member deals

Spotlight on Lake Champlain Chocolates

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight this week on a local favorite – Lake Champlain Chocolates! All of their mouth-watering Fairtrade Certified chocolates are 20% off for member-owners from November 19th – 25th! Read on to learn more about this local confectionery that has called Vermont home for almost 40 years and their commitment to responsible sourcing:

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History:

The story of Lake Champlain Chocolates began back in 1983 when founder Jim Lampman dared his pastry chef at Burlington’s Ice House Restaurant to create a better truffle than the ones he had been buying for his staff as holiday gifts. Together they began making the most amazing hand-rolled, creamy truffles and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sourcing Matters:

From the very beginning, long before eating local was cool, Lake Champlain Chocolates has been committed to sourcing Vermont-grown ingredients whenever possible. They knew that using high-quality Vermont honey, maple syrup, and fresh dairy from local farmers and producers would result in superior chocolates.

The goal is to bring you their best. To make high-quality chocolate that amazes with exquisite flavor and creates a moment of pure joy. It’s also why they’ve never added preservatives, extenders, or additives, and why they’ve worked diligently to remove GMOs from all of their chocolates and use organic and Fairtrade certified ingredients whenever possible. With each new product, the goal remains the same – to create something special, and to give you the best experience.

Eric Lampman in the Dominican Republic

A Family Affair:

Lake Champlain Chocolates is a second-generation, family-owned business, just like the generations of Vermont family farmers that provide them with fresh butter, cream, maple syrup, and honey. And just like the generations of cacao farmers in places like the Dominican Republic and Guatemala — with whom they have direct partnerships. Today, Jim’s son and daughter, Eric and Ellen, are defining the future of Lake Champlain Chocolates by developing award-winning organic products and spearheading sustainable sourcing initiatives. Along the way following the Lampman family principles: Dare to do better. Always do it with Passion. And do it your way.

Lampman Family

Fair Trade:

Making great-tasting chocolate is hard work and the team at Lake Champlain Chocolates believes that every person in this process should be treated and compensated fairly and that their actions should make a positive impact on local and global communities. When you purchase Fairtrade chocolate, more money goes back to the farmers, allowing them to lift themselves out of poverty and build a better life for their families. It also allows these farmers to invest additional Fairtrade premiums in community development, ensures a ban on forced labor and child labor, and encourages environmentally-sustainable farming practices. Go ahead and indulge your sweet tooth and feel good knowing that 100% of the chocolate they use at Lake Champlain Chocolates is Fairtrade certified.

Why Buy Fairtrade Certified Chocolate?

  •  Farmers and workers are justly compensated and have safe working conditions (this includes prohibiting the use of forced labor and child labor).
  • Farmers are empowered to lift themselves out of poverty and help to build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.
  • Cocoa farmers and co-ops receive an additional premium for investing in community development.
  • Farming communities develop skills that help them use the free market to their advantage.
  • Farming villages become better stewards of the environment — using sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices to preserve local habitats and increase biodiversity

 

B Corp Certification:

Lake Champlain Chocolates joined a growing community of more than 2,500 certified B Corporations worldwide who are united under one common goal – to redefine success in business. Rather than focus solely on profits, certified  B Corporations are leaders of a global movement of people using business as a force for good. They meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability and aspire to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Unlike other certifications that look at individual products, B Corporation evaluates the entire business — assessing the yearly impact on the environment, workers, customers, community, and government.  This new type of corporation is purpose-driven to create benefits for all, not just shareholders, working together to be the change we seek in the world.

For Lake Champlain Chocolates these performance standards provide a valuable third-party measurement tool, assuring customers and suppliers that LCC’s business practices meet the highest standards. “Achieving B Corp Certification is the next step towards fulfilling our company’s vision to become the gold standard of chocolate companies in the United States, a respected leader other companies aspire to be,” says Eric Lampman, LCC President. “For more than 35 years, our practices have been guided by one core value – ‘everything must measure up to the chocolate.’  And this includes making a positive impact on our local and global communities by respecting our employees, fostering long-term partnerships with our suppliers, and practicing environmental responsibility.”

