September 2023

Celebrating Co-op Month!

 

This October, your Co-op is joining over 65,000 co-operatives and credit unions across the United States in celebrating Co-op Month, observed nationally since 1964. This year’s theme, “Owning Our Identity,” was chosen by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) as an opportunity to engage co-op members, customers, employees, and the general public about the co-operative difference.

“The International Cooperative Alliance approved the Statement on the Cooperative Identity in 1995,” said Erbin Crowell, executive director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) and a member of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) Cooperative Identity Advisory Group. “And Co-op Month is a unique opportunity for co-ops to communicate the values that guide us and the principles that make them real in how we conduct business.

”The Statement defines a co-operative as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.” This means that co-ops are governed by their members, everyday people like you who use the business, as opposed to investors or shareholders. These members may be consumers, workers, producers, or independent business owners who govern the co-op on a democratic basis. This unique relationship is recognized in international law as well as by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which affirms that co-ops are “user-owned businesses that are controlled by — and operate for the benefit of — their members, rather than outside investors.”

Next, the Statement notes that co-ops “are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.” These values set the co-operative movement apart from other business models in that their purpose is not simply to generate profit, but to enable people to work together to build a better future for everyone. Further, co-ops and their members “believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.” Co-ops and their members set a high standard for themselves and are working constantly to live up to their ideals.

Finally, the Co-operative Identity includes a list of principles, or “guidelines by which co-operatives put their values into practice.” These are the operational characteristics of co-operative enterprises – or what makes a co-op a co-op – and include:

  • Voluntary and Open Membership (all are welcome and no one is forced to join)
  • Democratic Member Control (co-ops are controlled by the people who use the business for shared benefit)
  • Member Economic Participation (members participate in the business and contribute capital to support growth and success)
  • Autonomy and Independence (co-ops are controlled by their members, rather than outside organizations, governments, or investors)
  • Education, Training, and Information (co-ops educate and empower their members, policymakers, and the public)
  • Cooperation among Cooperatives (by working together, co-ops are more successful and can have more impact)
  • Concern for Community (co-ops are member-focused — but also work for a more democratic, sustainable, and inclusive economy for everyone).

Across the Northeast, people have used food co-ops to improve access to healthy, local, affordable food, and build stronger, more inclusive communities. For example, a survey by the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) found that grocery co-ops across New England and New York play a key role in supporting our regional economy, selling more than $112 million in local products annually — or an amazing 25% of total sales. Here at your Co-op, we’re proud to note that we’re well above the curve with a whopping 38% of our total annual sales attributed to local products, representing over $8.5 million in sales to Vermont farmers and food producers!

 

During our September Eat Local Challenge, we track our sales to local farmers and food producers on the “Big Corn” in front of the store, aiming to provide $600,000 in payments to local farmers and food producers during this month-long focus on supporting Vermont products.

 

Taken together, these co-ops across New England and New York are locally owned by 173,000 members and provide employment for over 2,465 people, more than 60% of whom are also members, sharing in the ownership of their local grocery store. Your Co-op is owned by more than 6,000 member-owner households in Addison County and beyond! 

From farmer co-ops to worker co-ops, credit unions to mutual insurance, and housing co-ops to energy co-ops, co-operative businesses thrive across the U.S. economy, where one in three people are co-op members. Around the world, around 1 billion people are members of about 3 million co-operatives, and 10% of the world’s population, or around 280 million people, are employed by co-ops. And because they are member-owned, co-operatives are rooted in their communities and governed by the people who use them to meet their needs.

 

Our Co-op is celebrating this special month in a number of ways. Throughout the month, we’ll be promoting some of our favorite Co-op-made products so that you can vote with your food dollars for businesses that are actively growing a more inclusive economy. Check out our Weekly Sale and Member Deals displays all month long to find great deals on co-op-made products by Equal Exchange, Frontier, Blue Diamond, La Riojana, and more. You’ll also find that many of these products are part of our Co-op Basics program at very affordable prices. Be sure to check out the Addison Independent each week for coupons that will offer even deeper discounts on these great Co-op-made products!

 

To find co-op-made products throughout the store, look for the “Co-op Trade” signs (like the blue circle above) on the shelves. You may be surprised by what you find, including dairy products from Cabot Creamery Co-op and Organic Valley, fairly traded coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, and avocados from Equal Exchange, La Riojana wines, orange juice from Flordia’s Natural, body care products from Alaffia, naturally fermented vegetables from Real Pickles — and many others!!

