Local

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 will be 20% off for member-owners from September 22nd – 28th! 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 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.

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

As with any new local business attempting to launch or scale up these past few years, Old Road Farm was not immune to the challenges presented by the pandemic. They had just begun farming their new piece of land in 2020 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 have continued to expand their CSA offerings each season. They also secured a NOFA-VT Resilience Grant, which they used to acquire a delivery van that you may spot rolling over the Middlebury Gap as they bring their glorious produce to the Co-op. 

Here at the Co-op, you can find an abundant array of Old Road Farm’s produce, including spinach, chard, salad mix, arugula, collards, radishes, patty pan squash, broccolini, 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, peppers, 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 15th – 21st! 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 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.

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.

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!

Apple Yogurt Parfait

We’ve reached the halfway point of our September Eat Local Challenge and we think you’ll love this quick and easy Apple Yogurt Parfait featuring a list of some of our favorite local ingredients. This parfait makes a delicious breakfast, snack, or dessert that you can prepare in advance and enjoy on the go! For the dessert version, consider drizzling with a bit of local honey or maple syrup. You’ll find most of the ingredients you’ll need in our weekly sale from September 15th – 21st, including Gammelgarden Creamery skyr and Quaker Hill granola, so it’s a perfect time to whip up this localvore treat!

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 8th – 14th 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

Localvore Pizza

What do you get when you layer local Vermont Fresh basil pesto, Maplebrook Farm fresh mozzarella, Dell’Amore pizza sauce, and local, organic red peppers onto Slice of Vermont fresh pizza dough? A localvore pie that raises the pizza night bar to new heights! You’ll find these ingredients featured in our Weekly Sale from September 8th – 14th at a great price, and they’ll all help you tally points in the September Eat Local Challenge. They’ll also help us continue to add kernels to the Big Corn located at the Co-op entry, which tracks dollars paid to local farmers and producers all month long! 

 

Spotlight on Ben & Jerry’s

We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on a business with humble roots in Vermont where two guys named Ben and Jerry launched their first scoop shop from a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Fast forward a few decades, and Ben &Jerry’s has become a household name across the U.S. and beyond. Member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on pints of their famous ice cream from September 1st – 7th as we kick off our Eat Local Challenge! Read on to learn more about the rich history of Ben & Jerry’s and their various ways of giving back:

With a $5 correspondence course in ice cream-making from Penn State and a $12,000 investment ($4,000 of it borrowed), Ben and Jerry open their first ice cream scoop shop in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont in 1978. By 1980, they decided to rent space in an old spool and bobbin mill on South Champlain Street in Burlington to begin packing their ice cream in pints for distribution to grocery and Mom & Pop stores along the restaurant delivery routes that Ben serviced out of the back of his old VW Squareback wagon. By the following year, they were ready to open their second scoop shop in Shelburne, and in 1982, the original shop changed locations to the iconic shop that still stands on the corner of Church Street and Cherry Street in the heart of downtown Burlington.

Ben & Jerry’s original scoop shop in a renovated Burlington gas station, circa 1978

Over the ensuing decades, the Ben & Jerry’s brand has grown by leaps and bounds but they’ve remained true to their core principles and continue to fiercely advocate for social and environmental causes. Ben & Jerry’s is founded on and dedicated to a sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity. Central to the Mission of Ben & Jerry’s is the belief that all three parts of its mission must thrive equally in a manner that commands deep respect for individuals inside and outside the Company and supports the communities of which they are a part. One of the first companies in the world to place a social mission in equal importance to its product and economic missions, they focus their advocacy on their core values:  human rights and dignity; social and economic justice; and environmental protection; restoration, & regeneration. They believe that business has a responsibility and a unique opportunity to be a powerful lever of change in the world. A Certified B-Corporation, they aim to use traditional and contemporary business tools to drive systemic progressive social change by advancing the strategies of the larger movements that deal with those issues, such as climate justice and social equity.

 

Big changes for the company came in August of 2020 when Ben & Jerry’s became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever. Through a unique acquisition agreement, an independent Board of Directors was created to provide leadership focused on preserving and expanding Ben & Jerry’s social mission, brand integrity, and product quality in the wake of the leadership transition. They still maintain their flagship factory in Waterbury, VT, which is a must-see destination for a factory tour next time you find yourself traveling that gorgeous stretch of Vermont’s Route 100.

