Spotlight on Gringo Jack’s

As we kick off our month-long Eat Local Challenge, we’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on Gringo Jack’s! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off Gringo Jack’s full line of delicious local tortilla chips, salsas, and sauces this week, so it’s a great time to plan a localvore fiesta! Read on to learn more about Gringo Jack’s, their commitment to sourcing quality local ingredients, and their recently launched Chip In campaign.

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Our Mission

At Gringo Jack’s, we’re dedicated to producing handcrafted, flaky tortilla chips along with natural, vegetarian sauces and salsas – always successfully pre-tested in our own restaurant kitchen. We promise to always prepare each recipe in small batches, with only quality ingredients – no fillers or preservatives – giving the consumer the means to create a healthy, gourmet WOW without the extra work. We stand for taste, quality, and uniqueness, always.

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Who Are We

We’re just a bunch of gringos that found ourselves in Vermont. But we’re doing our flaky chips, sauces, and salsas better than anyone. Our spices, textures, and flavors will knock your socks off. And we’re doing it the all-natural way, without preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce. Just fresh and authentic ingredients for a fresh and authentic taste. Our Co-Founders are Jack Gilbert and Michele Kropp. Jack is an artist and restauranteur and it’s his belief that real flavor comes only from authentic, quality ingredients. Michelle is daughter and wife to two wonderful chefs, and good food is her true passion. Her commitment to real, minimally processed food ensures that Gringo Jack’s products are the very best!

Bobby Production Manager

How Are We Different

How are we unique from the other wonderful, healthy products out there? First, we use local ingredients whenever possible. Here’s a list of some of the local farmers and producers from which our ingredients are sourced:

In addition to sourcing the best local ingredients whenever possible, we also make our products from scratch. Our BBQ sauces do not contain ketchup – rather, we make our own ketchup. Our chips are so unique with a light, flaky crunch and a hand dusting of spices. We also make all products in small batches to ensure quality in every bag and jar. Bottom line – it doesn’t get better or tastier than Gringo Jack’s!


Our CHIP IN Campaign

Calling all Vermonters! We know you already support local and buy local, now you can invest local! CHIP IN is an investment campaign by Gringo Jack’s to expand our line of locally produced and sourced specialty food products. It is an opportunity for Vermonters to help grow local business and invest in the economy here at home.

The CHIP IN Campaign will raise capital to expand our product lines and distribution networks. It will also allow us to build new partnerships with local farms, producers and retail establishments, in addition to building a regional food system and more jobs in Vermont.

CHIP IN provides not only the potential for a return on investment, it also allows Vermonters to make a social investment that will help support and grow the local economy.

CHIP IN is made possible by the Vermont Small Business Offering (VSBO). VSBO is a new program that allows Vermonters to make small investments in local businesses and help grow the Vermont economy.

We need your help to make CHIP IN successful! Milk Money is the crowd-funding portal for CHIP IN and VSBO. Click here to learn more and INVEST LOCALLY.

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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 $346,000 to our local farmers and producers! Help us shatter that record this year by purchasing Vermont products all month long. You can track the progress on the Big Corn and help us reach our goal of $365,000 this year!

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 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 produce 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 that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.

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Spotlight on Vermont Coffee Company

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Vermont Coffee Company this week to spread the love for this small town coffee roaster located right here in Middlebury, VT. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off all Vermont Coffee Company products this week, so it’s a great time to stock up and save. Read on to learn more about this fantastic local business, their passion for great coffee, and their latest adventures in community theater.


About Us

Vermont Coffee Company is a small-town roaster located on Exchange Street in Middlebury, Vermont. The big flavor and complex character of our coffees are highlights of our unique style of slow-roasting our beans in small batches, that we have perfected since we began roasting in 1979.

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All of our beans are certified organic. We source them from the great coffee-growing regions around the world, and we seek out big flavor and bold character in the beans we choose. We treat coffee like produce so you can enjoy it fresh. The coffee is harvested at the peak of freshness, we receive it when the beans are green, then we roast to order and ship daily.

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Have you visited our cafe? We’re open Monday – Friday from 8 am – 2 pm, serving fresh-roasted coffee and espresso drinks, a simple breakfast and lunch menu, grab-and-go items, or coffee by the pound. Enjoy free wifi while you sit and relax, or meet with your friends & co-workers!

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Our motto, “Coffee Roasted for Friends” is more than a slogan, it is really our mission. Coffee is a social stimulus that brings people together to share ideas and stories, and when people come together, a community is formed and friends are made.


