March 2023

Embracing Circularity

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s official body for the assessment of climate change, spells it out quite clearly: humans are unequivocally increasing greenhouse gas emissions to record levels that are inconsistent with a future on this planet, AND we have the tools to turn it around if we act swiftly across all sectors. To keep warming within 2℃ above pre-industrial levels, global greenhouse gas emissions must decline by around 21% by 2030 and around 35% by 2035. The greatest opportunity for impact comes when we embrace systems change at the highest levels, and to embrace effective systems change, we must stop thinking linearly and start thinking in terms of circularity. So what exactly does that mean? What makes circularity different from sustainability? Isn’t circularity just recycling? How do we know if we’re succeeding? To take a deep dive into answering these important questions, we would love to share a guest blog post penned by Circularity Analyst Kori Goldberg. This post first appeared in the February 10th edition of the Green Biz Circularity Weekly Newsletter and has been shared with the author’s permission:

Question 1: How is circularity different from sustainability?

If you’ve ever taken a sustainability course, you likely have come across the following definition, from the 1987 United Nations Brundtland Commission: Sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Sustainability generally strives to reduce impacts on people and the planet as compared to the status quo — say a baseline of previous operations or the industry standard. The ambition for sustainability has grown since 1987, but in too many cases, sustainability is still seen as “doing less bad.” As Joel Makower puts it, “There’s little honor in ravaging the planet incrementally less.”

The circular economy is a systems approach that answers one “how” in our quest for sustainability. For simplicity, the circular economy is often described through a juxtaposition with the traditional “take-make-waste” system we are all familiar with, the linear economy. Unlike a linear system in which raw materials are extracted, transformed into products and then turned into waste with little regard to environmental, social and even economic externalities, a circular model aims to keep materials in the system at their highest value for as long as possible.

Sustainability is often considered an addition to an entity’s collective practices to improve the whole. Circularity, in contrast, must sit at the core of operations, aiming for profitability while simultaneously addressing global issues such as pollution, nature and biodiversity loss and climate change. Given the pervasiveness of linear economic models, circularity often requires a rebuilding of systems, business models and operations from the ground up. As a prominent thought leader in circularity, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation organizes the circular economy under three design-driven principles:

  1. Eliminate waste and pollution
  2. Circulate products and materials (at their highest value)
  3. Regenerate nature

The success of the circular economy at a systemic level depends on other global shifts: namely, the transition to renewable energy and a steady supply of responsibly sourced renewable material.

In summary: Circularity has a specific focus on the cycling of resources, lessening both our material use and waste to support a healthy planet. Sustainability deals in broader and more general efforts to reduce social, environmental and economic impact across an entity’s operations.

Question 2: Is circularity just recycling?

Given that circularity is all about keeping materials in use, at their highest value, for as long as possible, it’s natural to wonder if this just means recycling. And while this isn’t necessarily the wrong way to think about it, there’s some nuance here to be parsed out.

Circularity is, in fact, all about cycling materials repeatedly — so in this sense, recycling. This is in contrast to the way in which this term is more often used: to describe the industrial process of turning waste into new products. The latter type of recycling — for example, collecting plastic packaging and mechanically sorting, shredding, washing and reprocessing this plastic into new packaging — is actually one of the lower-priority strategies in the circular economy model.

Let’s back up a bit.

Integral to the circular economy are feedback loops, whereby products and materials are recirculated through the system. In nature, feedback loops nourish and add value to ecosystems. Take a tree that drops its leaves in the fall. These leaves decompose, feeding microbes and returning nutrients to the soil where they’ll be reabsorbed by another plant in search of nutrients.

In the biological cycle, renewable materials such as agricultural waste are recycled through the system through processes such as composting or anaerobic digestion. In the technical cycle, reuse, repair and recycling allow non-biodegradable materials to recirculate through the economy. This is demonstrated through the so-called “Butterfly Diagram,” seen below.

Photo Credit: The Butterfly Diagram. Image from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Designing our economic system with robust feedback loops to mimic nature is revolutionary; since the industrial revolution, we have built a system that forces nature to fit our economy rather than fitting our economy into nature.