Ben & Jerry’s supports the global Fair Trade movement and is committed to sourcing their vanilla, cocoa, and coffee beans from Fair Trade Certified suppliers. Ben & Jerry’s is also proud to stand with the growing consumer movement for transparency and the right to know what’s in our food supply by supporting mandatory GMO labeling legislation. In 2013, they committed to transitioning all of their ingredients to be fully sourced non-GMO. The folks at Ben & Jerry’s want to support sustainable dairy practices that benefit farmers, farmworkers, cows, and the environment and in October of 2017, they became the first company to adopt and implement the Milk With Dignity Program through their Caring Dairy Program. They’re proud of the positive impact this program has had on the true heroes of Vermont’s dairy industry, the Farmworkers. Through this program, the Farmworkers have seen higher wages, improved work schedules, better time off, and improved housing. We’ll raise a scoop to that!

Click here to learn more about the ways that Ben & Jerry’s leverages their position to influence change.

 

 

Localvore Baguette

This sweet and savory combination of local ingredients makes an excellent localvore lunch or dinner, whether you’re dining in or enjoying a late summer picnic. You’ll find many of the ingredients featured in the Weekly Sale from September 1st – 7th, including Champlain Valley Creamery’s Organic Champlain Triple Cream cheese, Red Hen Baguettes, and Champlain Orchard’s apples, so it’s a perfect time to give this one a try!

Spotlight on Bee’s Wrap

We’re shining this week’s Member Deals Spotlight on a mission-driven local business creating innovative, award-winning products to help us curb our dependence on plastic — Bee’s Wrap! From August 25th – 31st, all Bee’s Wrap products are 20% off for member-owners, so it’s a great time to stock up on these reusable, rugged, eco-friendly, locally-made, fully compostable wraps. Read on to learn more about this local company, its mission, and its fierce advocacy:

 

Bee’s Wrap was born in 2012 as its founder, Sarah Kaeck, was growing ever more deeply concerned about the persistent effect of plastics on our planet. She began by asking a simple question: How could we eliminate plastics in our kitchen in favor of a healthier, more sustainable way to store our food?

What she discovered was a lost tradition made new again. By infusing organic cotton with beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin, Kaeck created a washable, reusable, and compostable alternative to plastic wrap. What she also understood from the very beginning was that there must be a consideration of the entire life of the products we make and consume, from their creation and manufacturing to their eventual end. This is where biodegradability comes in: A product that is biodegradable can be easily returned to the earth. As their website states, “It’s a technology as old as time, and everything made in nature returns to nature with time. There’s no complicated recycling process, and no need to send your Bee’s Wrap off to a special facility. Made from four simple ingredients, Bee’s Wrap comes from the earth and is designed to return to the earth.” As your wrap begins to wear out, the team at Bee’s Wrap hopes that you’ll look on those signs of wear as a welcome reminder of the natural cycles that surround us.

Just one pack of Bee’s Wrap can save 1,667 sq. feet of plastic wrap from entering our oceans and landfills each year. That’s enough plastic to cover a single-family home. If every American household swapped plastic wrap with Bee’s Wrap we’d save a staggering 212 million square feet (4.8 million acres) of plastic from the planet each year!

Looking beyond the impact of the products they create, Bee’s Wrap is committed to using their business as a vehicle for social change, bettering the lives of their customers, employees, community, and the planet. As a proud B Corp and certified Green America company, Bee’s Wrap is committed to social change to help better the lives of its customers, employees, community, and planet. In 2019 they were awarded Green America’s People and Planet Award, which recognizes outstanding small businesses with deep commitments to social justice and environmental sustainability. They were also the 2019 recipient of B-Corp’s 2019 Best For The World: Environment award for the business’s top-notch attention to environmental stewardship. Bee’s Wrap is actively working with partners such as 1% for the Planet, The Bee Cause, and The Rozalia Project, pledging their support to ocean conservancy, beach cleanups, and environmental stewardship. They’re also committed to donating at least 1% of sales of their Honeycomb Roll of Bee’s Wrap to organizations supporting these efforts.

 

The year 2021 brought big changes for Bee’s Wrap as the business was sold to an undisclosed private investor. Since founding the business in 2012, Kaeck stewarded the growth of her company through the addition of dozens of employees, an expansion into a 12,000-square-foot facility in Middlebury, and she oversaw the company’s B Corp Certification. Bee’s Wrap was growing, both nationally and internationally, and Kaeck was seeking an investor who could leverage the company’s successful track record into this new phase of growth. Kaeck stayed on as the CEO for the first few months of the transition, then handed over the reins to Tara Murphy in June of 2021. Murphy brings extensive experience to the role, having served for four years as CEO of the Hinesburg-based Vermont Smoke & Cure and three previous years at Keurig Green Mountain. 