A Note from Founder & President, Paul Ralston

I love coffee. I love making it, drinking it, and sharing it with friends. I like exploring new coffee crops and origins, “cupping” the samples to find the best components for my blends. I particularly enjoy roasting the beans to bring out the best from each batch.

All the coffees we buy are certified organic and fair trade. While on their own, these aren’t ‘quality standards,’ they are standards for a higher quality of living for the farmers who grow our coffee. We believe farmers who are paid fairly can afford to grow quality crops, and that has been our experience. Click here to read ‘Our Organic, Fair Trade Policy’.

We don’t offer a huge number of coffees. We specialize on a narrow range of Big, Bold coffee. We roast for decisive people who know what they want and want to brew it strong!

Coffee & Theater

In July, Vermont Coffee Company embarked on a new phase in their adventure – community theater! The Vermont Coffee Company Playhouse is a 70-seat theater located at within their existing space on Exchange Street, complete with lighting obtained from Middlebury College and a hand-made stage constructed by Ralston. The space has an industrial warehouse vibe, creating a comfortable, accessible atmosphere.  They recently hosted a debut party and performance directed by and starring Deb Gwinn, wife of VCC owner Paul Ralston.

Gwinn will serve as artistic director of the playhouse. She is known locally for directing 18 seasons of Shakespeare in the Barn at Mary’s Restaurant at the Inn at Baldwin Creek in Bristol. For the past six years, she has mounted invitation-only performances in a teeny-tiny Middlebury studio in the building that currently houses the toy shop Ollie’s Other Place.

For the opening event last weekend, Gwinn enlisted local actors to perform her new work “Billy the Kid Sister.” The 20-minute comedy was inspired by and set to Aaron Copland’s 1938 ballet Billy the Kid. There was no dialogue. “It’s acting to music,” explained Gwinn. “It’s not unlike dance, but we don’t call it that. Some people feel it’s kind of like a silent movie.”

“Our whole thing is about bringing people together,” Ralston said. “What do people do in communities? They talk; they eat; they do art; they share their creativity.”

Ralston hopes to host events at the theater at least once a month, and sees the theater as part of Exchange Street’s renaissance. He’d like to see the former industrial thoroughfare become a vibrant arts and culture hub, much like Pine Street in Burlington’s South End. With a slate of proposed improvement projects to Exchange Street in the works, including a pedestrian-friendly sidewalk, it seems this dream just might become a reality.


Spotlight on Orb Weaver Farm

We’re casting our Spotlight on a farm that has been a part of our Co-op family since 1981 – Orb Weaver Farm. While we shed some light on this local 100-acre gem this week, member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of glorious cheeses and organic produce. Read on to learn more about Orb Weaver Farm, the fabulous female farmers responsible for it, and the wonderful bounty of products they bring to our Co-op:

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The Farm –

Orb Weaver Farm sits on one hundred acres in the Champlain Valley, the rocky top of Camel’s Hump Mountain visible towards the east. Patchwork fields bordered by hedgerows, dotted with Jersey cows, bales of hay waiting to be picked up, a green tractor tilling the earth. Straight garden rows planted with lettuce, swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers, flowers. Our 200-year-old farmhouse, and across the yard the weathered barn, the cheese cave carved into a hillside, fronted by huge stone slabs. The seasons dictate our chores for the day, but the rhythm of the seasons is blissfully the same, year after year, as it has always been for those who work the land. The life of a farmer is both simple and vastly complex, dependent not only on planning and muscle but also on what falls from the sky and what pushes up from the earth. This is Orb Weaver Farm, the farm we have built with our hands for over thirty years, our small piece of the beautiful Vermont earth.

We’ve been practicing sustainable farming since we began. We cultivate our organic gardens and sell the produce to local restaurants and markets. We compost all our culled vegetables, cow manure, and whey (a byproduct of making cheese) and eventually return their nutrients to the gardens and pastures.

The Farmers –

Orb Weaver Farm was founded in 1981 by Marjorie Susman and Marian Pollack. They are the driving force behind the farm, with help from farmhand extraordinaire, Lauren Slayton.

