February 2024

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!

Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op has partnered with the National Co-operative Grocers (NCG) to highlight diversity throughout our 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.”

Our Co-op celebrates inclusive trade and features a lineup of hand-made meals from Inclusive Trade businesses including:

Of course, this is just a small sampling of the Inclusive Trade producers that our Co-op is proud to work with, so remember to look for the logo throughout the store! 

Spotlight on Siete Foods

This week’s Member Deals Spotlight casts a bright beacon on a family-owned, Inclusive Trade business that brings authentic Mexican flavor with an allergen-friendly twist — Siete Foods! Read on to learn more about the Siete story and the family who is committed to offering authentic heritage food with a healthy spin:


When Siete Foods co-founder and president Veronica Garza was diagnosed as a teenager with multiple debilitating autoimmune conditions, she turned to her close-knit family of seven (Siete!) for support. They began exercising in the family’s backyard in South Texas, eventually opening their own CrossFit gym, and began learning about the healing power of food. In solidarity, the entire family joined Veronica on her journey to adopt a low-inflammation elimination diet. Healing began, but as a Mexican-American family, eating their beloved fajitas and tacos on a lettuce leaf simply lacked the usual appeal. Determined to reclaim the cultural foods so important to her family, Veronica began experimenting with grain-free tortillas and knew she’d landed on a winning recipe when her grandma Campos told her that they tasted better than the homemade flour tortillas she’d been making for decades. 


The offerings have since expanded beyond tortillas to include a full line of grain-free tortilla chips, savory sauces, cookies, and more! What hasn’t changed has been the family’s dedication to their mission and values. Siete Family Foods is a mission-based company, and they’re passionate about making and sharing real food, gathering together in authentic community, and advocating for healthier lifestyles among Latinx families. The entire family remains involved with the operation of the business in various capacities and they make a concerted effort to prioritize diversity in hiring within the organization. 


Their mission is to:

  • Boldly build the leading better-for-you Mexican-American food brand,
  • Embody a juntos es mejor culture: value humility, foster diversity, love people always.
  • Operate with a family first, family second, business third attitude.
  • Positively impact the lives of underserved communities through education, entrepreneurship, and wellness.

With their mission in mind, they created the Siete Juntos Fund, which aims to uplift and celebrate taco culture by awarding funding to Latinx-owned taco businesses across the nation. In 2022, the Juntos Fund provided $40,000 to three taquerias who showed not only a passion for making delicious food, but also a passion for building authentic community and sharing pieces of their culture and their story with others. Click here to learn more. 

If you’re looking for tasty inspiration in the form of grain-free recipes that incorporate Siete products, click here

Spotlight on Krin’s Bakery

Looking for a sweet treat to share with your Valentine or Pal-entine? How about something from Krin’s Bakery?! We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on Krin’s Bakery from February 8th – 14th and member-owners can enjoy 20% off Krin’s full line of local confections! Read on to learn more about this wonderful woman-owned bakery nestled in the mountains of Huntington, VT.



Krin’s Bakery is the home of artisan baker Krin Barberi. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, then exploring and working for others, Krin opened her own bakery in 2005. Krin’s Bakery makes delicious cookies, cupcakes, and other treats using time-honored recipes and simple, fresh ingredients. Whether in a lunchbox, enjoyed over coffee, or served at a special occasion, Krin’s baked goods celebrate her twin passions for baking and for building community.

Krin’s bakes the treats you love and remember—chocolate cupcakes with a thick frosting; chewy cookies in classic flavors and festive shapes; classic Italian biscotti and moist chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons, all baked in their small Huntington, Vermont bakery by a dedicated crew of skilled bakers, using thoughtfully-sourced ingredients from neighboring farms, orchards, and businesses. Their treats are available in local grocery stores and co-ops throughout central and Northern Vermont, and if you’re not lucky enough to live in VT, they ship!

Krin is a passionate local foods activist supporting the cause by working with local distributors, markets, producers, and farmers. She takes her inspiration from her rural New England family’s tradition of supporting and participating in the life of her community. She believes that where our food comes from is important and takes pride in using local Vermont ingredients whenever possible.

It is from this deep sense of community and place that Krin continues to bake love and care into each and every treat.


