member deals

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seems like the perfect time to shine our Member Deals Spotlight on Equal Exchange – a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, bananas, and avocados from small farmers. All of their co-op-produced, Certified Organic, and Fairtrade Certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 14th – 20th! Read on to learn more about the ways that this cooperative is creating powerful change in industries dominated by profound social, environmental, and economic exploitation:

History:

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

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

 

 

Mission:

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

Authentic Fair Trade:

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

 

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

Bananas:

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

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

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

Avocados:

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

Equal Exchange visiting the farmers from the PROFOSMI avocado cooperative

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

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

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

 

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

Coffee:

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

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

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

 

Chocolate:

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

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

Supporting Small Cooperative Farmers During the Pandemic:

Equal Exchange works with farmer co-ops in over 20 countries, and their model is to actively seek and partner with marginalized farming communities. These remote communities face significant challenges during the best of times. During
a pandemic, the challenges become more acute. Equal Exchange intentionally works with farmers who have organized themselves into democratically-run cooperatives. They believe this structure helps change the balance of power long-term. They’re seeing that during the pandemic, the co-op systems have provided lifelines to farmers, helping them in ways that would not have existed were it not for the existence of the co-op.

Here are a few of the ways that these democratic farmer co-ops realized and responded to their members’ needs, in ways that their national governments or health care systems could not:
  • Cocoa co-op Acopagro in Peru used recent advanced Fair Trade premium payments from Equal Exchange to provide food, masks, and cleaning supplies to co-op members in 2 different communities where they work. 
  • Coffee co-op members from San Fernando in Peru focused on the fact that they had productive land at a time when many of their children were living or studying in the city without reliable access to healthy food; they collectively filled a truck with their homegrown produce and delivered the food to their children. 
  • Banana co-op AsoGuabo in Ecuador used Fair Trade premium funds to purchase PPE for medical workers in the community and mobilized its logistics operations to transport medicines and supplies to local hospitals. This was critical support at a time when transportation was significantly restricted as a result of curfew measures.
  • Sugar Co-op Manduvira in Paraguay donated money to local health clinics, intentionally directing part of their limited resources to other trusted organizations that in turn help their members.
Manduvira-Co-op in Paraguay

Spotlight on Singing Cedars Apiaries

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October and offers a time to honor the historic and cultural significance of the Indigenous Peoples here in Vermont and beyond, with the recognition that our country was founded and built upon unceded lands that they have inhabited and stewarded since time immemorial. The Western Abenaki are the traditional caretakers of these Vermont lands and waters, which they call Ndakinna. With this in mind, we wanted to shine an extra bright Member Deals Spotlight on Singing Cedars Apiaries, which, according to their website, was started by native Abenaki Roland Smith and his wife Deborah in the basement of their teepee in 1971. From October 7th – 13th, Co-op member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on all of Singing Cedars Apiaries’ glorious honey products! Read on to learn more about this family-owned business and their commitment to providing you the best honey the Champlain Valley has to offer:

 

Singing Cedars Apiaries is a family operation started by native Abenaki Roland (Wants To Be Chief) and his wife Deborah (Little Cloud Big Storm) in the basement of their teepee in 1971. According to their website, they specialize in producing pure raw honey for retail sale, and nucleus colonies and queens both for their own enterprise and to sell to other beekeepers. A feature in American Bee Journal also points out that they sell their beeswax to candle makers and crafters, maximizing the use of every material their bees produce. In true family fashion, Roland, Deborah, and their four children developed this apiary which now manages over 1100 colonies with their grandchildren and Son-in-Laws Christopher (Hates to Bee Sticky) and Tim (Aboriginee) doing much of the work. Deborah was heavily involved with the beekeeping in the beginning, though now she has her hands full managing the office handling all of the orders of honey, queens, and nucs. 

Over the years they’ve established authentic relationships with each of the local retail outlets that offer their honey. Roland points out that the customers they’ve served for 20 plus years, with whom they have developed strong working relationships are the foundation of their stable business. Their bees are spread out over both sides of Lake Champlain in both Vermont and New York. Their forage primarily consists of white Dutch clover, honeysuckle, basswood, goldenrod, and asters. In a good year, they’re able to produce 100 – 150 pounds of honey per hive!

Singing Cedars offers a variety of honey products, including creamed honey flavored with natural oils. Their honey is unpasteurized to retain all the natural goodness nature provided in its enzymes and pollen, and unfiltered yet strained to remove any wax and propolis sometimes associated with raw honey to provide a rich smooth product for your enjoyment.

Co-op Connection Business of the Month – Green Peppers!

Have a hankering for a mouth-watering slice of pizza? Or how about a calzone, some pasta or a fresh, beautiful salad? Check out Green Peppers Restaurant! They’re our featured Co-op Connection Business this Month, so we’re reminding member-owners that you can enjoy 10% off your meal at Green Peppers! Green Peppers, owned by Mark and Donna Perrin, has been serving up delicious food in Middlebury since 1982.