Factory Tours:

The folks at Lake Champlain Chocolates would love to show you around! Visit their flagship store on Pine Street in Burlington to watch their master chocolatiers craft extraordinary chocolate right before your eyes. Watch a brief video to learn how chocolate is made, where it comes from, and what makes their chocolates so delicious. And while you’re there, be sure to treat yourself to one of their specialty confections like Almond Butter Crunch, their famous chocolate truffle or enjoy a hot chocolate, espresso, or ice cream from their café. Their factory tours are free, self-guided, informative, and fun! Chocolate is typically produced Monday-Friday; however there can be changes in the production schedule without notice.You may visit Monday – Sunday, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, though to see the most action in the factory, it is recommended to visit Monday-Friday before 2:00 pm.

Lake Champlain Chocolates also offers free outdoor chocolate tastings (weather permitting) at their Pine Street location on Saturdays from 12:00 – 4:00. 

 

 

Spotlight on Elmer Farm

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Elmer Farm this week to celebrate this 90-acre organic farm and the farmers who bring it to life. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their glorious spread of organic vegetables from November 12th – 18th!  Read on to learn more about the history and heritage of this farm, which has been providing food for this community since the early 1800’s!

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Driving into East Middlebury on Route 116, it’s hard to miss the beautiful patch of flowers bordering the white farmhouse at the entryway to Elmer Farm. What you might not see from the road are the amazing fields of vegetables that are grown on this fertile, organic soil. Elmer Farm is a conserved 90-acre farm growing 8 acres of mixed vegetables, flowers, and herbs, all of which are certified organic. Annual inspections and certification by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) ensure that the crops are grown responsibly and safely without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

The farm originally belonged to the Elmer family in the early 1800’s and has a long heritage of providing food for its community. The receding glaciers bestowed the farm with a wonderful mix of fertile soils and sandy loam, perfectly suited to growing vegetables and grains. It’s on this fruitful land that Elmer Farm now grows more than thirty-five different vegetables, an array of flowers, and culinary herbs. This includes over 200 different seed varieties, many of which are heirlooms. With a goal of maintaining long-term soil health, the crew at Elmer Farm also manages an additional 15 acres of rotating cover crop, keeping one-third of their acreage in production and two-thirds resting.

 

A number of years ago, representatives from HOPE, Middlebury College, ACORN,  and the local business community, along with several local farmers, including Spencer from Elmer Farm and Will Stevens of Golden Russet Farm, got together to discuss the possibility of increasing the amount of locally grown food offered at HOPE’s food shelf. This group recognized that Addison County farmers grow vast amounts of beautiful, healthy organic fruits and vegetables, which are often unavailable or too pricey to those who need it most. They also recognized that these farms often had excess produce available that would not be destined for retail markets, which could instead be diverted to the food shelf. Fast-forward to the present day, and the idea hatched by this group has evolved into an incredibly successful program that is bringing thousands of pounds of healthy, local foods to those in our community who need it most while also diverting a lot of food from the waste stream.

 

At the Co-op, you can find Elmer Farm’s organic cabbage, red & yellow onions, butternut squash, baby bok choy, radishes, leeks, scallions, kale, chard, and their famous carrots! 

Spotlight on Immaculate Baking Company

Sometimes we might feel like getting out the flour and the baking powder and doing the measuring and mixing, but other times call for a quick baking fix and that’s when we like to reach for products from Immaculate Baking Company! They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from November 5th – 11th, a perfect time to ease into the holiday baking season, and all of their products will be 20% off for member-owners. Read on to learn more about this “honestly delicious” company and their humble roots:

It was back in a garage in 1995 that Immaculate Baking Company founder Scott Blackwell started his business with a simple dream: bake great-tasting treats and inspire the natural artist in all of us. Immaculate has grown beyond his wildest dreams, but it still remains true to those original values. And Scott’s baking ventures began even before that day in the mid-nineties. In first grade, he sold candy bar kits, and, sensing a budding love for food, Scott’s grandmother taught him the art of home baking.

