Organic

Equal Exchange Avocados, a Better Choice

Guacamole is always a crowd pleaser, and on a particular Sunday in February it is a gameday staple. While rooting for your favorite team, gathering with your friends or just watching the spectacle take a moment to consider the impacts of your dip and learn more about Equal Exchange and their Organic and Fair Trade Avocados.  Equal Exchange is a cooperative that is revolutionizing the fair trade of organic, non-GMO  avocados, coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, and bananas from small farmers. You can find their co-op-produced, Certified Organic, Fairtrade Certified avocados in our produce department! 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?

 

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. 

 

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. 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.

 

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.

 

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. 

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

Maple Popcorn Balls

Halloween is a time when we’re typically bombarded with mountains of sugary, corn-syrupy treats being hauled around by all the little ghouls and goblins, which is why we’re loving this good old-fashioned alternative featuring healthy whole-grain popcorn and pure Vermont maple syrup. You’ll find local, organic Hurricane Flats popcorn featured in our Halloween Weekly Sale from October 26th – November 1st, so it’s a perfect time to give these wholesome treats a try! 

Spotlight on Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea

Our Member Deals Spotlight shines brightly this week on a local business that keeps our Co-op shelves stocked with fresh-roasted artisan coffees and teas. From October 26th – November 1st, member-owners can enjoy a 20% discount on all of the offerings from Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea! Read on to learn more about this local importer and roaster of single-source, organic, and fairly traded coffee and tea and their dedication to the craft:

 

The Team

Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea was founded by Mané Alves, a native of Lisbon, Portugal, who has been in the specialty coffee industry for over 20 years.  His wife, Holly, came to the business with more than 20 years of experience with branding and marketing and now handles strategy and marketing for Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea. Together with their General Manager, Renee Adams, and the rest of the team, they possess a shared passion for great coffee and a vision of delivering the highest quality coffee and tea products to their customers, week in and week out.

Mané & Holly Alves

Sourcing

Thanks to his extensive travels, Mané has been able to develop direct relationships with many of the farmers from which his coffees and teas are sourced. Many of the coffees in the lineup are single-sourced, farm-direct, organically grown, and Fair Trade certified. 

 

The Roastery

The workhorse of the company is its state-of-the-art Roastery where they transform green coffee beans from around the world into some of the finest roasted beans around. 

If you find yourself passing through Waterbury, VT, be sure to drop by their coffee bar and see for yourself why Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea has earned a coveted Seven Daysie award for “Best Coffee Roaster in Vermont” and “Best Coffee Shop Outside of Chittenden County.” They offer delicious drinks and treats to-go, plus whole bean and ground coffees and teas by the bag. 

Anji roasting beans

Sustainability

Mané and the rest of his team understand the importance of sustainable business practices. They collaborate with the farmers who grow the products they offer to explore climate-friendly growing practices and they are committed to offering eco-friendly packaging. Click here to learn more about the balance between sustainability and quality in coffee packaging and the environmentally friendly Biotré 2 bag used for Vermont Artisan Coffees, which is made from 100% renewable materials and is 60% compostable.

Agriculture, in particular coffee cultivation, is the main source of livelihood in Bududa District, on the fertile foothills of Uganda’s Mount Elgon. This photo comes from the Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative from which Vermont Artisan sources some of their coffee. 

Education

In addition to offering high-quality coffee and tea to retail outlets, Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea is also host to the School of Coffee — a professional coffee training center offering CQI-accredited courses on brewing and roasting coffee in a Specialty Coffee Association Certified Premier training facility. Their cupping classes, roasting classes, and barista classes are geared toward the coffee professional, while their tastings and workshops are for folks who just want to learn more about the world of specialty coffee. To learn more about tours, tastings, and workshops, click here.