 

Co-op Made Products that are also part of our Co-op Basics Program

Thanks to NFCA, when you join our Co-op anytime throughout the month of October, you’ll be entered to win one of 10 exciting prize packages of Co-op-made products from partners like REI, Cabot, and Mad River Glen! Already a Co-op member? You can also enter to win this Co-op Month giveaway by clicking here. 

 

For a deep dive into the relevance of co-operatives to the economic and social challenges we face and their contributions to a more just, equitable, and sustainable world, check out this webinar from NFCA director Erbin Crowell:

 

Spotlight on Champlain Orchards

One of the hallmarks of this season in Vermont is the abundance of local apples. With this in mind, we’re wrapping up our September Eat Local Challenge by casting our Co-op Spotlight on one of the oldest continuously operating orchards in Vermont – Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, and feeling exceptionally grateful that this year’s late frost didn’t decimate the harvest! They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight this week, so member-owners can enjoy 20% off their stunning array of fresh apples and apple products including sweet apple cider, apple pies, and apple cider donuts from September 28th – October 4th! Read on to learn more about this family-owned, solar-powered, ecologically managed orchard overlooking Lake Champlain.

 

The story of Champlain Orchards as we know it today began in 1998, when twenty-seven-year-old Bill Suhr purchased 60 acres of orchard in Shoreham, Vermont.  Bill’s motivation and initiative to live off the land overshadowed the fact that apple growing and fruit farming were not in his realm of knowledge, but thanks to the seasoned expertise of long-established neighboring orchardists Sandy Witherell, Scott and Bob Douglas, and Judy Pomainville – who all shared equipment, land, and information, it wasn’t long before the orchard was thriving.  In the early days, Bill delivered 20 bushels at a time in a station wagon to the local farmers’ markets and co-ops. He quickly gained the trust of produce markets around the state through exhibiting a steadfast motivation and passion for delivering high-quality, Vermont-grown fruit.

Bill and Andrea Suhr with their two children

Today, Champlain Orchards manages over 220 acres of fruit trees that include over 140 varieties of apples as well as peaches, pears, plums, cherries, nectarines, apricots, medlar, quince, and many berries. They are committed to being careful stewards of their land and grow all of their fruit following strict Eco-Apple requirements, while striving to minimize their carbon footprint and sustainably contribute to their community. Eight acres are certified Organic by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) and the farm is almost entirely solar-powered. All of their fruit is either ecologically grown and third-party certified by the IPM institute or organically grown and certified by VOF.

Additionally, Champlain Orchards runs a cidery. Their orchard-made cider is crafted from fruit grown with a conscience, in beautiful and pristine Vermont. Their cidery is located on-site at Champlain Orchards and every single apple in their hard ciders is pressed, fermented, and crafted at their orchard. This makes for a quality, local product that is fresh, crisp, and deliciously drinkable. They average around 50,000 gallons per year, and growing! New this year is a Cider Garden which is open throughout the fall, featuring locally sourced food and beverages, as well as events and activities for both adults and children, like lawn and board games! Click here to learn more and see the schedule of hours and events.

Champlain Orchards is proud to employ over 40 local Vermont residents, year-round. They also welcome an amazing Jamaican crew during their harvest season, many of whom have been coming to Champlain Orchards for over a decade! 

One very exciting addition to the Champlain Orchards family is the last few years is the legendary orchardist Zeke Goodband. Zeke left a nearly 20-year tenure at Scott Farm Orchards in Dummerston, Vermont to join the Champlain Orchards crew. According to a  Seven Days article heralding this merger of apple mega minds, Zeke is described as a “champion of old and odd varieties of heirloom apples. His fruit has brightened up apple bins in co-ops around the state, and his influence has changed Vermonters’ perception of what an apple can be: golden and purple, as well as red and green; russeted or gnarled skin, as well as smooth.” He arrived at Champlain Orchards with scion wood from about two dozen varieties, which he plans to graft onto rootstock to see how they do in this new environment. Goodband and Suhr describe themselves as old friends and kindred spirits. They both admit to working too much and get excited when the conversation turns to apple genetics. They share the same values of fruit growing: making sure it’s safe for the environment and for their families. 