Equal Exchange Avocados, a Better Choice

Guacamole is always a crowd pleaser, and on a particular Sunday in February it is a gameday staple. While rooting for your favorite team, gathering with your friends or just watching the spectacle take a moment to consider the impacts of your dip and learn more about Equal Exchange and their Organic and Fair Trade Avocados.  Equal Exchange is a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO  avocados, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, and bananas from small farmers. You can find their co-op-produced, Certified Organic, Fairtrade Certified avocados in our produce department! Read on to learn more about the ways that this cooperative is creating powerful change in industries dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation:


Equal Exchange was started over 30 years ago to create an alternative trade paradigm where small farmers could have a seat at the trading table. The existing predominant trade model favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations. Equal Exchange seeks to challenge that model in favor of one that supports & respects small farmers, builds communities, supports the environment, and connects consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.

Today, Equal Exchange is a thriving model of Fair Trade that has exceeded its founders’ original vision. With over 30 years of experience — a history replete with successes, failures, innovative partnerships, exciting new products, and inspiring stories — they are nevertheless humbled by just how far they still need to go. Over the next few decades, Equal Exchange seeks to engage and collaborate with like-minded partners and stakeholders throughout the Fair Trade system in an effort to continue to transform how business is done. Their vision includes breaking new ground by bringing Fair Trade home—by fostering direct relationships with family farmers here in the United States. Their collective achievements of the past 30 years prove that they can create change beyond their wildest dreams. To read more about their history, click here.




Equal Exchange’s mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers, and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution of worker co-operatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world.

Authentic Fair Trade:

Authentic fair trade is central to their mission at Equal Exchange. The fair trade model gives small-scale farmers collective power and financial stability while improving farming communities and protecting the environment. To do so, it utilizes a particular set of business practices voluntarily adopted by the producers and buyers of agricultural commodities and hand-made crafts that are designed to advance many economic, social and environmental goals, including:
• Raising and stabilizing the incomes of small-scale farmers, farmworkers, and artisans
• More equitably distributing the economic gains, opportunities, and risks associated with the production and sale of these goods
• Increasing the organizational and commercial capacities of producer groups
• Supporting democratically owned and controlled producer organizations
• Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize
• Promoting safe and sustainable farming methods and working conditions
• Connecting consumers and producers
• Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with issues affecting producers


What Impact is Fair Trade Having on Farmers & Their Communities?



In 2013, Equal Exchange partnered with pioneering farmer cooperatives in Mexico to establish a supply chain for Fairtrade, organic avocados. Their farmer partners are located in Michoacán, Mexico, considered the ‘avocado capital of the world’. Working together, they circumvent a largely consolidated and volatile industry to provide U.S. avo-lovers with the popular fruit.

Equal Exchange visiting the farmers from the PROFOSMI avocado cooperative

These two small-farmer cooperatives, PRAGOR and PROFOSMI, export directly to Equal Exchange. PRAGOR is composed of 20 producer members who each own an average of 10 acres of land, all 100% organic. Many of the members transitioned to organic 10 or more years ago, a revolutionary move at the time. On several of these farms reside the oldest Hass Avocado trees in the region, now 60 years old, still producing avocados. Despite the excitement each producer has for the future, a major challenge is finding trading partners who believe in their mission and will engage in the respectful and fair business relationship their members deserve. As you can imagine, there are not many organizations like Equal Exchange. PRAGOR’s strength and perseverance is a lesson for anyone committed to working for change in the world.

Farmer cooperatives increasingly recognize that production through industrialized agriculture methods has placed pressure on the natural environment, and have elected to weave environmental sustainability into their missions, vision, and goals. One such initiative is Las Mujeres Polinizadoras de Tingambato, a women’s apiculturist cooperative that was established by Equal Exchange’s partner cooperative, PROFOSMI. The initiative seeks to offer entrepreneurial skills to economically disadvantaged women through beekeeping. PROFOSMI used fair trade premium dollars to offset the cost of materials and technical training, and the women soon had the tools they needed to become an autonomous and independent cooperative. 