Spotlight on Frontier Co-op Brands

As our celebration of Co-op Month rolls on, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight this week on the Frontier Co-op family of brands, which includes Aura Cacia and Simply Organic, in an effort to highlight the wonderful things this cooperative does to source and provide quality organic and earth-friendly products while also giving back to the communities they serve. All Frontier, Aura Cacia, and Simply Organic products are 20% off for member-owners from October 19th – 25th!  Read on to learn more about this trio of cooperative brands and their commitment to the well-being of people and planet:

First founded in 1976 in a riverside cabin in Iowa with only two employees, Frontier has been a member-owned, democratically-controlled co-op dedicated to supporting and advocating the values of the cooperative community from the very beginning. Their 40,000 member-owners are wholesale retailers, distributors, and buying clubs like our Co-op, who purchase products from Frontier for retail sale. Despite their growth and evolution since those early days in the cabin, Frontier remains firmly committed to its founding values of integrity, openness, social responsibility, and respect for the environment. They’re driven by a simple purpose: to do good by people and planet. And to create a stronger company built on a commitment to quality and sustainability.

Each year, Frontier Co-op gives back 4% of its pre-tax profits to causes and organizations around the world that inspire wellness in communities where their products are produced. Each of the co-op’s three brands has an established fund for social giving.

Frontier was an early adopter of progressive workplace programs such as on-site childcare, establishing a subsidized on-site childcare center and cafeteria at their headquarters in Norway, Iowa in the 1980s. They were also early and influential advocates of the organic, fair trade, and non-GMO movements, introducing the first Fairtrade Certified spice line and the first Non-GMO Verified vanilla extracts in the United States. 

They’re also deeply committed to their grower communities abroad where many of their premium organic products are sourced. To ensure a healthy, meaningful, mutually beneficial partnership, Frontier established the Well Earth™ sustainable sourcing program. This program promotes the sustainable production of natural and organic products and creates partnerships built upon mutual respect for quality botanicals and sound social and environmental principles. It is part of a multi-faceted effort to provide customers with high-quality, socially responsible products that include commitments to product quality, Fair Trade standards, Organic standards, integrity, social responsibility, and sustainable operations. By bringing high-quality, socially responsible products to the marketplace, the program gives consumers the opportunity to use their purchases to influence the way the world does business.

Organic ylang-ylang harvest

Proceeds from the fair trade of their products have allowed for the development of critical infrastructure in the growing communities from which Frontier sources many of their raw ingredients, including a preschool in Madagascar, a dental clinic in Fedecovera, and the construction of 49 wells in 38 of the farming communities from whom Frontier sources its vanilla.

Students stand outside the preschool constructed in the growers’ community in Madagascar where Frontier and Aura Cacia source their raw ingredients

Aura Cacia

In the late 1990s, Frontier decided to expand its lineup to include body care products and essential oils by purchasing Aura Cacia. 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.

Aura Cacia’s Lavender Fields

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.

 

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!

Simply Organic

In the early 2000s, Frontier launched the Simply Organic line of products as a means to offer a 100% organic line of culinary products to deliver big flavor to your meals while also supporting climate-friendly growing practices. Simply Organic is known for real, pure spices that really make a meal. Always 100% certified organic. Always sourced responsibly, and delivered with ethics and integrity. In keeping with their commitments to their growing communities, Frontier works closely with its growers to ensure goodness all around. Pure, premium spices for you. Sustainable farming practices and steady businesses for farming communities around the world. It’s a win-win!

Simply Organic is committed to helping nourish the millions of food insecure in the United States and Canada through the Simply Organic Giving Fund. Since 2001, they’ve given back more than $2 million to support organic agricultural development and grower communities, including:

  • Helping growers in developing countries produce and market certified organic products.
  • Building training centers that teach organic agriculture methods and wells that bring fresh water to villages; supporting schools, meal programs and other social projects in grower communities.
  • Supporting U.S. organic research and education projects, scholarships in sustainable agriculture, and organic-growing-based social organizations such as urban gardens and community food banks.