Marjorie & Marian, circa 1976
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Marjorie, Lauren, & Marian 2016

At the Co-op, you’ll find a gorgeous array of organic produce from Orb Weaver, including plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and big, beautiful shallots, each in their own season. You’ll also find two of our most popular cheeses: Farmhouse and Cave-Aged. Here’s what Marjorie & Marian have to say about these delicious cheeses and the cows that make it possible:

Farmhouse Cheese –

When farmers use milk exclusively from their own cows to make cheese, it’s called “farmhouse cheese.” That’s what we’ ve been doing at Orb Weaver Farm since 1982. We milk our Jersey cows to make rich, raw milk cheese with a slightly tangy, full-bodied flavor. More moist than cheddar, our Farmhouse Cheese has a natural buttery color and smooth, creamy texture. It is delicious with wine, melts beautifully to complement any recipe, brings grilled cheese sandwiches to new heights, and distinctively tops nachos and pizza. Our two-pound waxed and cave aged wheels also make elegant gifts that are easy to mail.

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Cave-Aged Cheese –

In 2001, we took a new step into an age-old tradition and began making cave-aged cheese. Using stones from neighboring Panton, VT, we built a cave in a small hillside on our farm to replicate as closely as possible the aging process used for centuries before refrigeration. Cave conditions are warmer and more humid than those for our standard farmhouse cheese, and the aging cycle is longer – up to a year for a 10-pound wheel. We don’t wax cave-aged cheese, but instead turn and brush the wheels every other day for several months, creating a natural rind. The end result is heaven for cheese lovers: a robust, complex array of nutty, earthy flavors and a firm, slightly drier texture that makes our cave-aged cheese a true delicacy. Cave-aged cheese may require more time and TLC, but we think you’ll agree the results are more than worth it.

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We make our cheeses simply, in the European tradition. We stir, form, and date-stamp each wheel by hand – we don’t use mechanical stirrers or hydraulic presses. Our wheels age from 6 to 12 months and, since we do everything ourselves, quantities are limited. We make cheese from November through May. We give our cows, and ourselves, a break every summer while we tend our organic gardens.

The Herd –

In our experience, Jerseys give the highest quality milk for cheesemaking, with more butterfat, protein, and vitamins than milk from other breeds. Because we care for our own Jerseys, we know we’re always using the purest, most nutritious milk possible for fine-quality farmhouse and cave-aged cheeses.

We feed our cows sweet-tasting, sweet-smelling grain and organic hay to produce the most savory milk. That’s one of the reasons we won an award for the best-tasting milk in Vermont. For cheese, we milk a small family of seven Jerseys. Happy cows make the best milk, and so our Jerseys enjoy the sounds of classical music whenever they’re not rotationally grazing 30 acres of clover pasture.




We love our farm in Vermont’s beautiful Champlain Valley. During an era when family farms are quickly disappearing, we feel blessed that our small farm is thriving.



Spotlight on Vermont Smoke & Cure

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Vermont Smoke & Cure this week to shed a little light on their recent qualification for B Corps certification. This designation is granted to companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  Vermont Smoke & Cure received the certification thanks to their sustainable and socially conscious business practices such as sourcing meats raised humanely and without the use of antibiotics, using ingredients from local farms, offering commercial meat processing services to family-scale farmers, and utilizing solar power. The company also fosters an ownership culture by granting employee stock options to each of its employees. Their full line of smoked and cured meat products are 20% off for member-owners this week, so it’s a perfect time to stock up and save! Read on to learn about their rich history and commitment to small batch meats proudly made in Vermont:


At Vermont Smoke & Cure, we’ve been consciously crafting delicious smoked meats and meat snacks since 1962. We use humanely raised meats whenever possible, and simple local ingredients like Vermont maple syrup and apple cider, combined with the highest quality spices and herbs. Our flavors grew from the heritage of our founder, Roland LeFebvre, who started the smokehouse as “Roland’s” in South Barre, Vermont. At that time, South Barre was a small town made up of many recent immigrants drawn by the granite quarrying and carving industry. Roland based his now-famous recipes on traditional methods and ingredients. After all, the sausages had to pass muster for the large Italian population in Barre, who had come to work in the granite industry.

Founder Roland LeFebvre

For the next 50 years, we operated in a farmhouse and then in the back of a gas station, until April of 2012 when we moved 50 miles to Hinesburg, Vermont, renovating a portion of a former cheesemaking facility into a world-class smokehouse. While we still use many of the same methods and recipes, Chris Bailey, our CEO, is expanding on Roland’s vision by sharing Vermont values with a larger market.

Chris has the same driving passion that inspired Roland over 50 years ago: to create great tasting meats that make customers smile. Chris is a former professional cyclist and farmer and loves to cook. He has a deep reverence for our land and an intricate understanding of our food industry. A former vegetarian turned conscious meat-eater, Chris is committed to making livestock farming more humane and sustainable while making the food we eat more healthy and delicious.