Equal Exchange’s Ravdeep Jaidka and Meghan Bodo with farmer-partner Alfredo stand beside rows of hives from the women’s beekeeping cooperative


In an effort to maintain a year-round supply of organic, fairtrade avocados, Equal Exchange began a partnership in 2018 with LaGrama, a Peruvian company providing essential services to small-scale farmers in Peru. A major advantage for Peruvian avocados lies in their seasonality for exports, which roughly extends from May to August. This serves as a good complement to the Mexican export season, which lasts from August to May. After extensive research with industry partners and a sourcing trip to Peru,  Equal Exchange was thrilled to find partners like LaGrama that align with their mission and vision for change in the avocado industry. 



According to the USDA, the average American eats 27 pounds of bananas per year. That’s a whole lot of bananas – and a big opportunity for impact. The banana industry is infamous for unfair labor practices, dangerous working conditions, and perpetuation of global inequalities. Equal Exchange envisioned a total departure from this system when it first ventured into fresh produce in 2006 with bananas. Equal Exchange works directly with three small farmer cooperatives in Peru and Ecuador: AsoGuabo, CEPIBO, and APOQ. Through these democratically organized co-ops, farmers leverage collective resources and obtain access to global markets – maintaining agency over their business, land, and livelihoods. 

Community members of Asoguabo Co-op and Equal Exchange Worker Owners in Ecuador

Together, Equal Exchange and their banana partners are creating a trade model that respects farmers, builds communities, and supports the environment. Buying Equal Exchange bananas from your local food co-op not only keeps money cycling through our community but also ensures that communities of farmers in Ecuador and Peru are receiving a fair price for their products, which then keeps money flowing through their communities, as well. In a way, eating fair trade bananas gives you a two-for-one, as you are able to support both your community and the cooperative community of farmers that grew the fruit. It may not have been grown physically close to our Co-op, but it creates an interconnected network of solidarity between communities. You are choosing to connect yourself to these courageous banana farmers who are making history for themselves, and quite possibly, for the entire banana industry. Click here to read more about the progressive small-farmer banana cooperatives that partner with Equal Exchange.



This is where it all began! Way back In 1986, the founders of Equal Exchange started their journey with a Nicaraguan coffee — which they called Café Nica — and they haven’t looked back. The impact over the years has been incredible and your purchases of fairly traded coffee have helped build pride, independence, and community empowerment for hundreds of small farmers and their families. One of their latest projects, the Women in Coffee series, highlights women leaders across the Equal Exchange coffee supply chain and represents an opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains. You can find the featured Women In Coffee Series coffee, Congo Rising, in our bulk department.

Another fantastic project brewing at Equal Exchange is their Congo Coffee Project. Equal Exchange founded the Congo Coffee Project with the Panzi Foundation as a means to bring Congolese coffee to market in the United States and raise awareness about the alarming rate of sexual violence that takes place every day. Sexual violence has affected thousands of people in the Congo over the last two decades, and for women, men, and children in need of medical attention there are not many options; they are sometimes ostracized, abandoned, or ignored with nowhere to go.  Survivors of sexual violence seek refuge and assistance at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, a bustling place with more than 360 staff and thousands of visitors each year.  The hospital treats patients with various ailments but has become known as a safe place for survivors of sexual violence to seek treatment and heal from their trauma.   

Since its inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $100,000 for survivors of sexual violence, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, the physician responsible for treating survivors of sexual violence and raising awareness of their plight, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work. You can read more about that here.



The global cocoa and chocolate industries are riddled with profound social and economic problems. Workers on cocoa farms are often subject to unacceptable forms of exploitation, including debt bondage, trafficking, and the worst forms of child labor. The standard models for global cocoa trade have left farmers impoverished, economically vulnerable, and powerless to advocate for better conditions.  The small farmer-grown cacao sourced by Equal Exchange demonstrates the power of alternative trade in an industry built on exploitation and forced labor. Under Fair Trade standards, the farmers and co-operatives must abide by key covenants of the International Labor Organization, including those forbidding inappropriate child labor, and forced labor. All Equal Exchange cocoa is sourced from Fair Trade, organic small farmer co-operatives in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. Even the sugar in their chocolate bars is fairly traded and sourced from a small farmer co-op in Paraguay. 

Laura Bechard of Equal Exchange and Orfith Satalaya Tapullima of Oro Verde cacao co-op

Interested in Getting More Involved in Your Co-op’s Governance? Run for the Board!