Strategies such as increasing the durability of products, new business models that offer sharing, reusing, refurbishing and remanufacturing should be higher-priority strategies than recycling for many industries — from fashion to packaging to electronics.

There is a misconception that the circular economy is just a form of waste management or materials recovery. In reality, it is a model for a flourishing economy that minimizes waste as a natural byproduct of its inherent design of feedback loops that restore technical materials and regenerate biological materials.

Question 3: Degrowth and reduced consumption are tenets of the circular economy. How do we measure success?

As this is the hardest question to answer, I’ll respond with yet more questions. Is growth always good? Is growth the best thing to measure?

The success of global and regional economies have historically been measured by one single indicator, gross domestic product (GDP). But if current and future generations are to thrive within planetary boundaries, we must reimagine how we define progress and opportunity. This is the underlying rationale for the development of “doughnut economics,” a visual model for sustainable growth.

By DoughnutEconomics – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


The model resembles a doughnut where the doughnut ring itself represents a safe and just space for humans to exist within. Inside the ring (the doughnut hole) represents a situation in which people lack essential social necessities such as healthcare, education and political voice. Meanwhile, the outside of the doughnut (the crust) represents ecological boundaries beyond which earth’s natural systems are under threat. This model provides a revolutionary way to understand prosperity and set goals for humanity. According to this model, prosperity can be achieved when we are situated in the middle ring, neither overshooting planetary boundaries nor lacking the necessary social foundations for all people. As Kate Raworth, founder of Doughnut Economics, has said, “A healthy economy should be designed to thrive, not grow.”

I hope this essay helps you pause and remember the bigger picture. As you orient yourself in your role towards the larger, systemic goals we are collectively trying to achieve, take heart that you’re part of an exciting, growing community working to do the same.

Interested in learning more about the circular economy? Subscribe to the free Circularity Weekly newsletter and be sure to sign up for our April 19th Co-op Class on Zero Waste Strategies with Ben Kogan of Reusable Solutions! We’re looking forward to this empowering conversation where we’ll explore opportunities to reduce our personal impact on this planetary problem, highlighting circular systems of reuse. 

The Board’s Yearly Retreat 2023

On January 28th, the Board of Directors of the Coop met for a day-long retreat. Greg Prescott, General Manager of the MNFC, and Michael Healy a facilitator from Columinate, a cooperative that consults and supports cooperatives, joined us. Michael has worked with us since 2004 and knows MNFC well.

Over the course of the year, a lot of our time as a board is taken up by our Policy Governance work. We monitor the monthly reports of the General Manager in light of the Coop’s Policies and Ends:

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

We also discuss issues that we have identified as priorities. Over the last three years, for example, we have focused on JEDI work (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion), a topic that we recognized as a pressing and crucial concern at our retreat in January 2020.

As Michael Healy wrote in his report, this year’s goals were:

  • Build a common understanding of the board’s and the General Manager’s roles in a strategic planning process, and make a plan for beginning that work;
  • Identify the board’s priority work for the next 12 to 18 months; and
  • enjoy each other’s company and build our sense of community and cooperation.

After two years of holding our retreats on Zoom, it was a real joy and relief to be physically in each other’s presence, in the welcoming meeting room of the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society. To mark the return to in-person retreats, we decided to hold a potluck lunch, to share a meal together; the culinary results were magnificent.

We started our day by sharing personal stories connected to an object that each one of us had brought. Then, helped by the presence and knowledge of Michael, we worked first in small groups and then all together to identify the priorities for the coming year(s):

  • Board recruitment, onboarding, and retention
  • Ongoing JEDI work
  • Board-General Manager relationship

Our next step will be to turn this list into actionable items and to make space for them in our monthly work.

 I always leave these retreats wishing that we had had more time to be together and brainstorm. For me, a rewarding aspect of our meetings is that they present the opportunity to connect more, both on a personal level and as a Board. The presence of Greg, our new General Manager, also makes a difference: the ongoing conversation with him is integral to our considerations because it helps us not get lost in abstract (albeit very interesting) discussions. It also reminds us that it is the work in the store (by our awesome staff) that allows us to be ambitious in our thinking, and allows the Coop to have the impact it has on the community.

