Eat Local Challenge

Local Oktoberfest Dinner

It’s a lot of fun to celebrate culinary traditions, even when they aren’t necessarily a part of one’s personal cultural heritage. They open our minds and our palates to the unique traditions and flavors of different cultures. With this in mind, we’re sharing a delicious recipe for an Oktoberfest meal with a special Vermont twist! Dabbling in this German culinary tradition is also budget-friendly since many of the ingredients are featured in our weekly sale from September 30th – October 6th so grab your stein and your lederhosen and celebrate the flavors of Oktoberfest!

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 casting our Co-op Spotlight on one of the oldest continuously operating orchards in Vermont – Champlain Orchards in Shoreham! 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 30th – October 6th! 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 includes 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!

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 last year was the legendary orchardist Zeke Goodband. Zeke leaves 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

Other newsworthy headlines from the orchard this year included Champlain Orchard’s acquisition of 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.

There are many more stories that Bob and Scott can tell while smiling about the young “flatlander” they have worked with over the years, but let’s switch to discussing how we intend to manage the challenge of running two unique PYO/retail operations. Over the years we have worked hard to not compete with the Douglas family when growing our PYO operation here at Champlain Orchards. We 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, we see an opportunity to continue 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, we really like the opportunity for visitors to spread out and enjoy the freedom of both orchards.

There are uncertain times ahead for us all, but thanks to your loyal support we can continue to keep the Vermont apple landscape alive. We look forward to seeing you this summer and fall for a safe, bountiful PYO season, thank you!”

 

Spotlight on Old Road Farm

As our Eat Local Challenge rolls on, we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on one of the newest local farms to fill out our Produce Department shelves – Old Road Farm! All of their glorious organic produce will be 20% off for member-owners from September 23rd – 29th! 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.

The Old Road farm crew: Henry, Gabby, and Donna.

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 farmers 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.

Old Road Farm – Granville, VT

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. They were featured as the July Farmers of the Month by NOFA-VT and in their interview for this feature, Gabby shared that she and Henry prioritize real organic farming “because it offers some an alternative to our broken industrial food system by focusing on the health and sustainability of the environment.”

Weathering the Challenges of the Pandemic

As with any new local business attempting to launch or scale up this past year, Old Road Farm was not immune to the challenges presented by the pandemic. They had just begun farming their new piece of land when they learned that their farmers market would be shutting down for the season. Providing yet another reminder of the incredible resilience of our local farming community, Gabby and Henry quickly shifted their business model to include a CSA. They are enjoying this opportunity to engage with their community in a new way and they were able to expand their CSA offerings this season. They also secured a NOFA-VT Resilience Grant, which they used to help secure a delivery van that you may spot rolling over the Middlebury Gap as they bring their glorious produce to the Co-op.

Locavore Beef Stew

As our September Eat Local Challenge winds down, we’re excited to share this celebration of local ingredients known as Locavore Beef Stew. It combines many locally-grown items that you’ll find in our weekly sale from September 23rd – 29th, making this a perfect budget-friendly one-pot meal. We also think you’ll love the flexibility of this recipe, as it can be a catch-all for the abundance of produce coming out of your late summer/early fall garden. That’s why you’ll find celeriac in this recipe in the place of the more traditional celery since celeriac is more likely available from a local farm this time of year and offers a very similar flavor profile. No celeriac? No problem! Just use celery, instead.

Locavore Skillet Frittata

This delicious, versatile frittata is the perfect locavore breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) and will score you some points in the Eat Local Challenge. It features a handful of ingredients that can be found in our Weekly Sale from September 16th – 22nd, including local eggs from Shangri-La Farm, local bacon from McKenzie Meats, and local, organic cream cheese from Champlain Valley Creamery. It’s also a perfect catch-all for other local produce that you may want to add to the mix, such as spinach, arugula, peppers, or mushrooms, so feel free to get creative with the add-ins! If you’re looking for a meatless version, simply omit the bacon and increase the cooking fat by about 2 tablespoons.

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 16th – 22nd! 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

Farm owners 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 making it a true family affair. 

Certified Organic in 1987

The Stevens have always used exclusively organic production practices on 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.

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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, Judy also grows 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.