At Vermont Smoke & Cure, we believe you should feel good about where your meat comes from. We buy all of the certified humanely raised meats we can, and we have transparent sourcing for all of our meats. Along with our customers, we’re helping the meat industry move to a future that is humane, transparent and environmentally friendly.

  • We proudly use Vermont maple syrup and apple cider in the brines for our bacon and ham.
  • We primarily smoke using ground corn cobs and maple wood shavings, traditional smoke sources here in Vermont. We never use liquid or artificial smoke flavor.
  • We use whole muscle hams and carefully hand place each piece into its netting to ensure the best quality in every bite.
  • Our team of employee-owners creates everything in our Smokehouse right here in the hills of Vermont We hand trim all of our meats and we grind our meats on-site.
  • Our uncured items use natural preservatives to ensure food safety.
  • In our Sticks and Summer Sausage, instead of just adding acids, we ferment to lower pH the old-school way for the best flavor.
  • Our products are gluten-free and contain no MSG
  • More than 50% of the electricity we use is from solar – all generated within 60 miles.
  • We use high-efficiency smokers that reduce our energy requirements by more than 10%.

Our work in Hinesburg, VT has earned us a fine reputation that we aim to uphold. Thank you for being part of our history and for supporting local & sustainable meat!

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Spotlight on New Leaf Organics

With local harvest season in full swing, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on a wonderful organic farm that not only provides our Co-op with a bounty of organic vegetables, but also allows us to offer a stunning variety of locally-grown veggie and herb starts for gardeners in the spring! New Leaf Organics is featured in our Member Deals program this week, and member-owners can enjoy 20% off their glorious produce! Read on to learn more about this fantastic local, organic farm hailing from Bristol, VT:


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New Leaf Organics is a working vegetable and flower farm established in 2001 by Jill Kopel and Skimmer Hellier. Our farm is located on the town line between Bristol and Monkton, and has been certified organic from the start. Our fields range from heavy clay to fine sandy soils, allowing us to grow a wide variety of edible and ornamental crops throughout the season.

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We primarily grow food and plants for people in nearby communities through our on site farm stand, our CSA program, farmers markets, and our wholesale accounts. We also
raise organic specialty flowers and design artistic floral arrangements for weddings and events. Why choose locally grown, organic flowers for your event? Read all about it here.


Our 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.

In the Spring, you can find a wide range of organically-grown veggie and herb starts at the Co-op. Check out this blog post to learn why it’s so important to source your garden plants from an organic, local grower like New Leaf Organics.

On your next trip through Bristol, stop by their farmstand for a visit! They’re open weekdays from 11 am – 6 pm and on weekends from 10 am – 4 pm!

Seedling Demo. Jill. 5.28.16




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Greek Antipasto

Top four reasons you’ll love this simple summer salad:

  1. It will allow you to celebrate and enjoy many local ingredients –  cucumbers, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil & oregano are all in season right now.
  2. It’s budget-friendly – Many of the ingredients are featured in our weekly sale this week.
  3. It’s a perfect meal for a hot summer day – Who wants to fire up the oven on a hot day?  The garbanzo beans, olives, artichokes, and feta lend a satiating substance that won’t leave you feeling like you only had salad for dinner. Top it with leftover sliced chicken or steak to make it even more substantial.
  4. It’s quick – 10 minutes is all you’ll need to throw together this beautiful meal.

Spotlight on Wood’s Market Garden

There are certain fruits and vegetables that seem to announce the changing of the seasons, and for us here at the Co-op, the day we received our first delivery of local, organic tomatoes and strawberries from Wood’s Market Garden, we knew that summer was finally here! We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Wood’s Market Garden this week to highlight their magnificent 150-acre organic farm in Brandon, VT. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off all of their glorious local, organic fruits and veggies this week, including heirloom tomatoes, succulent strawberries, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers (the first of the season!), shell peas, sugar snap peas, broccoli, and cauliflower! Oh, and don’t forget the offerings from the bulk department – dried organic black beans and pinto beans! Read on to learn more about the family that makes it possible for us to offer such a beautiful bounty:


Wood’s Market Garden is a fruit, vegetable & flower farm and seasonal market nestled in the quaint town of Brandon, Vermont. Our fields have been producing fresh food for the greater Brandon community for over 100 years. Jon Satz purchased the farm 16 years ago from Bob and Sally Wood. With his passion for growing and sustainable farming practices, the farm and market have blossomed into a destination for beautiful organic vegetables, quality bedding plants and some of the sweetest strawberries around! Jon, his wife Courtney, and their 2 young sons make their home on the farm and enjoy the continued legacy of farming the land that the Wood family started generations ago.