Owner Bill Suhr and Orchardist Zeke Goodband

In 2020, Champlain Orchards acquired neighboring Douglas Orchard & Cider Mill. This orchard was founded in 1989 and was overseen by four generations of the Douglas family. Scott and Bob Douglas were the fourth and final generation of Douglas’ to operate the farm and before selling the property to Champlain Orchards, they took steps to protect the land from future development by working with the Vermont Land Trust to preserve the Douglas Orchard & Cider Mill’s 181 acres. The conservation easement ensures the land will remain available to future farmers. Here’s what Bill Suhr has to say about the purchase of Douglas Orchard:

“For the past 22 years, I have been emulating Bob and Scott Douglas as they care for their family farm and orchards, just down the road from us. After years of discussions and planning, we were able to officially purchase the 180-acre farm, allowing Bob & Terry, and Scott & Sue Douglas to officially begin a well-earned retirement. The Douglas family has been very supportive of Champlain Orchards over the years and I am thrilled to be able to preserve this historic orchard for future generations and continue on their legacy and values.”

Over the years the team at Champlain Orchards has worked hard to avoid competing with the Douglas family when growing their PYO operation. They respect that some customers have formed loyalties to each farm, while other folks travel back and forth to experience both. Many companies absorb a competitor and simply overlay their own company traits. However, the folks at Champlain Orchards view this as an opportunity to maintain the unique experiences each farm offers, so people can appreciate older trees vs. new trellis, traditional apple varieties vs. uncommon varieties, etc. While staffing two operations will be challenging, they appreciate the opportunity for visitors to spread out and enjoy the freedom of both orchards.

 

Champlain Orchards is open for pick-your-own (PYO) fruit for much of the growing season, so if you’ve never visited, consider this your formal invitation! Their website and social media pages are updated regularly to reflect seasonal PYO options and times. Visiting the orchard is a treat any time of year, but it’s truly a magical experience in the Fall when the apples are peaking! 

Spotlight on Old Road Farm

As our Eat Local Challenge rolls on, we’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight on our friends at Old Road Farm! All of their glorious organic produce is 20% off for member-owners from September 21st – 27th! Read on to learn more about these young farmers, the diverse experience they bring to this challenging profession, and their commitment to real organic farming:

Meet the Farmers

A transplant from New York, Gabby Tuite came to Vermont to attend the University of Vermont where she received a bachelor’s in Community Development and Applied Economics. While studying at UVM, she took an internship at the Shelburne Farms’ Market Garden where she first got her hands dirty and fell in love with farming. After UVM, Gabby worked at River Berry Farm for two seasons. Here she learned how to grow on a larger scale, taking note of the efficiencies required to run a profitable farm. Between growing seasons, Gabby has worked at the City Market Onion River-Coop as a Produce Buyer and Team Leader giving her insight into marketing and merchandising, supervising employees as well as the local food chain from a buyer’s perspective.

Gabby Tuite and Henry Webb

Henry Webb grew up with large vegetable gardens and has fond early memories of visiting his father working at the UVM dairy barn. Starting in his teens he spent eight seasons working for Last Resort Farm, a Certified Organic vegetable, berry, and hay farm. He learned to maintain and work on the farm’s equipment and infrastructure as well as organic vegetable farming practices. Henry also spent two years at New Village Farm where he worked with a small herd of Normandie cattle producing raw milk and beef. At New Village, he was given the opportunity to manage and expand the farm’s market garden and gained experience producing for a small CSA, a farm stand, and the Shelburne Farmers Market.

About the Farm

Gabby and Henry shared a dream of owning their own farm and first began their adventure in the Fall of 2015 on a quarter-acre plot in the old field below Henry’s childhood home in Monkton, Vermont, mostly growing vegetables for a few area farmer’s markets. In the Fall of 2019, they were able to secure their dream “forever farm” with the help of the Vermont Land Trust. This gorgeous farm is nestled in the fertile river valley of Granville, Vermont, surrounded by National Forest land.

They specialize in growing fresh, high-quality salad greens and seasonal vegetables for local markets with a deep commitment to the highest standards of ecologically sound, regenerative, and innovative vegetable production. Their produce is Certified Organic by VOF and they are also certified by the Real Organic Project, a grassroots, farmer-led movement created to distinguish soil-grown and pasture-raised products under USDA organic. Gabby and Henry share that they choose to be certified by the Real Organic Project (ROP) because their farming practices are inherently tied to the land and the soil that they farm.