Cherry Tomatoes2jpg

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.

 

Be sure to visit their blog for great recipes and tips on using plants as natural dyes!

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 and keep us stocked in ground turkey and turkey breasts year-round. They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from September 9th – 15th 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:

  • The turkey-friendly barns are uncrowded and open-sided providing lots of fresh air and natural sunlight
  • The turkeys are raised without hormones, antibiotics, or animal by-products added to their feed
  • There are no added preservatives or artificial ingredients
  • Humane Care at our farm means plenty of Vermont air, cold nights, good feed, and tender loving care
  • The turkeys are intentionally grown slowly. This ensures a delicious and naturally self-basting turkey, which lends a superior flavor and juiciness that Stonewood Farm turkey is known for
  • To ensure a humane harvest, we have an on-site USDA-approved processing plant that is operated by our family. All turkeys are individually hand graded to ensure the highest quality

 

Localvore Lasagna

As our September Eat Local Challenge rolls on, we wanted to share one of our favorite recipes highlighting a list of fantastic local ingredients. There’s already so much to love about lasagna but when you include Bove’s marinara, Vermont Fresh pasta,  Maplebrook Farm’s ricotta, and Cabot’s mozzarella cheese, this classic comfort food reaches new heights! These ingredients are also featured in our weekly sale from September 9th – 15th,  so it’s a great time to give it a try.

What’s Up with the Big Corn?

Perhaps you’ve been wondering why we have a gigantic wooden ear of corn at the store entry? We call it the Big Corn and it comes out every September during our Eat Local Challenge to help us track the amount of money paid to local farmers and producers throughout the month. Last year, thanks to your purchases of local products, we were able to pay over $529,204 to our local farmers and producers! Help us shatter that record this year by purchasing Vermont products all month long and track the progress on the Big Corn! And guess what?  Buying local might just win you even more than a kitchen full of delicious Vermont products.  Read on to find out how your local purchases could add up to winnings:

Want to BUY LOCAL at THE CO-OP?  Look for this sign:

Why Buy Local?

1. Local Food Supports Local Farm Families.

Farmers are a vanishing breed, and it’s no surprise given that commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. When you purchase local produce from the Co-op, the farmer gets a significantly larger share, which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

2. Local Food Supports our Local Economy.

Over 60,000 Vermonters are directly employed in Vermont’s food system. Nearly 12,000 businesses are part of Vermont’s food system. When measured by employment and gross state product, food manufacturing is the second-largest manufacturing industry in Vermont.   Milk from Vermont’s dairy farms typically accounts for upwards of 70% of the state’s agricultural products sales, generating $2.2 billion in economic activity annually. A wide range of nondairy farms of all sizes also produces fruits and vegetables, livestock, hay, maple products, and specialty crops for local and regional markets. Vermont’s dynamic and evolving food system is also made up of entrepreneurs creating a variety of value-added products (e.g., cured meats, baked goods, beer, chocolate); thousands of market outlets; sophisticated distribution networks; and dozens of organizations, programs, and volunteer-driven activities that provide business planning, technical assistance, education, and outreach activities.

3. Local Food Builds Community.

When you buy local produce, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.

4. Local Food Preserves Open Space.

As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you’re doing something proactive about preserving the agrarian landscape.

5. Local Food Keeps Your Taxes In Check.

Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes. On average, for every $1 in
revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue
raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend only 34 cents on services.

6. Local Food Supports a Clean Environment and Benefits Wildlife.

A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the habitat of a farm – the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds, and buildings – is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including bluebirds, killdeer, herons, bats, and rabbits.

7. Local Food Preserves Genetic Diversity.

In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, tend to opt for more variety to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation because they taste good and are regionally adapted to our unique growing conditions here in Vermont. These heirloom varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

8. Locally grown food tastes better.

Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from
California, Florida, Chile, or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

9. Local Produce is Better For You. 

Studies show that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some ‘fresh’ produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.

10. Local Food Is About The Future.

By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow and ensure that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food. One of the lessons we learned during the pandemic was that our national supply chain is quite fragile. There were times when our shelves would have been bare if not for our local farmers and producers and this awareness helped reinforce the reality that localized food systems are necessary for food security and food sovereignty.