Hanna Jenkins’ spiritual connection to flowers originates from her experiences with the bookends of life. Through the birth of her son and the death of her mom, flowers companioned her with comfort, solace, levity and inspiration. The establishment of Tapalou Guilds, her family’s farm, gave her the chance to truly understand that flowers can provide deep support and how important it was for her to try and spread that joy through her work. As their website states, “Tapalou Guilds is a family-owned and -operated, mission-driven flower farm in Guilford, VT. Our mission strives to evoke connection, healing, celebration and awareness, through flowers.”
I had to do my research for this month’s Producer of the Month, Badger Balm, at a distance, but the power of this company to inspire and connect came through nonetheless. I had a great phone conversation with Bill Whyte, Badger’s founder; received eloquent answers from other members of the family leadership team via email; and found a treasure trove of information and inspiration on the Badger Balm website—I daresay Badger is the perfect Producer of the Month to feature during a global pandemic. I’ve learned that this local company, based in Gilsum, NH, is helping lead the way internationally towards a better, kinder economy, one that gives back to the earth, builds connections and cooperation, and redefines success for the 21st century.
The origins of the fermented beverage kombucha date back a few thousand years to where it was first consumed in China, Russia, and Europe. Today it is a drink that is either loved or loathed. Some say it tastes too much like vinegar, others love the sparkling flavor that is often sweetened with fruit juice. The reality is that kombucha’s popularity is spreading and it can now be found in almost every grocery store, including the Co-op. CEO and Founder of Aqua ViTea Jeff Weaber fell in love with and perfected this nourishing beverage while he was a home brewer, then launched the Vermont kombucha company called Aqua ViTea, and the success of their kombucha has taken off as the company has utilized both ancient tradition and modern technology to create a unique and sparkling beverage offering.
When visiting local producers around Vermont and beyond I often come across two attributes of the people who run these businesses. First, an unbelievable thirst for entrepreneurship and risk-taking that is exciting and inevitably drives the business to success. Second, an incredible product with unique qualities that customers love. Small Batch Organics in Manchester, VT is no exception and offers excellent chocolate granola bark and granola. We are pleased to share the story of this quickly growing business in our February edition of Food for Thought.
After a holiday season filled with abundance and out of the ordinary consumption, some folks turn to the New Year as a way to reset the body. New habits, food choices, recipes, supplements and exercise can support a New Year’s Resolution regimen built on healthy choices. As a Co-op we have always focused our January edition of Food for Thought on a local producer offering a product that could support your health. This month we will share the story of Suzanna Kamphuis of Keene, NH and her supplement called TotumVos (means “Totally You” in Latin) which is a delicious collagen-based supplement.
Over recent months we have received feedback from shoppers that they would like us to offer more vegan baked goods. While we do offer a few items, such as our vegan carrot cake, a full line of products has been hard to source. Recently our Food Services manager, Dawn, stopped in at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market and recognized Kelsey at Hidden Bean Bakeshop from when she did her Shareholder volunteer hours in the commissary kitchen. Dawn tried a few different baked goods of Kelsey’s that day and was immediately impressed. Over the past few weeks, Dawn has been working closely with Kelsey to determine which items would be a good fit at the Co-op. We are pleased that starting in December we will offer many Hidden Bean Bakeshop products, from breads to cookies to brownies to whoopie pies—all featuring beans. All selections are gluten free and dairy free, many are vegan, and all contain less sugar than your average baked good.
Here at the Brattleboro Food Co-op autumn brings reflection. Reflection on how fortunate we are to work at a responsible and community-owned business. To provide deep gratitude to our earth for the bounty of food that we receive and sell each and every day. These times of gratitude are ever-present when we take trips across New England to visit our local farmers, producers, and purveyors. This time around it took Jon in Marketing and Phil in Meat/Seafood to Misty Knoll Farms in New Haven, VT. The fall colors were beginning to boom as they drove highway and back roads to the farm. Every turn greeted them with a new field, farm, barn, or gorgeous pasture with animals and crops. It is a delightful ride that reminds you of how abundant agriculture is in Vermont. Upon arrival Rob Litch of Misty Knoll Farms was the tour guide to share about the history, practices, and philosophy that he and his partner John Palmer take in humanely raising turkeys and chickens.
Approximately 80% of open land in Vermont is managed by dairy farmers which are predominantly small family owned farms. Leon, Linda and Abbie Corse manage 375 acres in Whitingham and Wilmington, VT with many of those acres being open pasture for their cows. They are the 5th and 6th generation in their family to operate this dairy farm. This family is tremendously important to our region as dairy farming in Vermont protects and maintains our precious open land that otherwise would grow to forest or be turned into real estate. Additionally, it is a robust economic driver largely due to their large scale purchasing of farm supplies from machinery to building materials to grain. The Corse Farm Dairy became certified organic through Vermont Organic Farmers in 2008 and began shipping milk to CROPP cooperative/Organic Valley since then; they are among the 2,000 or so farmers nationally that own the cooperative. A purchase of an Organic Valley product is a purchase for the Corse family. Organic Valley functions within a deeply regionalized product system; when you purchase Organic Valley fluid milk you are buying their product. Without their transition to organic and to farmer-owners of Organic Valley, the Corses have no doubt their farm would have gone out of business. October is National Co-op Month and we are proud as a food co-op to share one family story of dairy farming and how the cooperative model has supported their continued success.
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.
On a beautiful July afternoon, Jeff, the Beer and Wine Manager, and myself (Jon, Manager of Marketing and Community Outreach) traveled to Waitsfield, VT for an inside look at Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ new brewery, taproom, and retail store. Upon arrival we were received with a warm welcome from Chuck Derrick and TJ Greenwood…and then the adventure began. When you walk through the stunning front doors of the taproom, you are greeted by an array of smiling faces, amazing post-and-beam woodwork, and the smells of fresh beer and locally sourced food. On our tour of the facilities it was clear that the team at Lawson’s is a lively bunch, filled with a passion and deep commitment for brewing absolutely delicious beer.
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.
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!