Ilaria Brancoli Busdraghi is the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Secretary



Spotlight on Farmhouse Chocolates

We’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight on Farmhouse Chocolates this week! Member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on all of the delightfully decadent treats from this local Bristol-based chocolatier from March 30th – April 5th! Read on to learn more about the local couple who brings these swoon-worthy chocolates to our Co-op shelves and their deep commitment to ethical sourcing:


Having grown up in a dairy-farming family here in Vermont, co-owner and head chocolatier Erlé LaBounty is described on the Farmhouse Chocolates website as always being more concerned with lunchtime than recess, so it’s no small wonder that he gravitated toward the world of fine food. He’s been crafting delicately balanced, old-world chocolate confections since the tender age of 16! No stranger to epicurean adventures in her own right, his partner and co-owner Eliza LaRocca came to Vermont in 2010 after spending time in Florence, Italy’s specialty food market, Il Mercato Centrale, and leading food and wine tours in Italy, France, and Vermont. 

Farmhouse Chocolates co-owners Eliza LaRocca and Erlé LaBounty

Since meeting, the couple has been hard at work hand-crafting chocolates while building a business and a life together. The business has evolved over the years, having started with a focus on hand-rolled truffles, then expanding to include chocolate-covered, burnt-butter salted caramels, and six different varieties of chocolate bars. While the product lineup has evolved, one thing that has remained constant from the onset was their commitment to procuring high-quality, ethically-sourced ingredients. All Farmhouse Chocolates are crafted with certified organic, fair trade, soy-free 70% and 85% chocolates. The majority of their remaining ingredients are certified organic, and the few that are not are thoroughly vetted and certified non-GMO, as well as being soy- and corn syrup-free; and sourced locally as often as possible.

Moreover, while co-packing (choosing to have products packaged at another, larger facility not owned or operated by the company) is something of a food industry standard, Farmhouse Chocolates proudly produces everything in-house in their Bristol, VT facility.

According to the chocolatiers, “our company’s ethos centers on the meeting of responsibility and pleasure. Sourcing organic, fair trade, and local ingredients, we carefully craft dark chocolate confections that emphasize taste, texture, and aesthetics as much as they do sustainability and purity of ingredients; ethics reflected in our environmentally friendly packaging and small batch production.”



If you’d like to try Farmhouse Chocolates’ delicious treats, we’ll have a tasting on Saturday, April 1st from 11-2!

Celebrating Inclusive Trade

Looking for ways to support BIPOC farmers and producers? Woman-owned businesses? LGBTQIA+ businesses? Veteran-owned businesses? Businesses owned by persons with disabilities? Look for the Inclusive Trade logo! We’re celebrating Inclusive Trade Week at the Co-op from March 23rd – 29th as a way of honoring diversity in the supply chain, and our Weekly Sale features a lineup of some tasty Inclusive Trade treats, many of which are local! Curious to know more about this logo and why inclusive trade matters? Read on!

National Co-op Grocers (NCG) has launched the Inclusive Trade logo to highlight diversity throughout the supply chain. 

“NCG believes supply chains should include a seat at the table for systemically underrepresented populations. Supplier diversity promotes greater innovation, a healthier competitive environment, and more equitably distributed benefits among all community members. NCG is committed to doing our part to create a more just society by cultivating partnerships with businesses owned by people who identify as women, Black, indigenous, people of color (POC), LGBTQIA+, persons with disabilities, and veterans.”

As a member of NCG, your Co-op celebrates this new initiative and seeks to find ways to highlight diversity in the supply chain so that you can easily find products from diverse suppliers. With this in mind, we’ll run promotions throughout the year to highlight the many Inclusive Trade producers we offer here at the Co-op. In fact, our Member Deals Spotlight from October 6th – 12th shines brightly on Singing Cedars Apiary, which was started by native Abenaki Roland Smith and his wife Deborah in 1971. 

