Christmas ornaments, and crochet work — and also in the spirit of art, integrity, and craftsmanship present in the Caroline’s Dream line of products.

Shashok describes herself as an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys spending time hiking and biking across Vermont. Perhaps you’ve seen her delivering her products to the Co-op on her signature red bike? It’s the magical sort of thing that can only be achieved when working at a hyper-local human scale and we feel lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of it.