In 2018, Frontier committed to focusing the Simply Organic Giving Fund Grant Program on addressing an issue that’s especially persistent and critical, but that is often overlooked or misunderstood: food insecurity. They’re working to help organizations across the United States and Canada to nourish the millions of food insecure in our communities by supporting organizations that provide access to healthy, organic food options.

Grant recipients for this year include Dion’s Chicago Dream, Emergency Food Network, Matthew 25, Project Worthmore, and the Multicultural Refugee Coalition. Click here to learn more about the impact of these projects and to apply for a Simply Organic Giving Fund Grant.

 

Simply Organic 2023 Giving Recipients Thank You Video from Simply Organic on Vimeo.

Also, be sure to check out the Simply Organic recipe database for delicious inspiration!

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 12th – 18th! 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. 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.

 

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. 

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

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 blissful experience when you visit our featured October Co-op Connection Business, Stone Leaf Teahouse, and it seems to beckon us this time of year when the air turns cool and crisp. 

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 such fresh, high-quality tea available in our store. Read on to learn more about the teahouse and its offerings in their own words:

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 where 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! You can also visit the Tea House blog to read more about the world of tea, including a 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. Many of their tea offerings are certified organic. To view the full menu, click here.

Spotlight on Old Road Farm

As our Eat Local Challenge rolls on, we’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight on our friends at Old Road Farm! All of their glorious organic produce is 20% off for member-owners from September 21st – 27th! Read on to learn more about these young farmers, the diverse experience they bring to this challenging profession, and their commitment to real organic farming:

Meet the Farmers

A transplant from New York, Gabby Tuite came to Vermont to attend the University of Vermont where she received a bachelor’s in Community Development and Applied Economics. While studying at UVM, she took an internship at the Shelburne Farms’ Market Garden where she first got her hands dirty and fell in love with farming. After UVM, Gabby worked at River Berry Farm for two seasons. Here she learned how to grow on a larger scale, taking note of the efficiencies required to run a profitable farm. Between growing seasons, Gabby has worked at the City Market Onion River-Coop as a Produce Buyer and Team Leader giving her insight into marketing and merchandising, supervising employees as well as the local food chain from a buyer’s perspective.

Gabby Tuite and Henry Webb

Henry Webb grew up with large vegetable gardens and has fond early memories of visiting his father working at the UVM dairy barn. Starting in his teens he spent eight seasons working for Last Resort Farm, a Certified Organic vegetable, berry, and hay farm. He learned to maintain and work on the farm’s equipment and infrastructure as well as organic vegetable farming practices. Henry also spent two years at New Village Farm where he worked with a small herd of Normandie cattle producing raw milk and beef. At New Village, he was given the opportunity to manage and expand the farm’s market garden and gained experience producing for a small CSA, a farm stand, and the Shelburne Farmers Market.

About the Farm

Gabby and Henry shared a dream of owning their own farm and first began their adventure in the Fall of 2015 on a quarter-acre plot in the old field below Henry’s childhood home in Monkton, Vermont, mostly growing vegetables for a few area farmer’s markets. In the Fall of 2019, they were able to secure their dream “forever farm” with the help of the Vermont Land Trust. This gorgeous farm is nestled in the fertile river valley of Granville, Vermont, surrounded by National Forest land.

They specialize in growing fresh, high-quality salad greens and seasonal vegetables for local markets with a deep commitment to the highest standards of ecologically sound, regenerative, and innovative vegetable production. Their produce is Certified Organic by VOF and they are also certified by the Real Organic Project, a grassroots, farmer-led movement created to distinguish soil-grown and pasture-raised products under USDA organic. Gabby and Henry share that they choose to be certified by the Real Organic Project (ROP) because their farming practices are inherently tied to the land and the soil that they farm.

 

Gabby shares that “In Vermont, we are really fortunate to have the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) and its certifying body, Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF), who share that commitment, but on a national level, we agree with the ROP that industrialization has in some ways diluted the intent of the organic label. We really don’t like to be critical of anyone’s farming practices, but there are currently things allowed under national standards that we don’t think fit people’s perception of what an organic farm is and we think that consumers have a right to an informed decision about what they are buying. We see our farm, our land, as not just a medium for production but a deeply complex living system that we ultimately bear the responsibility to steward. ROP is an advocate for that view.” 