If you would like to be more involved in the governance of our cooperative, I encourage you to run for a position on the board of directors. As chair of the Board Development Committee, my aim is to share with member-owners how the board works, what we do, and what to  do if you’re interested in running for one of the four open board seats this spring. 

The board is composed of 11 members who are elected to serve three-year terms. The board is currently composed of member-owners who live all over Addison County and who have been co-op members for different lengths of time. We span a wide range of ages and have varying backgrounds, including farmer, gardener, teacher, professor, cheesemaker, financial professional, attorney, pastor, sales rep, mediator, parents and nonprofit directors. This diversity of backgrounds and skills makes our board stronger. What we have in common is a passion for the Co-op, our democratic principles, and the collaborative processes that guide our work together. No particular expertise is required. 

The board has three primary roles: 1) to represent the 6,000+ member-owners of the Co-op, 2) to oversee and support the General Manager and 3) to provide strategic and financial oversight for the Co-op. Board members craft and monitor policies that ensure our Co-op is meeting our mission and our ends. We meet monthly, with online conversations and some committee meetings in between. Board members receive a small annual stipend, a 10% discount, and access to professional training.

Each year we are committed to recruiting new board members to bring fresh voices and diverse perspectives to our team. Institutional knowledge from longer serving board members and fresh perspectives from newer board members are equally valuable. Our board strives to be actively anti-racist and inclusive. We welcome participation from community members who share a commitment to anti-oppression work.

I am currently in my first year on the board, and I have appreciated how knowledgeable the continuing members are and how generously they share what they know with those of us who were new this past year. When I participated in a national training for new board members, I learned how fortunate we are to have a co-op that is such a strong, thriving, growing presence in our community. We can’t take this for granted. Come join us on the board and help support the fine work of this organization!

There are several opportunities to learn more about the board this month: 

  • We are holding a Zoom Q&A session for prospective board members on Monday, February 12th from 7-8pm. Join current board members and MNFC’s General Manager, Greg Prescott, to learn about the board’s governing style and ask questions about the board’s responsibilities. RSVP to me at bhofer@middlebury.edu by February 11th at 6pm to receive the Zoom link.
  • Community members are always welcome to attend board meetings. Our next monthly meeting is on Wednesday, February 28th from 6:00-8:00pm. If you’d like to attend, please contact Board President, Amanda Warren, in advance: board@middlebury.coop.
  • From 5:00-6:00pm on February 28th, we’ll also be having an in-person meet and greet before the board meeting. Please RSVP by noon on February 27th if you’d like to attend – bhofer@middlebury.edu.


For more information about board responsibilities and how to apply, here’s a link to the board application packet: https://middlebury.coop/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/2024-Recruitment-Packet.docx.pdf, or you can pick up a packet by asking for it at the register whenever you’re in the co-op.

We are happy to connect with you outside of these meetings, too! If you are interested in learning more about what it’s like to serve on the board,, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at bhofer@middlebury.edu  or any of the other board members. 

Barbara is Chair of the Board Development Committee.

Co-op Connection Business of the Month – Waterfalls Day Spa

Can you remember the last time you pressed pause on the frenzied pace of everyday life and allowed yourself to relax and unwind? If you are struggling to recall the last occasion of such a rare, rejuvenating event, we invite you to check out our featured Co-op Connection business for February- Waterfalls Day Spa! They offer a very generous 10% discount to card-carrying Co-op member-owners! Read on to learn more about the extensive list of services offered by their skilled team of practitioners:


Waterfalls mission is to inspire confidence and enhance our guests’ natural beauty through our expert services and dedicated customer care.  We make it our goal to promote a culture of self-care and wellness, where every guest can relax, recharge and rejuvenate.

They offer a wide range of services that create a positive impact on overall wellbeing.  They understand the importance of holistic hair care and offer an organic hair coloring line, Simply Organics, as well as Goldwell and Surface Pure.  Their other services include nail treatments, facials, HydraFacials, massage therapy and a full range of wedding services.


If you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone special, pick up a Waterfalls gift card!

In short, if you’re looking to escape, relax, and restore – Waterfalls Day Spa is your destination. Just don’t forget to mention that you’re a Co-op member-owner!