Of course, Singing Cedars is just one of the Inclusive Trade producers that our Co-op is proud to work with, so remember to look for the logo throughout the store!

To learn more about inclusive trade and why it matters, we love this post from our friends at Oryana Co-op and are excited to share it with their permission:

National Cooperative Grocers (NCG), of which Oryana [and the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op] is a member, is developing an Inclusive Trade Program designed to identify suppliers that meet the definition for “diverse suppliers” and ultimately increase the representation of these suppliers in purchasing programs and supply chain. To jumpstart these efforts, NCG has worked with UNFI’s (UNFI is our main distributor) supplier diversity team to apply its classification of diverse suppliers.


As a purchasing cooperative NCG has been effective at aggregating demand to create benefits for co-ops, consumer-owners, and shoppers. By adding a focus on supplier diversity to purchasing program they can increase impact: use enterprise as a lever in anti-racist efforts, do more to ensure that they have greater representation within the supply chain, and provide consumers with more diverse options and better information about the people behind the products they purchase. With the influence co-ops have through NCG, they can take a unique leadership role in championing diversity in our industry; intentionally and actively contributing to the equity and justice of our supply chain.  

NCG started integrating supplier diversity into its business plan last year. Shortly after initiating this work and following the murder of George Floyd, they saw a marked uptick in the level of interest expressed by co-ops in identifying BIPOC-owned brands (and Black-owned brands in particular). They were disappointed however that the major distributors were not able to assist at that time with reliably and comprehensively identifying diverse ownership among consumer brands. 

On the basis of this challenge, they spent the next few months conducting research on supplier diversity initiatives in our industry, drew on that research to establish NCG’s working definition of “diverse supplier,” and started planning to build out a supplier diversity program to serve co-ops. 

Supplier diversity at NCG 

Supplier diversity is a proactive business strategy that drives the inclusion of diverse-owned businesses in the procurement of goods and services. Most supplier diversity programs encourage the use within the business of suppliers that are minority-owned*, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBTQIA+-owned, or owned by persons with disabilities in keeping with the  Small Business Administration (SBA) defined small business concerns. 

Supplier diversity programs seek to upend the reality for historically under-utilized, diverse-owned suppliers by sourcing products and services from them. This process transforms a company’s supply chain to reflect the demographics of the community it serves and quantifies the total value of the transactions with diverse suppliers. Most supplier diversity programs span all areas of “spend” for a business, including not just goods purchased for resale but also supplies, services, etc.   

*Though the term “minority” is appropriately falling out of use, it is still commonly used among supplier diversity professionals. This is in large part due to the reality that businesses seeking formal recognition as a minority-owned enterprise pursue certification through the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSCDC). NCG uses this term only in this context.

While supplier diversity programs are not new and are common practice among large enterprises and in government contracting, research indicates that most companies in the natural products industry are at best in the formative stages of any supplier diversity work. 

With no established, standardized, industry-wide definition of “diverse suppliers” or means of identifying which brands/companies have diverse ownership, NCG has adopted the following preliminary definition of supplier diversity:    

A diverse supplier is defined as a business that is at least 51% owned and operated by an individual or group that is part of a systemically underrepresented or underserved group; including businesses that are women-owned, BIPOC-owned, LGBTQIA+-owned, veteran/service-disabled veteran-owned, or owned by persons with disabilities. As with most supplier diversity programs NCG will request that suppliers self-identify as a diverse supplier.” 

NCG is committed to Inclusive Trade and believes supply chains should include a seat at the table for systemically underrepresented suppliers. They believe that supplier diversity promotes greater innovation, a healthier competitive environment, and more equitably distributes benefits among all community members. They are committed to doing their part to create a more just society by cultivating partnerships with businesses owned by people who identify as women, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQIA+, persons with disabilities, and veterans. They will share more updates with you as this important work progresses.