 

Here at the Co-op, you can find an abundant array of Old Road Farm’s produce, including spinach, chard, salad mix, arugula, collards, sweet peppers, cauliflower, radishes, patty pan squash, broccolini, watermelon, and scallions, each in their respective seasons. If you find yourself traveling Vermont’s iconic Route 100 through Granville, be sure to stop for a visit at their farmstand, where you can find a colorful mix of all the produce grown at their farm, which includes the usual lineup of goodies you can find at the Co-op, along with eggplant, tomatoes, squash, celery, and more! 

Spotlight on Golden Russet Farm

As our Eat Local Challenge rolls on, we’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on a local, organic farm that has been part of our Co-op family for over 30 years – Golden Russet Farm! We acquire more produce from their farm than from any other farm in Vermont! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off of their abundant array of local, organic veggies and their glorious fresh-cut bouquets from September 14th – 20th! 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

Will and Judy Stevens have been growing organic vegetables commercially since 1981, having started on a small plot of rented land in Monkton, VT. After growing their business and refining their techniques, all the while learning from other pioneers in the Vermont organic farming community, they determined it was time to expand their operation. In 1984 they purchased a former dairy farm with good soils in the agriculturally-rich town of Shoreham, VT, in the southwestern corner of Addison County—and this land has been home to Golden Russet Farm ever since! A few years ago, their daughter Pauline returned home to the farm, and in 2022, Will and Judy began transitioning ownership of the farm to Pauline. 

Certified Organic in 1987

The Stevens have always used exclusively organic production practices in their vegetable and greenhouse operations and became certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers in 1987. Among other things, this means they use crop rotation, cover crops, biological and naturally derived pest controls, compost, animal manure, and naturally derived fertilizers as standard management practices. More recently, the farm has also become Real Organic Certified by the Real Organic Project. This is an add-on label certifying farms that remain true to the original tenets of the organic movement by prioritizing fertile soil as the fundamental foundation of organic farming. 

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, they also grow flowers for cutting, which adds color to the fields and creates habitat for beneficial insects. You’ll find these beautiful bouquets for sale throughout the summer months at the Co-op.

 

 

A Hyper-Local Sales Focus

Since 2003, the farm’s focus has been on “hyper-local,” meaning that approximately 90% of their produce has been consumed within 20 miles of the farm. Their produce is available at the farm stand, their CSA, at food markets in Middlebury and Burlington, and at Addison County restaurants.

Solar Powered Since 2013

In April of 2013, the Stevens put up five free-standing solar panels which provide them with all of their farm and personal electrical energy needs.

About The Farmers

Judy is a fourth-generation Vermonter from southern Vermont. Her family ran a successful Christmas tree business in the Londonderry area for many years. This experience helped her and Will create a successful mail-order wreath business that they ran from the farm until about 2000. Will moved to Vermont from the Ticonderoga, NY area in 1977 to finish his college education at the University of Vermont, which is where he and Judy met. He graduated in 1980 with a BA in studio art, with a specialty in blacksmithing.

After spending the summer of 1980 at Shelburne Museum (Judy as a weaver, and Will in the Blacksmith’s Shop), they were serendipitously presented with the opportunity to ramp up their homestead gardening interest to a commercial scale, and in the first several years everything they grew was sold exclusively at the Burlington Farmers’ Market. From the beginning, their mission has been to provide good quality food to people at reasonable prices.

Shortly after they moved to an old dairy farm in Shoreham, VT, in November 1984, they began to raise a family–Freeman was born in 1986, Pauline in 1989, and Anna came along in 1991. The kids had a sand pile in front of the shed, which, as the greenhouse plant business grew over the years, became a magnet for customers’ children. At some point, the pile was moved to its present location at the corner of the flower garden, which makes it much easier for shopping parents to keep an eye on their children!