In a press release, Kaeck says, “I could not be happier about the prospects for Bee’s Wrap’s future. I founded and led Bee’s Wrap for eight years with the goal to create a viable mainstream alternative to plastic, and we’re at that point now. Tara’s deep consumer product experience, outstanding leadership skills, and commitment to Vermont make her an excellent choice to continue to grow Bee’s Wrap in the years to come.”

Reducing the reliance on plastic takes time, and every effort you make counts. Whether you’re using Bee’s Wrap for on-the-go snacks or storing dinner leftovers, you’re one step closer to making it possible to ditch disposable food storage for good. Today, Bee’s Wrap is a leading alternative to plastic wrap. From their headquarters right here in Middlebury, Vermont, they’re creating wraps that provide a versatile and durable solution for sustainable food storage.

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on New Leaf Organics

We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on New Leaf Organics! This local, organic farm not only keeps our produce shelves stocked with an array of fresh seasonal veggies but also supplies us with an abundant array of veggie and herb seedlings each Spring. Perhaps you have a few of them growing in your garden? All of New Leaf Organics products are 20% off for Co-op member-owners from August 4th – 10th, so it’s a great time to stock up on the flavors of summer in Vermont. Read on to learn more about this female-powered farm and all that they have to offer:

Nestled in the rolling hills near the Bristol-Monkton town line is a sweet little farm called New Leaf Organics. Now in her 22nd year in business, Farmer Jill Koppel leads her rockstar all-female crew to produce some of the most beautiful and delicious flowers, fruits, and veggies you’ll find anywhere in Vermont. Their farm has evolved quite a bit over the years, but their core mission remains the same; growing high-quality organic produce, flowers, and plants that improve soil health and strengthen the community.

Their Mission

  • to grow high-quality, deliciously fresh organic produce and flowers.
  • to maintain and build the health of our soil and water.
  • to keep this land open and in agricultural production.
  • to bring community together in appreciation of good food and eating with the seasons.
  • to help couples create a memorable wedding day brightened with our beautiful flowers
  • to be a healthy and joyous place for kids to roam and discover and help them learn where our food really comes from.
  • to provide a positive and meaningful place to work for our employees and ourselves.

New Leaf Organics grows 5 acres of vegetables, berries, and flowers which are all sold in Vermont. You can shop their online store and/or visit their farmstand. Their online store offers farmstand pickup and delivery options. Farmstand hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 12 pm – 6 pm. While visiting the farmstand, you’ll find  New Leaf’s fresh-picked veggies, berries, and flowers. You’ll also find a great selection of locally sourced products from around the Champlain Valley including fresh breads and granola from Bicycle Mill Bakery; sweet and savory hand pies and small pies from Humble Pie Baking; and take-out meals from Chomp Cookhouse.

New Leaf Organics Farmstand

You can also sign up for their Farm Stand Card Program. What’s a Farm Stand Card? Here’s how their website describes it:

“It’s like a gift card, but tastier. Farm Stand Cards give you pre-purchased credit to use at our Farm Stand. It’s an affordable and flexible way to enjoy the freshest, local organic produce and flowers and support our vibrant local food system. They come in increments of $225, with an additional 10% spending bonus. For example, when you pay $225, you’ll get a spending credit of $250. You can use your card any time you shop to buy anything we sell at our farm stand — from produce and baked goods to bedding plants and groceries. Pick your own flowers are included for Farm Stand Card holders.

​How Does This Compare to Your Traditional CSA Model? Farm Stand Card shares are similar to a CSA in that you receive fresh organic produce and flowers each week and a discount on your purchase while committing to and supporting our local farm. They’re even better than a traditional CSA, though. The Farm Stand Card allows you greater flexibility to shop anytime the Farm Stand is open, and to purchase anything we sell in the stand. It gives you the vegetables, flowers, and local goods you want, when you want them, at the best price. Win-win-win!”

 

Looking to send a local, organic bouquet to someone special? New Leaf Organics offers Home Sweet Blooms floral deliveries to homes and businesses in Hinesburg, Vergennes, Middlebury, & Bristol! They also offer a pick-your-own flowers option throughout the growing season or you can purchase a flower bouquet subscription. The flower fields are located across the street from the farm stand. 

Need flowers for an upcoming wedding or event? New Leaf Organics raises over 100 varieties of organic, specialty cut flowers and creates exquisite floral arrangements for weddings and events, from casual to formal. Their services, from full-service arrangements and delivery, to “pick-your-own,” to “weddings-in-a-bucket” are a great fit for all your events. Buying direct from the grower ensures the freshest, highest quality flowers at the best price. Buying organic ensures that agricultural chemicals aren’t endangering our environment or the farmworkers who handle the flowers. Click here to read more about why this matters.