Spotlight on Sunja’s

We’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight on Sunja’s this week!  This local business has been keeping our shelves stocked with authentic Korean kimchi since the early 1990s. In fact, their team tells us that our Co-op was one of their very first retail accounts! All of Sunja’s nutrient-dense, probiotic-packed products are 20% off for member-owners from March 23rd – 29th, so it’s a great time to stock up and save! Read on to learn more about the inspiration behind this local woman-owned business carrying on the Korean kimchi-making tradition for Vermonters to enjoy:

The seed for Sunja’s Kimchi was first planted in 1993 when Sunja Hayden began offering cooking classes in her small Northfield, Vermont community. Participants couldn’t get enough of her healthy, delicious traditional Korean foods, which inspired Sunja to begin producing food for a retail market. Another motivating force was her awareness of the fact that so many foods we consume contain unhealthy chemical additives and preservatives. Sunja understood the critical role of all-natural, preservative-free, non-GMO foods for health and wellness and wanted to share more of her traditional foods with her community. 

According to Sunja, “I started my company in 1993 because of my affection for healthy eating and my desire to serve my family and friends good, real, healthy food. My love for preparing delicious and healthy meals soon transformed into a desire to do the same for others. I believe in the importance of natural foods with live enzymes, which help the digestive process.”

Sunja making a batch of kimchi in the early days of launching her business.

Here at the Co-op, you’ll find a lineup of several varieties of Sunja’s kimchi. This traditional fermented Korean dish is typically served as a condiment at every meal and there are hundreds of varieties of Korean kimchi depending on regional and family preferences. Kimchi is raw, living food that is rich in flavor, high in nutritional value, and naturally fermented to create rich probiotics from the live beneficial bacteria present on the vegetables. The fermentation process also makes the nutrients in the vegetables more bioavailable and easily assimilated by our bodies. The end product offers a robust source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and Vitamins A, C, B1, and B2.  It also boasts a long list of potential health benefits including improved gut health, digestion, and immunity. 

Sunja’s kimchi is produced in Waterbury, VT, and the fresh vegetables are sourced locally whenever possible. Sunja is proud to support local farms and is very particular about how the produce is grown for her kimchi, specifying that her kimchi is made with the freshest vegetables and does not contain any preservatives, sugar, MSG, or additives of any kind. Sunja’s products are also naturally gluten-free and vegan and are third-party verified by the Non-GMO Project


Whether you’re new to eating kimchi or a seasoned pro, we think you’ll love the recipes on Sunja’s webpage! They’ll provide plenty of inspiration for ways to enjoy this Korean superfood!

Spotlight on King Arthur Baking Company

It’s a perfect time to stock up on local baking supplies from King Arthur Baking Company! They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from March 16th – 22nd, so member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on their full line of baking products! Read on to learn more about America’s oldest flour company and its mission to create and deliver superior products and knowledge so that consumers experience the joy and passion of baking, all informed by their values as a 100% employee-owned Benefit Corporation:


King Arthur is an employee-owned company on a mission to be the ultimate resource and inspiration in the kitchen, to inspire connections and community through baking, and to use their business as a force for good. They were first founded over 230 years ago and while much has changed over the years (including a recent name change from King Arthur Flour to King Arthur Baking Company), they remain committed to the principles upon which they were founded. They believe in the power of baking to make a difference — for people and the planet. They work to build stronger communities and increase access and connection to real foods. They take pride in their responsible sourcing and their “never bleached” guarantee. And they work closely with farmers, millers, and suppliers in a continued commitment toward sustainability.

King Arthur Baking Company Headquarters in Norwich, VT


King Arthur Baking Company is a certified B-Corporation and they measure their progress with a triple bottom line — people, planet, and profit. Their products are non-GMO Verified by the third-party Non-GMO project and they source their wheat from American farms, helping grow a strong, sustainable agricultural economy. In partnership with their farmers, they’re working to limit pesticide exposure while increasing sustainable yields in a changing climate; promoting our planet’s health for many years to come. They carry on their centuries-old heritage of stewardship through the quality of their brand, and the steps they take to preserve the vitality of the community and the earth on which we live. Click here to view their Mission & Impact documented through the annual B Impact assessment.