 

Gabby shares that “In Vermont, we are really fortunate to have the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) and its certifying body, Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF), who share that commitment, but on a national level, we agree with the ROP that industrialization has in some ways diluted the intent of the organic label. We really don’t like to be critical of anyone’s farming practices, but there are currently things allowed under national standards that we don’t think fit people’s perception of what an organic farm is and we think that consumers have a right to an informed decision about what they are buying. We see our farm, our land, as not just a medium for production but a deeply complex living system that we ultimately bear the responsibility to steward. ROP is an advocate for that view.” 

 

Here at the Co-op, you can find an abundant array of Old Road Farm’s produce, including spinach, chard, salad mix, arugula, collards, sweet peppers, cauliflower, radishes, patty pan squash, broccolini, watermelon, and scallions, each in their respective seasons. If you find yourself traveling Vermont’s iconic Route 100 through Granville, be sure to stop for a visit at their farmstand, where you can find a colorful mix of all the produce grown at their farm, which includes the usual lineup of goodies you can find at the Co-op, along with eggplant, tomatoes, squash, celery, and more! 

Spotlight on Golden Russet Farm

As our Eat Local Challenge rolls on, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on a local, organic farm that has been part of our Co-op family for over 30 years – Golden Russet Farm! We acquire more produce from their farm than from any other farm in Vermont! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off of their abundant array of local, organic veggies and their glorious fresh-cut bouquets from September 14th – 20th! Read on to learn more about this wonderful farm and the fine folks who work tirelessly to make it such a special place:

Golden Russet Farm logo

Farming Organically Since 1981

Will and Judy Stevens have been growing organic vegetables commercially since 1981, having started on a small plot of rented land in Monkton, VT. After growing their business and refining their techniques, all the while learning from other pioneers in the Vermont organic farming community, they determined it was time to expand their operation. In 1984 they purchased a former dairy farm with good soils in the agriculturally-rich town of Shoreham, VT, in the southwestern corner of Addison County—and this land has been home to Golden Russet Farm ever since! A few years ago, their daughter Pauline returned home to the farm, and in 2022, Will and Judy began transitioning ownership of the farm to Pauline. 

Certified Organic in 1987

The Stevens have always used exclusively organic production practices in their vegetable and greenhouse operations and became certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers in 1987. Among other things, this means they use crop rotation, cover crops, biological and naturally derived pest controls, compost, animal manure, and naturally derived fertilizers as standard management practices. More recently, the farm has also become Real Organic Certified by the Real Organic Project. This is an add-on label certifying farms that remain true to the original tenets of the organic movement by prioritizing fertile soil as the fundamental foundation of organic farming. 

CSA, Farmstand, Greenhouse Sales & Cut Flowers for Events

Golden Russet Farm starts off the season with vegetable and flower plant sales in the greenhouses and the Farm-to-Kitchen Connection CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. In addition to raising vegetables for market, they also grow flowers for cutting, which adds color to the fields and creates habitat for beneficial insects. You’ll find these beautiful bouquets for sale throughout the summer months at the Co-op.

 

 

A Hyper-Local Sales Focus

Since 2003, the farm’s focus has been on “hyper-local,” meaning that approximately 90% of their produce has been consumed within 20 miles of the farm. Their produce is available at the farm stand, their CSA, at food markets in Middlebury and Burlington, and at Addison County restaurants.

Solar Powered Since 2013

In April of 2013, the Stevens put up five free-standing solar panels which provide them with all of their farm and personal electrical energy needs.

About The Farmers

Judy is a fourth-generation Vermonter from southern Vermont. Her family ran a successful Christmas tree business in the Londonderry area for many years. This experience helped her and Will create a successful mail-order wreath business that they ran from the farm until about 2000. Will moved to Vermont from the Ticonderoga, NY area in 1977 to finish his college education at the University of Vermont, which is where he and Judy met. He graduated in 1980 with a BA in studio art, with a specialty in blacksmithing.

After spending the summer of 1980 at Shelburne Museum (Judy as a weaver, and Will in the Blacksmith’s Shop), they were serendipitously presented with the opportunity to ramp up their homestead gardening interest to a commercial scale, and in the first several years everything they grew was sold exclusively at the Burlington Farmers’ Market. From the beginning, their mission has been to provide good quality food to people at reasonable prices.