Will & Judy. Flashback.1991. cropped

Between 1989 and 1992, Will served as President of Vermont Organic Farmers, which then was NOFA-VT’s certification committee. This was an exciting time in the world of organic agriculture. The sudden interest in the link between food safety and production practices was inspired by Meryl Streep’s CBS appearance on 60 Minutes in the fall of 1989 when she railed against a particular spray used on apples. “Mothers and Others for Pesticide Limits” was formed, bringing public awareness to the benefits of organic agriculture. Suddenly, a fringe movement that had been based on back-to-the-land ideals found itself moving toward the mainstream. Some would say that this was the beginning of the localvore movement.

Judy served for 3 years on the board of the Vermont Fresh Network. VFN strives to foster meaningful, mutually profitable relationships between Vermont food producers and chefs and was one of the earliest formal “Farm to Table” initiatives in the nation.

Judy and Will have been actively involved in Town affairs through various organizations and boards. Judy served on the Rescue Squad through much of the eighties and has played an important role in the expansion and promotion of Shoreham’s Platt Memorial Library over the last twenty years. Will was elected to the Town Planning Commission in the mid-nineties and eventually chaired it for several years. He has since served on the Select and Zoning Boards and has been elected Town Moderator every year since 2004.

In November 2006 Will was elected to the Vermont Legislature (as an Independent, representing the Towns of Benson, Orwell, Shoreham, and Whiting) for the first of four two-year terms. He was on the House Agriculture and Forest Products Committee all eight years and served the last four as ranking member. He is especially proud of two programs that came out of his committee during that time: the Farm to Plate and Working Lands Initiatives. Will now serves as an Outreach Representative for Senator Bernie Sanders’ office. 

 

Be sure to visit the Golden Russet blog for great recipes, tips on using plants as natural dyes, and updates on farm happenings!

Spotlight on Stonyfield

We’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on Stonyfield this week to highlight their commitment to organic dairy, the family farmers that make it possible, and the Earth that sustains us. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of organic dairy products from August 10th – 16th!  Read on to learn more about Stonyfield’s history and mission and their commitment to Vermont organic dairy farmers:

 

History:

While Stonyfield is best known for making yogurt, yogurt wasn’t the way the founders of Stonyfield thought they’d change the world. In 1983, Stonyfield co-founders Samuel Kaymen and Gary Hirshberg were simply trying to help family farms survive, protect the environment, and keep food and food production healthy through their nonprofit organic farming school.

Just to keep things running, the duo started putting their farm’s seven cows to work making yogurt. They knew they were making a healthy food grown with care; what they didn’t expect was how much people would love it.

People went crazy for the yogurt from Samuel and Gary’s little farm school, and the two knew they had found a way to make a real difference. With this yogurt business, the two organic farming teachers could show the whole world that a company could make healthy, delicious food without relying on toxic chemicals that harm the environment and public health.

So, the two went all-in on yogurt and, over 30 years later, the folks at Stonyfield continue to honor the example their founders set. They’re still located in New Hampshire, just 30 miles east of the old farm. And now, their organic ingredient purchases support a huge network of food producers made up of hundreds of organic family farms, thousands of organic cows, and over 200,000 organic acres!

They‘ve also pioneered planet-friendly business practices—from offsetting emissions at their production facility to making yogurt cups from plants instead of petroleum to making their own renewable energy, and much more.

The thought and passion that started Stonyfield Organic in the first place have only grown stronger, and they’ve never stopped working for healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet.

Commitment to Organic:

Stonyfield’s products are all 100% certified organic – made without the use of toxic persistent pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs.  Eating organic isn’t just good for you and your family, it’s straight up good for other people and the planet. One of the main goals of organic farming practices is to avoid contamination of our precious soil, rivers, drinking water, and air with toxic persistent chemicals. This also means that organic farmers, farmworkers, and their neighbors aren’t exposed to potentially carcinogenic herbicides. Organic agriculture not only means less dependence on fossil fuels, but it can also actually help reduce climate change. It’s estimated that converting all of America’s cropland to organic would have the same carbon-reducing effect as taking 217 million cars off the road!

