Organic

Homemade Pizza

Making pizza at home might seem intimidating – especially compared to the relative ease of popping a pre-made frozen pie into the oven, but we think you’ll agree that nothing tastes better than homemade and the process is actually quite simple. PaneBelle’s pizza dough is featured in our weekly sale from January 14th – 20th, along with local Maplebrook fresh mozzarella, Muir Glen organic pizza sauce, and a handful of perfect pizza toppings, including local Vermont Smoke and Cure Pepperoni, so it’s an excellent time to try your hand at homemade pizza! Feel free to get creative with the toppings. This recipe makes 2 thin-crust 12” pizzas. If you prefer a thicker crust, follow the same instructions but create one larger pizza. 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warner & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a switch last year to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk is used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that is hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warner & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Spotlight on Badger

Our Co-op Spotlight is shining brightly on Badger this week. This small, family-owned, family-run, and family-friendly company nestled in the woods of Gilsum, New Hampshire is beyond worthy of the spotlight. They help define what it means to be a socially accountable, environmentally responsible, people-first kind of business. They are featured in our Member Deals Spotlight this week, so all of their fabulous body care products are 20% off for member-owners from November 26th – December 2nd! We happen to think they make great stocking stuffers!  Read on to learn about the ideals, principles, and practices that make their company worthy of such high praise:

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Badger was born in 1995 when founder Bill Whyte was working as a carpenter in the cold New Hampshire winters and created an amazing balm that helped soothe and heal his cracked hands. Badger Bill ran the company (as CEO) along with his wife Katie Schwerin (as COO) and their two daughters Rebecca Hamilton and Emily Schwerin-Whyte and it grew to over 100 products and over 90 employees. In 2018 Bill passed the leadership of the company on to Rebecca and Emily making them both CEOs or Collaborative Executive Officers. Click HERE to read more about Badger’s amazing history.

Badger Bill and family

 

Quality Ingredients and Standards

Badger selects ingredients with great care, using only those that fit their rigorous natural standards for healthy agriculture, minimal processing, sustainable supply chain, and health-giving properties. Every ingredient they use is grown and processed with the highest degree of respect for protecting the environment, the workers, and the natural properties of the plants. Nearly all of Badger’s products are made from 100% USDA Certified Organic food-grade ingredients and they utilize as many fair trade certified ingredients as possible. You can view their impressive growing and processing standards on their web page. 

Team of Friendly Badgers

B Corp Status

Badger became a B Corporation in 2011 to help assess and improve their business practices and ensure that they’re always doing what’s right for people and the planet. In June of 2018, Badger was named ‘Best For the World’ and ‘Best for the Environment’ by the folks at B Corp, recognizing their efforts to create a positive impact for workers, the environment, and the community. At the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Badger joined a group of over 500 other B corporations in committing to Net Zero by 2030. That means reaching a perfect equilibrium with the earth—drawing all of their energy from renewable sources, and releasing zero carbon into the atmosphere. 

Badger facility & ecology center
Badger Facility & Ecology Center Gardens

Going Solar

This past September, Badger was so excited to officially unveil their 1,384-unit, 486.7-kilowatt array of solar panels! Mounted on their grounds and stretching across their rooftops, the panels produce enough clean solar energy to power all of their operations—and even send extra electricity back to the grid. These panels will eliminate about 636,000 pounds of carbon pollution every year!

New Solar Panels Powering the Badger Campus in Gilsum, NH

 

Family-Focused Employee Programs

Badger was awarded the Connect 2016 Philosophy Award for its accommodating employee benefits and exemplary work environment. Creating a family-friendly workplace is a high priority at Badger. They aim to be supportive of new parents in their extended work family while considering the well-being of all employees and productivity in the workplace. They offer extended parental leave and a Babies At Work program, which brings together a policy that is best for baby, parent, and business. This policy allows the parent to bring the child to the workplace until it begins crawling, at which time it graduates to Badger’s Calendula Garden Childcare Center. The Center is located just a quarter-mile from the Badger campus and offers high-quality, subsidized childcare for children of their employees.  Badger, in a sense, creates its own “village” to support both parent and child!

 

Calendula Garden Child Care Center
Calendula Garden Child Care Center

Another exemplary aspect of employee care is their free lunch program. This is a daily organic lunch served during a paid 30-minute break. Every day their fabulous cooks prepare a free, home-cooked lunch for all of the Badgers made from 100% organic and mostly local foods. During the summer months, much of the produce comes right from their Badger Ecology Center regenerative vegetable garden! Read more about Badger’s impressive employee benefits here.

Free organic lunch!
Free Organic Lunch For Badger Staff

Product Certifications

Badger believes that third-party certifications take the guesswork out of claims made on cosmetics and personal care items. This means that they adhere to the standards and guidelines of any third party agency certifying their products. Their products are certified organic by both the USDA and the NSF, many of the ingredients are Fair Trade certified, and all products are certified gluten-free and certified cruelty-free. Recently, their full line of mineral sunscreens was among the first to bear a new Protect Land + Sea Certification, a seal verifying that a product does not contain any ingredients or contaminants considered harmful to coral reef environments, sea turtles, and other aquatic life.

 

 

Take a Virtual Tour with Badger Bill:

 

A Tour of Badger from Badger Balm on Vimeo.

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 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

Spotlight on Old Road Farm

As we wind down our celebration of Eat Local Month, we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight on one of the newest local farms to fill out our Produce Department shelves – Old Road Farm! All of their glorious organic produce will be 20% off for member-owners from September 24th – 30th! Read on to learn more about these young farmers, the diverse experience they bring to this challenging profession, and their commitment to real organic farming:

Meet the Farmers

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

The Old Road farm crew: Henry, Gabby, and Donna.

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

About the Farm

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

Old Road Farm – Granville, VT

They specialize in growing fresh, high-quality salad greens and seasonal vegetables for local markets with a deep commitment to the highest standards of ecologically sound, regenerative, and innovative vegetable production. Their produce is Certified Organic by VOF and they are also certified by the Real Organic Project, a grassroots, farmer-led movement created to distinguish soil-grown and pasture-raised products under USDA organic. They were featured as the July Farmers of the Month by NOFA-VT and in their interview for this feature, Gabby shared that she and Henry prioritize real organic farming “because it offers some an alternative to our broken industrial food system by focusing on the health and sustainability of the environment.”

Weathering the Challenges of the Pandemic

Old Road Farm was not immune to the challenges presented by the pandemic. They had just begun farming their new piece of land when they learned that their farmers market would be shutting down for the season. According to Gabby and Henry, “When the COVID-19 outbreak began, we didn’t foresee it affecting our business too much; people always need vegetables, if anything we were hoping the community would see just how important local agriculture is in times of crisis. But since the future of farmer’s markets remains in limbo, so does our business plan, and we are relying on those loyal farmers market customers to pivot with us. We hope to keep our farm alive during this strange and uncertain time, so that next season we can join you at the market stronger than ever.”

Providing yet another reminder of the incredible resilience of our local farming community, Gabby and Henry quickly shifted their business model to include a CSA. So far, they are enjoying engaging with their community in this new way and they hope to expand their CSA offerings next season. They have also secured a NOFA-VT Resilience Grant, which they hope to use to establish a farm stand. 

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