Shortly after they moved to an old dairy farm in Shoreham, VT, in November 1984, they began to raise a family–Freeman was born in 1986, Pauline in 1989, and Anna came along in 1991. The kids had a sand pile in front of the shed, which, as the greenhouse plant business grew over the years, became a magnet for customers’ children. At some point, the pile was moved to its present location at the corner of the flower garden, which makes it much easier for shopping parents to keep an eye on their children!

Will & Judy. Flashback.1991. cropped

Between 1989 and 1992, Will served as President of Vermont Organic Farmers, which then was NOFA-VT’s certification committee. This was an exciting time in the world of organic agriculture. The sudden interest in the link between food safety and production practices was inspired by Meryl Streep’s CBS appearance on 60 Minutes in the fall of 1989 when she railed against a particular spray used on apples. “Mothers and Others for Pesticide Limits” was formed, bringing public awareness to the benefits of organic agriculture. Suddenly, a fringe movement that had been based on back-to-the-land ideals found itself moving toward the mainstream. Some would say that this was the beginning of the localvore movement.

Judy served for 3 years on the board of the Vermont Fresh Network. VFN strives to foster meaningful, mutually profitable relationships between Vermont food producers and chefs and was one of the earliest formal “Farm to Table” initiatives in the nation.

Judy and Will have been actively involved in Town affairs through various organizations and boards. Judy served on the Rescue Squad through much of the eighties and has played an important role in the expansion and promotion of Shoreham’s Platt Memorial Library over the last twenty years. Will was elected to the Town Planning Commission in the mid-nineties and eventually chaired it for several years. He has since served on the Select and Zoning Boards and has been elected Town Moderator every year since 2004.

In November 2006 Will was elected to the Vermont Legislature (as an Independent, representing the Towns of Benson, Orwell, Shoreham, and Whiting) for the first of four two-year terms. He was on the House Agriculture and Forest Products Committee all eight years and served the last four as ranking member. He is especially proud of two programs that came out of his committee during that time: the Farm to Plate and Working Lands Initiatives. Will now serves as an Outreach Representative for Senator Bernie Sanders’ office. 

 

Be sure to visit the Golden Russet blog for great recipes, tips on using plants as natural dyes, and updates on farm happenings!

Spotlight on Stonewood Farm

Are you enjoying Eat Local Month as much as we are? The abundance of beautiful local produce this time of year makes us feel so lucky to live where we do. But, eating local isn’t just about fruits & veggies. Where would we be without our local meat producers? This week, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Stonewood Farm. They provide big, beautiful turkeys for our Thanksgiving tables, keep us stocked in ground turkey and turkey breasts year-round, and fill our bulk bins with their local popcorn. They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from September 7th – 13th and all of their products are 20% off for member-owners. Read on to learn more about this local farm hailing from Orwell, VT:

Established in 1976 by Paul & Francis Stone, Stonewood Farm has been a family-owned and operated farm ever since and is now run by Peter Stone & Siegrid Mertens. The farm raises around 34,000 turkeys each year! Here are the rules of raising natural turkeys at their farm:

  • Premium quality turkey with superior flavor and juiciness
  • Slow growth of turkeys ensures a delicious and naturally self- basting turkey
  • All-Natural; Never any added preservatives or artificial ingredients
  • Humanely harvested
  • All-Natural Never any added preservatives or artificial ingredients
  • Turkeys are individually hand graded to ensure high quality

 

Family Farm Standards:

  • Family-owned and operated in the Valley of the Green Mountains.
  • Sustainable farming practice
  • Environmentally friendly farming
  • Turkey-friendly barns that are Un-crowded and open-sided provide fresh air and natural sunlight
  • Naturally raised turkeys
  • All Vegetable feed, whole grain we do NOT add hormones, antibiotics, or animal by-products to the feed
  • Humanely cared for and processed by us

“Just plenty of Vermont air, cold nights, good feed and tender loving care on our family farm” -Grandma Stone

Stonewood Farm Crew

Co-op Connection Featured Business – Honey Wax Bar

We’re shining a bright spotlight on our September Co-op Connection Business of the Month — 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.

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 honeywaxbarmiddlebury.com. To book an appointment now, text Hannah Zeno at 802-989-9122 or request an appointment through their easy online booking system.