There is also compelling evidence to support the notion that organic dairy is more nutritious than its conventional counterpart. Why? Because it comes from cows that are actively grazing on grass, as nature intended. Organically raised cows spend their days outside on pasture so the milk they produce is significantly higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), heart-healthy fats that can help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. There is a lot to be learned and said about organic farming, and Stonyfield hopes you will join them in the journey towards healthier, more resilient food systems.

Saving our Region’s Organic Dairy Farms:

In the fall of 202110, Danone, the parent company of Horizon Organic, announced it would stop buying milk from 28 farms in Vermont and a total of 61 in Maine, New Hampshire, and New York. The deadline was originally set for August of 2022, but it was later extended to February 2023. Shortly thereafter, 46 organic family farms in eastern New York received similar notices from their processor Maple Hill Creamery.  The 135 termination notices placed a large percentage of the region’s organic dairy farms in financial jeopardy and created an urgent wake-up call for our region. Unless we take swift action, our hard-working family farms – and the promise of a climate-positive, secure food system supported by their organic methods – will face dire consequences.

Stonyfield quickly sprang into action, launching an internal task force of senior company leaders to work alongside various state departments of agriculture, nonprofit organizations, retailers, and institutional food customers to find ways to keep more of these farms alive and in business. Stonyfield ultimately agreed to take on five of those contracts and was active in forming in the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership (NOFFP) to help increase commitments from both consumers and retailers to purchase locally-produced organic milk in an effort to maintain a viable market for these farmers. Organic Valley also stepped up in a big way, offering membership to 90 of the farms affected by the contract losses. Stonyfield accepts milk through Organic Valley and directly from farmers as part of its Direct Supply Program. The farmers dropped by Danone will be part of Stonyfield’s Direct Supply Program, and new farmers’ contracts will look the same as the company’s contracts with current farmers. 

We are grateful to Stonyfield and others who have stepped up in such a big way to support our region’s organic dairy farms! We’re also grateful to consumers who are committed to supporting our region’s organic dairy farms. Our friends at NOFA-VT said it best: “by purchasing certified organic milk and dairy products, you’re supporting farmers who feed Vermonters, steward our land, and provide a massive cultural and economic value to Vermont’s rural communities.”

Spotlight on New Leaf Organics

We’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on New Leaf Organics! This local, organic farm not only keeps our produce shelves stocked with an array of fresh seasonal veggies but also supplies us with an abundant array of veggie and herb seedlings each Spring. Perhaps you have a few of them growing in your garden? All of New Leaf Organics products are 20% off for Co-op member-owners from August 3rd – 9th, so it’s a great time to stock up on the flavors of summer in Vermont. Read on to learn more about this female-powered farm and all that they have to offer:

Nestled in the rolling hills near the Bristol-Monkton town line is a sweet little farm called New Leaf Organics. Now in her 23rd year in business, Farmer Jill Koppel leads her rockstar all-female crew to produce some of the most beautiful and delicious flowers, fruits, and veggies you’ll find anywhere in Vermont. Their farm has evolved quite a bit over the years, but their core mission remains the same; growing high-quality organic produce, flowers, and plants that improve soil health and strengthen the community.

Their Mission

  • to grow high-quality, deliciously fresh organic produce and flowers.
  • to maintain and build the health of our soil and water.
  • to keep this land open and in agricultural production.
  • to bring community together in appreciation of good food and eating with the seasons.
  • to help couples create a memorable wedding day brightened with our beautiful flowers
  • to be a healthy and joyous place for kids to roam and discover and help them learn where our food really comes from.
  • to provide a positive and meaningful place to work for our employees and ourselves.
The 2023 New Leaf Farm Crew

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

New Leaf Organics Farmstand

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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