Jon & Family

The farm consists of 150 acres of Vermont farmland and woods. Known far and wide for our delicious sweet corn and plump, sweet strawberries, we also grow over 50 kinds of vegetables and fruits on 60 acres of sandy loam soils. Our produce and vegetable plants are certified organic, and along with our field production, we also have 7 greenhouses for raising bedding plants, ornamentals, vegetable starts and the tastiest early tomatoes in the state! Our unique varieties of plants and our passion for quality crops keeps people coming back year after year.

We grow all of our produce organically here on the farm. It’s a labor of love for everyone involved from seeding to harvesting to washing and selling. We’re really proud to be able to provide such a bounty of farm fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to our community year after year. It’s what feeds our own families here on the farm and beyond and you should feel good knowing we grow it all with love, care and a commitment to good organic practices.

Aside from growing an abundant array of fruits and vegetables for retailers like the Middlebury Co-op, we also offer a CSA and have a seasonal farm stand open daily in the summer from 9 am – 6 pm. Outside, it’s a paradise of plants, hanging baskets, creeping vines, and gardens to wander. We’re on the banks of Jones Mill Pond on Route 7, which during the warm summer months is covered with those famous pink water lilies. Inside the market, the shelves and baskets are filled with gorgeous fresh produce from our farm and bouquets of fresh-cut flowers. Depending on what’s in season, you’ll find everything from fresh spinach to strawberries to squash. We grow over 50 different kinds of produce on our farm, just yards from the farm stand. In addition to produce, we have an unbelievable variety of artisanal cheese, organic milk, and other local dairy products, local meat and poultry, fresh baked goods, maple syrup, raw honey, homemade pickles, jam and more!  If you’re looking to stock your own garden, you can browse our selection of farm-grown organic veggie and herb starts, and a stunning variety of annuals, and perennials! We hope you’ll stop in and see us on your next trip through Brandon.

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Spotlight on Neighborly Farms

As our celebration of Dairy Month churns on, we’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on a fantastic local, organic dairy farm hailing from Randolph Center, VT: Neighborly Farms! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their award-winning organic cheeses this week! Read on to learn more about this 168-acre organic dairy farm that calls VT home:

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Established as an operating dairy farm in the 1920’s, Rob and Linda Dimmick are continuing the tradition of family farming. Nestled in the rolling hills of Randolph Center, Vermont, Neighborly Farms decorates the countryside with its red barn and white post and beam farmhouse built in the 1800s. We operate on 168 acres with cropland and grazing fields to support the dairy and a sugarhouse for producing pure Vermont maple syrup. The clean and tidy barn is home to 70 Holsteins—the black and white cows that symbolize rural living at its very best.

Rob and Linda are continuing the family farming tradition because they have a passion for the land and animals. We are a totally organic farm. This means the farm is run in complete harmony with the land and the animals; no antibiotics, no hormones, and no commercial fertilizers. Just pure and natural techniques that keep the cows healthy, happy, and the dairy products wholesome and chemical free. It means that the cheese produced at Neighborly Farms are pure and natural. And the best part? The organic cheeses taste great too.

Neighborly Farms of Vermont is not just another dairy farm. At our family farm we have a love for the land and animals. That’s why we’re an organic farm. It says we care about our surroundings and neighbors. Neighborly Farms produces eleven kinds of delicious organic cheeses; all made with wholesome milk from our well-cared for Holstein cows. At our family farm we make cheese the old-fashioned way, by caring for the land and surroundings it helps us produce the finest cheeses possible.

At the Co-op, you’ll find a rotating variety of our cheeses including our Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack, Colby, Feta, Green Onion Cheddar, and our staple Raw Milk Cheddar, many of which have been honored with awards from the prestigious American Cheese Society. We hope you enjoy them and thank you for supporting your local, organic dairy farms!