As with all restaurants and food service operations, Green Peppers was not immune to the intense pandemic-related challenges of the past few years. In a true display of resilience, they viewed these challenges as an opportunity to rebrand their business to an online order/curbside pickup model to better serve the community. Complete with a fresh new website with an easy-to-use online ordering platform that will go live this month, they’re striving to keep it simple for their customers by providing convenient and efficient services 7 days a week. Hungry customers may place their order hours or even days in advance. Trying to feed a large crowd? They can help you do that too, with pizza, pasta, subs, salads, and more!

 

Since they first opened their doors nearly 40 years ago, Green Peppers has been a family-owned and family-operated business. After living in Los Angeles for 8 years, their youngest daughter Leslie has moved home to help support the family business. She had been spearheading most of Green Pepper’s social media from California for the past two years but has stepped into a bigger role since returning home.   In addition to being a great chef, family man, and successful small business owner, Mark is also very involved in serving his community. He participates in Hunger Free Vermont’s local chapter of the Addison County Hunger Council, which aims to alleviate food insecurity for members of our community. He has also been actively involved in the community by serving on the Chamber of Commerce Board, Workforce Investment Board, and Middlebury Business Association Board. Governor Shumlin appointed Perrin to the State Board of Education on April 12, 2013, to serve a six-year term (2013-2019) with a focus on policy concerning the education of Vermont students and assuring equal access for all Vermont students to a quality education.

We’re proud to know Mark and his family and we’re grateful to have such a wonderful local restaurant as our neighbor. Green Peppers is open daily from 10:30 am – 7 pm and they look forward to serving you. Choose from a mouth-watering list of soups, calzones, salads, pasta, pizzas, subs, and more! Gluten-free? They’ve got you covered! Just don’t forget to mention that you’re a Co-op member!

 

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.

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

 

Spotlight on Aqua ViTea

This week’s  Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on Aqua ViTea! All of their non-alcoholic Kombucha is 20% off for member-owners from September 2nd – 8th! Read on to learn more about this unique local business with humble beginnings on a Salisbury Farm!

 

History

Aqua ViTea began in 2007 in the Salisbury, Vermont farmhouse of Jeff Weaber and Dr. Katina Martin, based on the naturopathic principle of “food as medicine.” Weaber and Martin had just relocated to Vermont after 9 years in Portland, Oregon, where Katina pursued medical degrees in Naturopathy, Midwifery, and Acupuncture and Jeff served as the brewer for The Lucky Labrador Brewing Company. Honing the craft of fermentation at work and learning about functional foods and the governing role of the digestive system from Katina at home led Weaber to discover the wonders of Kombucha.

Aqua ViTea founder Jeff Weaber with his wife Katina Martin at their Salisbury home where they first began brewing kombucha

By 2007, he was selling his Kombucha to the happy crowds at the Middlebury Farmers Market under the Aqua ViTea brand and in 2008, he began bottling his product and selling wholesale to our Co-op and a handful of other local markets. By 2014, demand began to outpace production capacity, and plans to move Aqua ViTea’s production off the farm began to ferment. They first moved to a state-of-the-art facility in Bristol, VT, followed by yet another upgrade in 2017 to an even more impressive facility — the former home of Woodchuck Cider just off of Exchange Street in Middlebury. Today, the rapidly growing company is the largest Kombucha producer on the east coast and proudly brews low sugar, alcohol-free, organic kombucha with naturally abundant probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants, whose balanced blend of sparkling refreshment and bold flavor makes it the perfect substitute for juice or soda. 

Giant vats of kombucha brewing at Aqua ViTea’s state-of-the-art facility in Middlebury

As the business grew, Weaber called on Mike Kin, who was a close friend of Weaber’s in Oregon, and convinced him to move to Vermont with his family to become the company’s brewer. If you dig the artwork on Aqua ViTea’s packaging and materials as much as we do, you’ve got Mike to thank for these. He sketches each one by hand, creating the funky, colorful, amazing signature artwork that you see on all of AquaVitea’s products!

Mike Kin creates the signature Freshketch artwork for Aqua ViTea

 

Commitment to Authenticity

Many commercially available Kombucha brands have been found to contain significantly more sugar and alcohol than their labels disclose. Additionally, some large-scale Kombucha products are being manufactured in a lab setting, force carbonated, and even pasteurized, with the probiotic cultures added artificially as “ingredients” to the end product.

Aqua ViTea Kombucha has kid-friendly ingredients you can trust

Aqua ViTea, since day one, has shown a deep commitment to authenticity. This begins by sourcing the highest quality ingredients, including sustainably sourced organic tea from Middlebury’s Stone Leaf Teahouse and organic cane sugar to feed the ferment. Their Kombucha is the product of a live, active fermentation, which allows the live cultures and enzymes to develop naturally and delivers the tangy effervescence that Kombucha drinkers love. They are one of only two kombucha makers in the country who have invested in a spinning cone column, which allows for the extraction and recovery of volatile compounds, including alcohol, without the need for excessive heat. And since the alcohol is removed at the end of fermentation, the active cultures can grow at their own pace, which results in authentic, delicious, and non-alcoholic Kombucha. They even employ an in-house microbiologist to analyze the safety and purity of their products.