Gluten-Free Baking Made Simple with King Arthur Baking Company’s Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

At King Arthur Baking, they have always believed that everyone deserves equal access to the joy of baking. They strive to ensure that their values are reflected in all that they do. To maintain and extend a history of putting community, their employee-owners, and the planet first, they recognize that they must also address the social injustices that challenge those very values. They have committed themselves to this work not out of obligation, but because it’s ingrained in who they are as a company. They recognize that the work of fostering an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion will never end; there will always be more humbling, difficult, and meaningful work to do. And they commit to rising to the challenge time and time again — because of a strong sense of responsibility to break down barriers that hinder access to baking, a universal craft that has the power to unite people from all walks of life. Click here to read more about their ongoing work towards diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Whether you’re a brand new baker or a seasoned professional, King Arthur Baking is there for you with an incredible volume of resources to help you bake your best. There are handy tips for what to do when your bread falls flat and your cookies crumble, excellent instructional videos to help you understand everything from bulk fermentation to baking the perfect pie crust, and recipes for anything you could ever dream to bake. And if you’re a professional baker, King Arthur Baking offers a library of reference materials and information that will be helpful in bakeries, restaurants, and production facilities. They also offer live and virtual classes for every type of baker at every skill level. Classes range from introductory demonstrations for beginners to intensive week-long professional courses, with a wide variety of hands-on classes for adults and children. Let them be your ultimate go-to resource for all things baking.

Baking School at King Arthur Baking Company


Spotlight on Nature’s Path

We’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight this week on a fiercely independent family-owned company that manages to maintain its foothold in an industry dominated by mega multi-national food brands. Nature’s Path chose the road less traveled and we’re excited to shine a bright light on their Inclusive-Trade business from March 9th – 15th, during which member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on their entire line of products. Read on to learn more about the multi-generational family at the helm of Nature’s Path, their commitment to organic integrity, and the mission that drives them to succeed:

In the May 23rd, 2022 episode of his podcast How I Built This, Guy Roz opens his interview with Nature’s Path founder-owners Arran and Ratana Stephens by outlining the unlikely scenario of their success.  “There are two companies in America that basically own the morning,” Roz explains. “One is called Kellogs, the other is General Mills. Post is not far behind.”  In the organic market, there’s the illusion of much more brand diversity as you travel the cereal aisle, but do not be deceived —  most of these organic brands have been purchased over the past 20 years by…you guessed it — Kellogs, General Mills, and Post. In this sea of cereal consolidation floats an unlikely victor – a family-owned brand called Nature’s Path that clings fast to its values and refuses to sell out.

Arran and Ratana met in India in the late 1960s where they were both under the tutelage of the same spiritual guide. Despite being born in Pakistan, India was home for Ratana, and while Arran’s grandmother was also from India, he had grown up on an organic farm outside of Vancouver in Canada. After a particularly formative visit to India at the age of 23, Arran returned to Vancouver inspired to open a vegetarian restaurant called the Golden Lotus. The restaurant was warmly welcomed by the community and was successful from the start. 

Nature’s Path Co-founders Arran & Ratana Stephens

In 1968, Arran took a temporary leave from the restaurant to revisit his spiritual mentor for a birthday celebration event. That evening, he and Ratana sat at opposite ends of a crowded dinner table and can recall their eyes locking. Indian women didn’t typically marry Westerners, but with the blessing of their shared mentor, they agreed to marry and returned to Canada in 1969 to run the restaurant together. 

Ratana cooked at the Golden Lotus and raised the couple’s four children while Arran managed the business aspect of the restaurant, eventually transitioning it to a cooperative business model so that it could be collectively owned by its employees. Arran then started a natural foods store attached to the restaurant that imported Indian goods and sold organic and natural food items, including muffins made in-house by Ratana. By the 1980s they’d expanded significantly, including annex stores and warehouses, and were enjoying significant success, but when it came time to scale the business and seek additional funding, Arran and Ratana’s relationship with one of their business partners had soured and they were ready to cut ties on the store venture.