So, was it easy to go from his grandmother’s kitchen to become the founder of the Immaculate Baking Company? Hardly. Scott paid his way through college baking and supplying 28 restaurants with pies. After college, he became a distributor for a major ice cream brand then moved to South Carolina where he opened a restaurant, Immaculate Consumption. Visitors loved his sandwiches, baked goods, and fresh-roasted coffee. Inspired by patrons’ enthusiasm for his coffee and treats, Scott sold the restaurant and worked out of his garage to sell fresh-roasted coffee beans and cookies, all wrapped in plain brown paper.

For years, Scott struggled to get his business out of the garage and into the mainstream. To boost his spirits, he’d take road trips around the southern U.S where he discovered folk art. He was inspired by their stories, their frequently hardscrabble lives, and how resourceful and creative they were in constructing their beautiful, deceptively simple pieces. Scott decided to pay tribute to these often unsung artists by featuring their work on his cookie and coffee packaging. And their resourcefulness inspired him to get creative.

In 1997, Scott went to a food trade show on the West Coast and handed out cookies. The next week, orders began to roll in from high-end food retailers and just two years later, his cookies began winning awards at food shows. Immaculate Baking quickly outgrew Scott’s garage and rapidly graduated to a huge facility in North Carolina. Over time, the brand expanded from refrigerated cookie doughs made with organic flour and sugar to include convenient canned dough products like Cinnamon Rolls, Biscuits and Scones, and even many gluten-free options.

Fast forward a few years to 2012, when Immaculate Baking Company joined the family of passionate bakers at General Mills. Nowadays, they make a whole bunch of certified organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO products that they know you’ll love because they love ‘em too. And, after all these years, they still stick to those original values from Scott’s garage in ‘95… They celebrate creativity and soulful goodness by making honestly delicious goodies wrapped in a gallery of inspiring folk art. What’s not to love about that?

Check out their webpage to learn more and check out their fantastic collection of recipes!

 

 

Business of the Month – Stone Leaf Teahouse

A whistling tea kettle, the spicy aroma of simmering chai, a quiet space to sit, relax, and enjoy the moment…these are all part of the typical experience when you visit our featured Co-op Connection Business, Stone Leaf Teahouse, and it seems to beckon us this time of year when the air turns cool and crisp. Of course, the challenges to community health and safety presented by the COVID pandemic have led Stone Leaf Teahouse owner John Wetzel to make the difficult decision to transition to a slightly adjusted model where you can preorder your tea online, have it shipped to you, or pick it up curbside Monday – Saturday between 11 am and 4 pm. Perhaps recreating the cozy atmosphere of the Teahouse in the comfort of your own home as you sip your delicious tea can be a fun way to spend a lazy weekend day?

The staff at Stone Leaf Teahouse has an intimate knowledge of the impressive list of teas offered and John has traveled to many of the farms from which their teas are sourced, gaining an even deeper understanding of the tea’s journey from farm to cup. They have applied their collective knowledge to develop an extremely handy online “Tea Guru” tool that will walk you through the process of selecting a tea that you will love.  Remind them that you’re a Co-op member-owner and you’ll receive 10% off your order! You can also find their premium loose leaf teas in our Bulk tea department. It’s a unique treat to have teas this fresh available in our store. Read on to learn more about the teahouse and its offerings.

About Us:

Based in Vermont, our teas reflect our ideals; grown with skill and heart to cultivate a healthy ecosystem and global community. Each year we visit the tea gardens that produce the finest teas in the world. We connect you to the families that have grown and processed tea for generations.

Established in 2009, Stone Leaf Teahouse was built, well from the stone. Upon returning from travels in India and Taiwan, we searched for the perfect space for storing and serving quality tea. We found that space in the Marbleworks in Middlebury, Vermont…our little “tea cave”. Surrounded by stone, our fresh teas keep fresh, and our aging teas age gracefully.

 

Our Focus:

We travel to all the regions that we source tea to forge a connection between the grower and drinker, directly importing from China, Taiwan, India, Nepal, and Japan (with more to come as we grow!).

We source teas fresh, buying the best harvests, often multiple times a year.

We connect the tea drinker to the tea garden.

We are students of tea, here to share the connection through a cup of tea.

Workshops:

Would you like to delve deeper into the world of tea? Check out the workshop calendar for some exciting opportunities to learn more! Of course, for now, these workshops will be offered online. You can also visit the Tea House blog to read more about the world of tea, including a recent fascinating post on the rich and complex history of tea, sugar, and slavery. 

The Menu:

Stone Leaf Teahouse offers an extensive menu of some of the freshest and most unique tea varieties available, including 38 varieties of tea from the 2020 harvest. Many of their tea offerings are certified organic. To view the full menu, click here.

Spotlight on King Arthur Baking Company

Are you gearing up for the holiday baking season? What a perfect time to stock up on local baking supplies from King Arthur Baking Company! They’re featured in our Member Deals Spotlight from October 29th – November 4th, so member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on their full line of baking products! Read on to learn more about America’s oldest flour company and its mission to create and deliver superior products and knowledge so that consumers experience the joy and passion of baking, all informed by their values as a 100% employee-owned Benefit Corporation:

 

King Arthur is an employee-owned company on a mission to be the ultimate resource and inspiration in the kitchen, to inspire connections and community through baking, and to use their business as a force for good. They were first founded over 230 years ago and while much has changed over the years (including a recent name change from King Arthur Flour to King Arthur Baking Company), they remain committed to the principles upon which they were founded. They believe in the power of baking to make a difference — for people and the planet. They work to build stronger communities and increase access and connection to real foods. They take pride in their responsible sourcing and their “never bleached” guarantee. And they work closely with farmers, millers, and suppliers in a continued commitment toward sustainability.

King Arthur Baking Company Headquarters in Norwich, VT

 

King Arthur Baking Company is a certified B-Corporation and they measure their progress with a triple bottom line — people, planet, and profit. Their products are non-GMO Verified by the third-party Non-GMO project and they source their wheat from American farms, helping grow a strong, sustainable agricultural economy. In partnership with their farmers, they’re working to limit pesticide exposure while increasing sustainable yields in a changing climate; promoting our planet’s health for many years to come. They carry on their centuries-old heritage of stewardship through the quality of their brand, and the steps they take to preserve the vitality of the community and the earth on which we live. Click here to view their Mission & Impact documented through the annual B Impact assessment.

Gluten-Free Baking Made Simple with King Arthur Baking Company’s Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

At King Arthur Baking, they have always believed that everyone deserves equal access to the joy of baking. They strive to ensure that their values are reflected in all that they do. To maintain and extend a history of putting community, their employee-owners, and the planet first, they recognize that they must also address the social injustices that challenge those very values. They have committed themselves to this work not out of obligation, but because it’s ingrained in who they are as a company. They recognize that the work of fostering an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion will never end; there will always be more humbling, difficult, and meaningful work to do. And they commit to rising to the challenge time and time again — because of a strong sense of responsibility to break down barriers that hinder access to baking, a universal craft that has the power to unite people from all walks of life. Click here to read more about their ongoing work towards diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Whether you’re a brand new baker or a seasoned professional, King Arthur Baking is there for you with an incredible volume of resources to help you bake your best. There are handy tips for what to do when your bread falls flat and your cookies crumble, excellent instructional videos to help you understand everything from bulk fermentation to baking the perfect pie crust, and recipes for anything you could ever dream to bake. And if you’re a professional baker, King Arthur Baking offers a library of reference materials and information that will be helpful in bakeries, restaurants, and production facilities. They also offer live classes for every type of baker at every skill level at their facility in Norwich, Vermont. Classes range from introductory demonstrations for beginners to intensive week-long professional courses, with a wide variety of hands-on classes for adults and children. Let them be your ultimate go-to resource for all things baking.

Baking School at King Arthur Baking Company
 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Champlain Orchards

One of the hallmarks of autumn 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 October 22nd – 28th! 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.

 

Champlain Orchards Co-owner, Bill Suhr. Photo Credit: S.P. Reid

Today, Champlain Orchards manages over 220 acres of fruit trees that includes over 120 varieties of apples as well as peaches, pears, plums, cherries, nectarines, apricots, 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.

Aerial View of the Orchard

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!

Cider Tasting Room at the Orchard

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 this year is 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 recent 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 the very unfortunate COVID outbreak among their orchard crew in early October. The orchard closed for a short time in an effort to contain the outbreak and care for their staff members. Thankfully, all staff members affected have since made a full recovery. Suhr and his wife Andrea Scott worked closely with the Vermont Department of Health to ensure they were doing everything possible to keep their team, customers, and community safe during the crisis. Health Commissioner Mark Levine praised Suhr and Scott for their response and management of the incident. The orchard has since fully re-opened for business and they wish to express their deep gratitude for the outpouring of love and support from the local community. For more information and a list of FAQ’s related to the outbreak, click here. 

Spotlight on Equal Exchange

October is Co-op Month, Fair Trade Month, and Non-GMO month, so it seemed 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, fair trade certified goods are 20% off for member-owners from October 15th – 21st! 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.

 

Equal Exchange – Who We Are. from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

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 inception in 2011, the Congo Coffee Project has raised more than $80,000 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 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 fo 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 Lotus Foods

Happy non-GMO month! We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Lotus Foods this week to bring awareness to their grassroots rice revolution that is helping to bring sustainably grown, fairly traded, regenerative, organic, and non-GMO rice to your dinner table! All of their products are 20% off for member-owners from October 8th – 14th. Read on to learn more about the groundbreaking agricultural practices that are making this possible and the impact that it’s having in rice-growing regions of the world:

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Lotus Foods was founded in 1995 with the intent and vision to support sustainable global agriculture by promoting the production of traditional heirloom rice varieties, many of which may otherwise be extinct, while enabling the small family rice farmer to earn an honorable living. They learned that up to one-third of the planet’s annual renewable supply of fresh water is used to irrigate rice and recognized that this practice is not sustainable. These wasteful agricultural methods are depleting our water resources faster than they are being recharged, creating water scarcity. For this reason, in 2008, Lotus Foods committed to partnering with small-scale farmers who radically changed how they grow rice, using less to produce more.

Lotus Foods feels strongly that sustainability is premised on an ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, and a culture of peace. They believe that eradicating poverty and promoting social and economic justice must begin with agriculture and must be accomplished in a way that protects and restores the natural resources on which all life depends. At the crux of this challenge is rice, which provides a source of living to more than two billion people, most earning less than $200 per year.

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A Grassroots Rice Revolution


In 2008 Lotus Foods committed to partnering with small-scale farmers who radically changed how they grow rice, using less to produce more. More Crop Per Drop™ is how Lotus Foods refers to their rice grown using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).  SRI is a not a new seed or input, but rather a different way of cultivating rice that enables small-scale farmers to double and triple their yields while using 80-90% less seed, 50% less water, and less or no chemical inputs. That’s revolutionary!

Why is SRI so Important?

This unique agricultural method addresses some of the most important challenges we face this century – namely to feed several billion more people with dwindling land and water resources and without further degrading the planet’s environment. SRI has been largely grassroots-driven, fueled by marginalized male & female farmers and the non-profit organizations (NGOs) who advocate for their welfare, like Oxfam, Africare, WWF and many dedicated local NGOs and individuals. The reason these farmers are so excited about SRI is that it represents an opportunity for more food, more money, better health, and more options – in short, for a way out of poverty.

Lotus Foods sees SRI as a logical extension of its mission. They offer exceptional SRI-grown rice varieties and call them More Crop Per Drop to bring to special attention to water as a diminishing resource. Fully one-quarter to one-third of the planet’s annual freshwater supplies are used to irrigate and grow the global rice crop. And in Asia, where most rice is grown and eaten, about 84% of water withdrawal is for agriculture, mostly for irrigating rice. Water scarcity is having an increasingly significant impact on agriculture. According to the WWF, “The SRI method for growing rice could save hundreds of billions of cubic meters of water while increasing food security.”  Check out this cool video from the Better U Foundation to learn more about SRI:

What about Organic Certification, Fair Trade Certification & Non-GMO Verification?

Most of their rice varieties are already certified organic, while others are in the process of becoming certified, and still, others are working to help develop a certifying program in their country of origin. These organic and transitional rices are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or ionizing radiation. Their rices are 100% fair-trade certified and non-GMO verified. In 2016 Lotus Foods became a fully certified B Corp or Benefit Corporation. B corporations are legally obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers, and environment. It’s our conviction that we can change the world for the better by how we conduct our business.

Going Beyond Organic

Lotus Food’s traditional White and Brown Basmati Rice has qualified for Regenerative Organic Certified™ (ROC™) Silver. It is the first rice to achieve this rigorous new standard, which goes beyond existing Organic and Fair Trade certifications in promoting farming that enriches rather than degrades soil and values animals and workers. ROC certification requires organic certification as a baseline while adding additional criteria for soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness.

At the Co-op, you’ll find several varieties of Lotus Foods rice in our bulk department, and in the grocery department, you’ll find their packaged rice and also their delicious Rice Ramen and Pad Thai noodles. Visit their website for excellent tips and recipes!

Cambodian More Crop Per Drop™ farmer

Co-op Connection Business of the Month – County Tire

Winter weather is just around the corner, so it’s a great time to start thinking about winter tires.  We invite you to check out our Co-op Connection Business of the Month – County Tire! Not only can they fix you up with new tires, but they also offer a wide range of automotive services and they have a special deal for Co-op member-owners! Present your member card to receive 10% off parts and 5% off tires! Read on to learn more about the oldest locally-owned tire shop in Addison County:

If you need tire or automotive care, trust County Tire Center, Inc! Located at 33 Seymour Street Middlebury, VT 05753, County Tire Center, Inc. is your trusted source for all of your automotive and tire needs. Owners Steve and Lisa are there to ensure that your visit to County Tire Center, Inc. will not only solve all of your automotive needs but will be one that you will be sure to share with others. They take pride in quality service and the ability to meet customers’ needs in a timely manner.

Servicing customers in the greater Champlain Valley of Vermont and New York, County Tire Center, Inc. has the automotive expertise and friendly, reliable service you need to get you back on the road fast! From tire sales and batteries to shocks, struts, brake, and transmission services, they can handle all of your vehicle needs to keep you running in top shape.

With their years of experience, they offer quality parts and services at the best prices possible. They take pride in their work and strive for great customer satisfaction on each visit. Their goal is to keep your vehicle running in the best possible condition and they will not settle for “good enough.” They went into business in order to bring a higher quality to automotive work in the Middlebury area and intend to have each customer leave happy while offering the most competitive prices in the area.

With their excellent selection of Bridgestone, Firestone, and Nokian tires, they can fit any vehicle make and model. They strive to ensure customer satisfaction and vehicle safety and will do whatever it takes to make sure that you and your vehicle only receive top-quality tires and equipment. They understand that your vehicle is a large investment and they welcome your business in protecting that investment.

If you need general automotive services, computerized tire balancing, general tire service, oil changes, brake service, custom auto detailing or performance tires, consider County Tire Center, Inc. Do you have an electric or hybrid vehicle? County Tire Center, Inc. is an authorized Hybrid/EV repair center offering a wide range of services to keep your hybrid or electric vehicle in top condition. Please feel free to contact them at 802-388-7620 or online to discuss the many options and services offered.

How do they stay small and sell big? It’s simple: years of experience. County Tire Center, Inc. has been in business since 1982. Their mission is to offer you the latest in parts and products, at the best prices with unparalleled service. They pledge their best efforts to make your experience both beneficial and enjoyable. Once you try County Tire, we’re sure you’ll be back for more!

 

Spotlight on Aura Cacia

To kick off our celebration of Co-op Month, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Aura Cacia this week to highlight all of the wonderful things this cooperative does to source and provide quality products while also giving back to their community. All of their products are 30% off for member-owners from October 1st – 7th.  Read on to learn more about what makes this company worthy of the Spotlight:

 

As part of Frontier Co-op, Aura Cacia shares the cooperative values of nourishing people and planet. They care for the small grower communities at the source of their products, openly share product information, show their customers how to improve their lives with aromatherapy and give back to help those in need.

Aura Cacia is committed to both quality products and quality of life. They offer outstanding products made from simple and pure botanical ingredients that improve the well-being of those who use them. They test every shipment of essential oil they receive to verify its purity and quality.

As they travel the world to find top-quality essential oils, they encourage sustainable growing practices that preserve and improve land and resources for the future. Click here to learn more about Frontier Co-op’s sourcing.

As part of Frontier Co-op’s far-reaching sustainable sourcing initiatives, they support the growers’ communities with charitable projects that fundamentally improve people’s lives. They’ve created the Positive Change Project to give back a portion of each Aura Cacia purchase to organizations that help women bring positive change to their lives. Through this project recently, they’ve been able to serve the following organizations:

  • Climb Wyoming:  At Climb Wyoming, single mothers and their children experience the highest rates of poverty among families in Wyoming. The women served are living in crisis: unemployed or working low-wage jobs that don’t provide financial stability, dealing with stress that is toxic for the brain, and struggling to cover basic needs like food and housing. By working intentionally in groups, the program allows women to build relationships, learn conflict resolution and self-regulation, accelerate their job skills, and find success at work and at home.
  • Calvary Women’s Services:   This important organization ensures that women have access to the proper trauma-informed healthcare and educational support they need to take positive steps toward independence. These programs include transitional and permanent housing, personalized case management, life skills, and education opportunities, job training, health and wellness services, on-site therapy, and daily addiction recovery meetings. At Calvary, they believe every woman has the strengths and gifts she needs to be successful. Each woman in their program identifies and builds on her strengths, meeting her goals for safe housing, good health, and financial independence.
  • Resonance Center:  Resonance promotes and supports the well-being and self-sufficiency of women and their families challenged by the criminal justice system. Their goal is to help female offenders succeed. Since 1977, Resonance has been a special place for women … a place where hope and motivation replace shame as women learn to create a new life for themselves and their children. The women who walk through the doors of Resonance do so for one reason … they have decided to CHANGE. They realize they cannot move forward in leading a productive life without help. Through outpatient substance abuse counseling, case management, and mentoring services, Resonance helps women challenged by the criminal justice system become self-sufficient, healthy, and productive community members once again. 
  • Catherine McAuley Center:  Catherine McAuley Center’s Transitional Housing Program is a program specifically designed for women and their unique needs in overcoming poverty and homelessness. The program offers safe housing, basic needs assistance, individualized case management, mental health/substance abuse counseling, and support services to homeless, unaccompanied women over the age of 18. The women range in age from 18 to over 65, with an average age of 40. The women served through the program have had diagnoses of mental health or substance abuse disorders, or both, and are usually dealing with severe childhood traumas. The program provides the women with a supportive community environment to help them achieve stability, regain medical and mental wellness, heal from trauma, and set and work towards individualized goals. All activities, even Catherine McAuley Center’s yoga instruction, are trauma-informed — meaning special care is taken to make the practice useful and accessible to women who have experienced past trauma. The Catherine McAuley Center was founded in 1989 and has grown from serving 15 people in its first year to serving nearly 450 people annually today with a wide variety of programs and services.
Ylang-Ylang fields in Madagascar

Be sure to check out Aura Cacia’s impressive collection of recipes to unleash the full potential of their essential oils. Whether you’re looking for DIY recipes for facial care, body care, or home cleaning products, they’ve got something for you!

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