According to Farmer Jill, “I’ve been lucky enough to find a dedicated crew of farming “geeks” who get equally as excited about discovering a great new variety to try or the thrill of our first seeds germinating in the Spring. Having a great crew keeps the farm dynamic and is better every season because of them. My kids, Ruby and Ada, and husband Skimmer make sure we don’t work the whole Summer away… Thanks for your interest in our farm! Supporting local farms like ours ensures that high-quality agricultural soils will be kept in farming for generations to come and proof that together we really can keep Vermont agriculture alive and thriving!”

For the latest info and insight into how the season is sprouting, blooming, and unfurling, follow them on Instagram @organicsnewleaf and Facebook @newleaforganics

Featured Co-op Connection Business – Royal Oak and Lost Monarch

Great coffee shops offer more than a good cup of joe; they provide a pleasant sensory experience for their patrons. It’s hard to deny the allure of the aroma and energy emanating from a great cafe. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing space to pull a caffeine-fueled remote work session or you’re seeking an inviting atmosphere to meet up with friends over a great cup of locally-roasted coffee, we invite you to check out Royal Oak and Lost Monarch! These sister coffee shops are the newest members of our Co-op Connection lineup and they offer responsibly sourced, high-quality artisan coffee in a welcoming atmosphere along with a sweet 10% discount for card-carrying Co-op Member-Owners. Read on to learn more about these two vibrant local businesses named to the list of the nation’s best coffee shops by Food and Wine Magazine, and the family that brings them to life:

Armed with 20 years of combined experience in the coffee industry, Matthew and Alessandra Delia-Lobo opened the doors to Royal Oak Coffee on Middlebury’s Seymour Street in May of 2019. Six months later, they added a sister location, known as Lost Monarch in the Stone Mill Public Market in Middlebury’s Frog Hollow. The couple met in a Connecticut coffee shop back in 2011, so it only seems fitting that their lives together since then have revolved around a shared passion for coffee. 

Royal Oak Coffee at 30 Seymour Street in Middlebury
Royal Oak Coffee

Despite having traveled the world exploring coffee and cafe culture from Boston to Italy to Sweeden and the UK, the couple (thankfully) chose unlikely Middlebury as the home for their shops. Why Middlebury? The couple shares that over the course of six years visiting Matt’s mother, who lives here in Vermont’s shire town, they fell in love with the town, the pace, the gorgeous landscape, the kind people, and the sense of community. They decided it would be a great spot to settle, open up shop, and eventually start a family. 

Matt behind the counter at the Lost Monarch Cafe in the Stone Mill Public Market in Middlebury’s Frog Hollow

So, why two shops? As Seven Days describes it, “The two shops embody different versions of how Aless and Matt do coffee. Royal Oak is an approachable, unpretentious introduction to coffee nerdery with strong living room vibes, while Lost Monarch is an exploration of tasting profiles and rotating micro-roasters amid the bustle of the market, which also offers food, wine, books and more.” At Royal Oak, Matt and Aless exclusively feature beans roasted in Winooski, VT, by Vivid Coffee Roasters. At Lost Monarch, they explore a different model, using a rotating roster of guest roasters, including Woodstock, VT’s single-origin-focused Abracadabra Coffee. Regardless of the roaster of choice, the couple prioritizes supply chain transparency and equity. They feel that the agricultural roots and vibrant local food scene in Addison County foster a community that understands the importance of supporting specific farmers and sustainable methods of production.

The smiling team at Royal Oak
The Lost Monarch Cafe conveniently shares a space with the Dedalus wine and cheese market

As for the names of their cafes, Aless shares that the Royal Oak moniker was a nod to her late father’s business — a reference to the tree where Charles II of England hid during a battle. Lost Monarch, a sequoia in California’s Grove of Titans, is another celebrated tree that inspired the name for their second location. Both locations are artfully curated to create the kind of welcoming, unpretentious vibe that they feel is more in keeping with the rural Vermont scene. When the locations initially launched, Matt and Aless were a team of two, handling all aspects of the business and serving each cup of coffee with a conversation and a smile. This gave them the opportunity to introduce themselves to the community and get to know their patrons. As the business and their own family grew, they recognized the need to hire a small team to support cafe operations. 

According to Aless, “our whole shtick is to do things intentionally, consider everything and be nice. That’s it. We want people to feel like they’re welcome, that their order isn’t wrong or bad because they want decaf or something with sugar in it.” And clearly, they’re onto something. Despite the challenges of opening not one but two new businesses in the midst of a pandemic, Matt and Aless have managed to keep both cafes afloat, keeping their community blissfully caffeinated and elevating the coffee conversation along the way.