Jyoti, Arran, Ratana, and Arjan Stephens of Nature’s Path

Arran continued to manage the cooperative restaurant, while Ratana formally studied finance, and they opened a successful new restaurant called The Woodlands, where in 1985, Arran began making Nature’s Path’s first product – manna bread, sprouting the grain in a bathtub in a bakery in the back of the restaurant. The bread was sold as a frozen product through a network of distributors throughout Canada and the US. Shortly after, Arran expanded the product line to include cereal, leading with manna multi-grain flakes.

A champion for organic integrity from the onset, it was important to Arran that his customers have confidence in the quality of his products. In the mid-80s, the organic program wasn’t yet fully formed, with no third-party label available to designate certified organic products. Arran was involved in the development of the first organic rules and served on the board of the Organic Trade Association during those most formative years. Legend Organic Farm, owned by Arran Stephens, is one of the first to earn the Regenerative Organic Certification® from the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA). This brings us closer to our goal of building a food movement that helps to heal the soil, land, water, and air.

As business boomed, Arran found that he needed to expand to meet increasing demand and began seeking funding sources. At the largest bank in Canada, he was warned against competing with the likes of Kellogs and General Mills, and this response became the common refrain of each big bank he approached. Finally, in 1989, Canadian Western, a much smaller bank, agreed to invest in the $6 million construction of a new turn-key factory for Nature’s Path, which opened on April 6th, 1990. Arran and Ratana sold the restaurant to focus solely on Nature’s Path.

An awakening was underway in North America at this time and more consumers were looking for products produced without pesticides, herbicides, and artificial additives. By the late ’90s, Nature’s Path was well positioned to ride this whole foods wave, despite sharing crowded shelf space with the giants. They have since expanded beyond cereals, now boasting 150+ products and over 800 employees. For many years, Arran served as Chief Executive Officer managing Sales and Marketing, while Ratana served as Chief Operations Officer focusing on staffing and finance. Four years ago, Arran stepped down as CEO and Ratana stepped into that role. Arran affectionately describes Ratana in Roz’s podcast as “the soul of the company” and the “yin to my yang”.

CEO and Co-Founder Ratana Stephens pictured with daughter Jyoti Stephens, VP of Mission & Strategy

The couple is approached once per week, on average, by their big brand competitors and private equity firms, all eagerly requesting to purchase the business. Despite financial offers that make their heads spin, Ratana and Arran feel that it is important to prioritize the mission-driven aspect of their business and they refuse to compromise their values. Both they and their children feel adamant about maintaining their independence and soul. Three of their kids and four of their grandchildren have taken various roles with the company and succession plans to transfer the business to their children are crystallizing. When asked the secret to his success, Arran points to the old adage that “the harder I work, the luckier I get” and stresses that effort cannot be underrated.” “Effort, common sense, faith, and grace” adds Ratana. 

Nature’s Path General Manager Arjan Stephens pictured with his wife, Dr. Rimjhim Stephens.

Arran continues to be a persistent and effective activist fighting for transparency and integrity in our food system, working with the Real Organic Project to advocate for organic integrity in the food system. As we face the disastrous impacts of climate change, Arran recognizes “The greatest input we can add to our farmlands is the wisdom of cultures around the world who have been growing organically for hundreds of generations before chemical agriculture was introduced in the 20th century.” 

Arjan on the organic farm with his grandchildren

“At the center and core of Nature’s Path Foods is the goal of creating an agricultural system that aims towards healing the soil, land, water, air, and all of us who rely on these essential and natural elements. All around the world, people are waking up to the direct connection between how we farm locally and the massive collective impact this has on the stability of the global climate. This awareness has led to a will to do something about it. And we welcome the conversation on how we better reach that goal.”

“In the end, organic agriculture is really just good farming. It treats natural soil life, insects, animals, people, air, water and earth with integrity. Our support of the Real Organic Project is not a radical move— it’s simply a clear statement for the preservation of integrity in organic. Together we offer the strong voice needed to stand up against the practices now tearing the fabric of the planet apart. And as the Real Organic Project continues to raise this voice in support of integrity in the face of well-entrenched and well-financed opposition, Nature’s Path hopes that it won’t stand down or give in.”