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An Interview with Kirsten of Flourish Natural Body Care

One of the beautiful, intangible things about supporting local products is the element of human connection. When you have questions about the products, you get to call and speak with an actual human who likely created the products, knows them intimately, and can skillfully answer all of your questions. The alternative often entails calling an 800 number, navigating your way through various electronic menus, listening to bad hold music, and, if you’re lucky, reaching a customer service rep who may or may not be able to answer your questions. We experienced a fine example of this sort of thing recently when we noticed that one of our favorite natural body care product lines was sporting a beautiful new makeover. This prompted us to reach out to founder and creator of Flourish Natural Body Care, Kirsten Connor. She chatted with us from her studio in Woodstock, Vermont, and we got the scoop on the fresh new look, plus lots of other great info about her natural body care products:


Kirsten Blue Background

MNFC:  What inspired your venture into the world of natural body care products?

Kirsten:  I started out as a soap maker. I taught myself to make cold process soap and this whole world of scent and color just opened up for me. I was kind of fascinated by the fact that by using one of the most dangerous/caustic substances (lye) and combining it with the right ingredients it could be completely transformed into something wonderful for your skin. Once I had mastered soap, I added on scrubs and balms and then worked up to understanding lotions and cremes. Hair care was definitely the trickiest because being a “purist” I wanted to be able to make it from soap-but after literally hundreds of trials I had to accept that soap and my hair were not a happy combination. When I began to look more closely at cleansers in shampoos I began to understand that there are really good options that are very gentle and biodegradable. Similarly to the relationship between milled soap and cold process soap.

MNFC:  Your products have some new ingredients added. Can you tell us about this?

Kirsten:  As a formulator, I’ve always subscribed to the theory that “less is more”. I’ve always tried to limit the number of ingredients in a recipe so that they would really have  a chance to shine. Like with our body cremes-the star is the cocoa butter so I really want you to be able to feel the silkiness of that when you are putting it on your skin. Since Vermont is such a agricultural state, people who were sampling our products would always ask me if I grow all the lavender, etc. that we use in our products, not realizing that lavender doesn’t grow reliably well here in Vermont. Our really fun scent combinations have always been what makes our products stand out. One day, while planting in my garden, I read a description of angelica-and was startled because the description was exactly how I always described our Rosewood Infusion blend.  I began to think about other plants that would reflect the feeling that our different scents gave. I consulted with an herbalist and she and I worked together to choose the plants and find the best way to deliver them in the different products.

MNFC:  Your products have a new look! What prompted this packaging change?

Kirsten:  This was a big leap for us! After the flood in 2011, when we restarted Flourish, one of the things we were advised to do was to streamline our manufacturing/purchasing etc. and to use the same bottles for our shampoos, conditioners and lotions. Personally, I’m not a fan of plastic. I don’t use it at home for storing our food, etc. When I was reformulating our recipes, the issue came up for me again. Not only did I want to protect the herbal infusions and essential oils that we were including, but I really wanted to limit participating in so much plastic consumption. Of course, glass containers should never be used in the shower but in every other instance, glass is a better choice. You wouldn’t think of compromising your  beer or kombucha by storing it in a plastic bottle would you? Not to mention that during the manufacturing process, lotions and cremes are poured into their packaging while hot-so even if the plastic bottle or tube is BPA free, just the heat alone will cause some leaching. And then you are applying that to your skin?

MNFC:  What are your considerations when choosing ingredients for your products and how do you go about sourcing them?

Kirsten:  All of the herbal elements that we have added are either wildcrafted from our fields or we grow them in our gardens. Since we grow, harvest, preserve, etc. all of these plants we know that they are up to our standards. For everything else, we always choose organic oils and butters for our lotions and for our cleansers and preservatives we follow Ecocert guidelines when choosing ingredients. If you are not familiar, Ecocert is a European organization and the very first organization to develop standards for cosmetic manufacturing. With Ecocert there must be an absence of GMO’s, parabens, I phenoxyethanol, nano particles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes and dyes, and animal derived ingredients.  These standards close the loopholes that happen here in the US where a product can be certified organic but still contain a percentage of undesirable ingredients like phenoxyethanol.

MNFC:  What is your favorite product that you make? What scent?

Kirsten:  This truly does change with the seasons but overall I would say it is the GingerElixir+Arnica Body Oil. We have always been huge users of arnica for our entire family, but it is usually scented with menthol or peppermint-which I do not love. Having rheumatoid arthritis, I use arnica frequently and don’t always want a heavy medicinal smell. So I created this oil, infused with arnica flowers for pain and inflammation relief but with a warm, spicybeautiful ginger scent. So it’s more like a special treat.

MNFC:  What is your favorite thing about your job as a creator of natural body care products?

Kirsten:  Definitely when people who have tried our products tell me how much they love them!

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