Laura Smith from Aqua ViTea tells a tour group from Addison Central Teens about the cone extractor, which removes the alcohol from Aqua ViTea’s kombucha

 

After Glow

An exciting recent addition to the Aqua ViTea lineup is AfterGlow Hard Kombucha. This is a smooth, tasty alternative to beer and cider and a more natural option than spiked seltzers. It’s organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with only the finest sustainably sourced ingredients. While they do extract the alcohol from their traditional Kombucha, that alcohol is not used in creating AfterGlow. Instead, they let AfterGlow’s natural alcohol mature through fermentation and into the can – resulting in a mindfully made adult beverage.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Aqua ViTea

This week’s  Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly on Aqua ViTea! All of their non-alcoholic Kombucha is 20% off for member-owners from September 2nd – 8th! Read on to learn more about this unique local business with humble beginnings on a Salisbury Farm!

 

History

Aqua ViTea began in 2007 in the Salisbury, Vermont farmhouse of Jeff Weaber and Dr. Katina Martin, based on the naturopathic principle of “food as medicine.” Weaber and Martin had just relocated to Vermont after 9 years in Portland, Oregon, where Katina pursued medical degrees in Naturopathy, Midwifery, and Acupuncture and Jeff served as the brewer for The Lucky Labrador Brewing Company. Honing the craft of fermentation at work and learning about functional foods and the governing role of the digestive system from Katina at home led Weaber to discover the wonders of Kombucha.

Aqua ViTea founder Jeff Weaber with his wife Katina Martin at their Salisbury home where they first began brewing kombucha

By 2007, he was selling his Kombucha to the happy crowds at the Middlebury Farmers Market under the Aqua ViTea brand and in 2008, he began bottling his product and selling wholesale to our Co-op and a handful of other local markets. By 2014, demand began to outpace production capacity, and plans to move Aqua ViTea’s production off the farm began to ferment. They first moved to a state-of-the-art facility in Bristol, VT, followed by yet another upgrade in 2017 to an even more impressive facility — the former home of Woodchuck Cider just off of Exchange Street in Middlebury. Today, the rapidly growing company is the largest Kombucha producer on the east coast and proudly brews low sugar, alcohol-free, organic kombucha with naturally abundant probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants, whose balanced blend of sparkling refreshment and bold flavor makes it the perfect substitute for juice or soda. 

Giant vats of kombucha brewing at Aqua ViTea’s state-of-the-art facility in Middlebury

As the business grew, Weaber called on Mike Kin, who was a close friend of Weaber’s in Oregon, and convinced him to move to Vermont with his family to become the company’s brewer. If you dig the artwork on Aqua ViTea’s packaging and materials as much as we do, you’ve got Mike to thank for these. He sketches each one by hand, creating the funky, colorful, amazing signature artwork that you see on all of AquaVitea’s products!

Mike Kin creates the signature Freshketch artwork for Aqua ViTea

 

Commitment to Authenticity

Many commercially available Kombucha brands have been found to contain significantly more sugar and alcohol than their labels disclose. Additionally, some large-scale Kombucha products are being manufactured in a lab setting, force carbonated, and even pasteurized, with the probiotic cultures added artificially as “ingredients” to the end product.

Aqua ViTea Kombucha has kid-friendly ingredients you can trust

Aqua ViTea, since day one, has shown a deep commitment to authenticity. This begins by sourcing the highest quality ingredients, including sustainably sourced organic tea from Middlebury’s Stone Leaf Teahouse and organic cane sugar to feed the ferment. Their Kombucha is the product of a live, active fermentation, which allows the live cultures and enzymes to develop naturally and delivers the tangy effervescence that Kombucha drinkers love. They are one of only two kombucha makers in the country who have invested in a spinning cone column, which allows for the extraction and recovery of volatile compounds, including alcohol, without the need for excessive heat. And since the alcohol is removed at the end of fermentation, the active cultures can grow at their own pace, which results in authentic, delicious, and non-alcoholic Kombucha. They even employ an in-house microbiologist to analyze the safety and purity of their products.

Laura Smith from Aqua ViTea tells a tour group from Addison Central Teens about the cone extractor, which removes the alcohol from Aqua ViTea’s kombucha

 

After Glow

An exciting recent addition to the Aqua ViTea lineup is AfterGlow Hard Kombucha. This is a smooth, tasty alternative to beer and cider and a more natural option than spiked seltzers. It’s organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with only the finest sustainably sourced ingredients. While they do extract the alcohol from their traditional Kombucha, that alcohol is not used in creating AfterGlow. Instead, they let AfterGlow’s natural alcohol mature through fermentation and into the can – resulting in a mindfully made adult beverage.

 

 

 

 

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 19th – 25th, 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.

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.

 

This past year brought big changes for Bee’s Wrap® as the business was sold to an undisclosed private investor. Since first founding the business back in 2012, Kaeck had overseen 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 Chief Executive Officer at Hinesburg-based Vermont Smoke & Cure and three previous years at Keurig Green Mountain. 

In a recent 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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