The mission at Nature’s Path is to always leave the earth better than they found it. Beyond their commitment to organic food and farming, as a triple-bottom-line company, they hold themselves accountable to doing what’s best for people and the planet (click here to read their 6 Sustainability Pillars). Their latest sustainability goal is for all of their packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. One of the ways they’re working towards this is their recent partnership with Loop – a global reusable packaging program – which is assisting them in creating a circular packaging system including piloting a reusable granola container!  Click here to read more about the culture of giving and sustainability initiatives at Nature’s Path!

Spotlight on Klinger’s Bakery

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly this week on Klinger’s Bakery! From March 2nd – 8th, member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of local fresh-baked artisan bread! Read on to learn more about this Burlington-based bakery and their time-honored baking traditions:


Rustic, Healthy, Hearty, Crusty, Chewy, Flavorful…
Just a few words overheard to describe the artisan breads of Klinger’s. Their hearth-baked breads were proudly brought to Vermont in 1993 by the Klingebiel families of Williston, Vermont and Salem, New York.

These flavorful, authentic European breads were developed by one of America’s premier artisan bakers. Their bakers have been thoroughly trained in the methods and subtleties of bread baking. The breads are made from starters which are allowed to develop over a thirty-hour period. Visit the bakery and watch their bread crafters at work. Amidst floured tables, you will see them mix the finest ingredients, hand shape loaves, and bake them with care in their French brick oven.

Klinger’s is proud to bring you the rustic, homemade taste of their signature artisan breads. Their goal is to produce breads with character and integrity, to make your mouth water with the aroma of loaves fresh from the oven, and to share the products of their labor with you again and again.

Co-op Connection Featured Business – Honey Wax Bar

We happen to think it’s a great time to visit our featured Co-op Connection business for March – Honey Wax Bar! They offer a generous 10% discount to card-carrying Co-op member-owners through the Co-op Connection program, so what are you waiting for?! Read on to learn more about Honey Wax Bar and the skilled esthetician who is excited to help you feel your confident best, no matter the occasion:


Honey Wax Bar founder and owner Hannah Zeno felt called to this line of work by a desire to make all things beautiful and an understanding that real beauty begins within. Her path to becoming a holistic esthetician began by studying nutrition and coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC and an extensive yoga teacher training program to learn more about the foundations of balance and strength. She studied esthetics for almost a decade with continuing education in makeup, oncology, chemical peels, and most recently lash lifting and microblading. Hannah strives to transform her clients into the most outstanding and glowing version of themselves, helping them feel beautiful from the inside out.

Holistic Esthetician Hannah Zeno, photographed by Elisabeth Waller Photography

Formally known as Honey Holistic Esthetics, Honey Wax Bar is Middlebury’s local go-to waxing and permanent make-up beauty bar. They offer a range of services, from waxing to brow tinting to lash lifting and microblading, all intended to gently assist you along your journey to feeling your absolute most radiant self. Whether you are preparing for your honeymoon or in search of a quick pick-me-up, Honey Wax Bar provides the services to make you more confident in your new bikini or outfit behind closed doors. Located right in the heart of Middlebury, VT overlooking the river, Honey Wax Bar prides itself on its convenient booking system, especially for Middlebury College Students who can book their waxing appointment in between classes.

After being a one-woman show for a number of years, Hannah is excited to be bringing a new esthetician into the fold this March! Riley Farrell will be working alongside Hannah helping clients feel even more beautiful in their skin through brow waxing, corrective facials, body treatments, and lash lifts!

According to Hannah, “it is a pleasure to work with women and men who come to me looking for a change and want to explore more about the world of health and beauty. When a client makes an appointment, we focus not only on their immediate needs but also on long-term beauty goals. My clients are the reason I’m at Honey!” To view their full menu of services, visit them online at To book an appointment now, text Hannah Zeno at 802-989-9122 or request an appointment through their easy online booking system.