Writing the September Food For Thought article by the end of the first week of August feels odd. I feel like summertime with all that means and involves is slipping away and soon it will be time for people to return from their holiday and for school to start. This summer seems to be going quickly.
Stonewall Farm is a historic farm located in Keene, NH. It was founded over 300 years ago and has been a working dairy farm for over 200 years. In recent years it has evolved into a nonprofit working organic dairy and crop farm supported by philanthropic donations. From protecting pollinators, to growing organic food, to implementing amazing methods of regenerative agriculture, they are focusing on mitigating the effects of climate change. Stonewall Farm offers the southeast corner of New England farm education programs for adults and children, organic dairy products, a gorgeous event venue, and fresh fruits and vegetables that are sold at local retailers such as our Brattleboro Food Co-op. With a team of six full-time staff and a board of directors, they are blazing a trail within our region.
As we continue to work towards the complex improvement of our downtown, I continue to think deeply about the rather wide-ranging views of what both compassion and reasonable accountability look and feel like. No doubt like you, I contemplate this on a personal level, on an organizational level, and on a community level.
A few years ago, I accepted a part time job running a fledgling program. It seemed perfect! I was committed to the mission, liked the hours, and was intrigued by the opportunity to build something from the ground up. Eighteen months later, the program was operating seven days a week, I was working full time with two staff, and the program was growing explosively. I jokingly told people I was the victim of my own success.
We recently honored the passing of a co-op hero—a quiet, tireless, inspiring fellow by the name of Bill Gessner from Minnesota. Bill did a lot of work for many co-ops considering expansion, believing that co-ops needed to grow and reproduce, as they are the best option we have to contribute to our communities through an empowering democratic economic model. Bill wrote a wonderful article printed in 2015 about the spirit of generosity as a foundational core value in cooperatives, which kept coming back to me last month as I struggled with the BFC budget.
Many of our shoppers have enjoyed Vermont Gelato for years but may not know that it has new owners. Mike and Jess Kull recently purchased the company in the fall of 2018. Since then they have worked hard to continue the consistency and delicious flavors one has come to expect over the years. Since acquiring Vermont Gelato they have taken pride in offering the finest gelato around while building on this wonderful product with new flavors and offerings, wider distribution, and a focus on customer service.
Each month, Co-op employees nominate colleagues they want to honor, and a committee comes together to vote on a winner. This month Sam, a cook and baker in our Commissary Kitchen, was selected. As her colleagues stated: “Sam has been such as asset to our department. She is extremely flexible working in the kitchen and on the Deli line filling in/covering shifts. This is very much appreciated.”
A few weeks ago I was faced with a tough decision while in the produce department. The conventional red bell peppers looked “perfect”: they were big, symmetrical and a deep, bright red. On that day, the organic peppers that I normally buy were a funny shape and dark red and green. I happily snapped up some conventional reds and headed home. To my dismay, when I got my peppers home and cut them up, I found my “perfect” peppers to be watery and lacking in flavor compared to the organic peppers I am used to.
Editor’s note: This March we successfully completed our first Annual Vermont Cheese Madness event. A delicious 32 Vermont cheeses from 26 different cheesemakers were sampled throughout the month. We presented eight categories for the bracket: cheddar, gouda, bloomy, blue, washed, alpine, tomme, and goat. Each day we offered two cheeses for customers and staff to sample and then vote The prize: a feature as our June Producer of the Month. On March 31st, Jasper Hill Farm’s Alpha Tolman was declared the overall winner. And so, Cheese manager Joe and Marketing manager Jon visited Jasper Hill last month to bring you this feature article. Enjoy, and thanks to all who voted!
Co-op shareholders, especially the ones who have been around since the very beginning of our Co-op in the mid-70s, are no strangers to reducing their use of packaging. In those buying club days, breaking down large quantities of grains, rice, produce, and cheese, we were focused on access to non-conventional foods in bushel boxes and fifty-pound bags. But even then, we sometimes broke things down into plastic bags.
I always find it interesting when hippies become entrepreneurs. Not that Allie Dercoli, owner and operator of FinAllie Ferments, is necessarily a hippie…she’s more like a combination of itinerant farmer, artist, electrician, teacher, and finally, chef, with a refined palate, innate resourcefulness, and a penchant for smelly stuff – which is an important attribute for someone devoted to crafting this delightfully pungent food. When she settled in Vermont in 2014, she wasn’t looking to start a business—she was looking for sustainable community and farming. FinAllie Ferments is simply the result of meeting the demand that naturally arose from her delicious supply of amazing kimchi and kraut.
I recently attended the Neighboring Food Co-ops’ Association annual meeting, and was captivated by the keynote speaker, Ruth Tyson, who is the Coalitions Coordinator for the Food and Environment program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. She was able to draw some very clear pictures of our agricultural food system and its prejudice. Ms. Tyson highlighted three relevant themes: Just, Equitable, and Sustainable. Finally, it seems we are beginning to connect the lines between food sustainability and social justice, and to illustrate this to a larger audience than before, as the results of consolidation and government misdirection become sadly obvious to most anyone who is paying attention. Her main takeaways for us were these: