I have written in the past about some of the supply chain issues that we have had since the start of the pandemic. Initially, the situation was largely created by hoarding of products, with not enough in the pipeline to replace them on the shelves. Over the last few months, other issues with the supply chain have emerged, and there are multiple reasons for this.
As I write this, we in Windham County have been informed that our COVID infection risk status is now “substantial.” I know I am not alone in thinking, Wow, what happened? and How come so fast?
Needless to say, we instituted the CDC’s strong recommendation for mask-wearing in the store for both customers and staff the morning we heard the news. Of course, as in most things of this nature, the commentary has been widely varied. Some feel we should mandate and enforce as we did for months, before vaccinations had reached the 80% mark. Others chided us for “shaming” folks into wearing masks.
On a gorgeous sunny July afternoon I sat on a picturesque stone wall at Dwight Miller Orchards in Dummerston, VT, with Malah and Read Miller. During our time together they indulged me in all things related to growing fruit and running one of the oldest orchards in Vermont. Their family has been growing fruit here since the 1800s, while living on the land since the 1700s. Running an orchard takes hard work, perseverance, flexibility, and a great family. Each year brings its own set of successes, hardships, and innovations—with the year 2021 having a solid apple harvest outlook.
I have heard it said that it’s a gift to know when it’s time. I have received many gifts in my tenure here at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, often in thoughtful and caring conversations in the aisles. For now, though, I am stepping down at the end of December as General Manager. I believe that a new person taking the lead, with new energies and new vision, will be just the ticket for our beloved Co-op, to continue to shepherd it through the next few pastures.
Pete Johnson first identified his love for farming when he grew and sold pumpkins as a child with his siblings in the Pacific Northwest. The pumpkins were gorgeous and it was a financially successful business. Flash forward to the mid-1990s, when Pete Johnson was about to graduate from Middlebury College and, for his senior thesis, he built a solar greenhouse on campus. This project was the result of his fascination with winter growing and the idea that plastic or glass structures could positively impact the growth of vegetables in the extreme winter temperatures of Vermont.
The conversation about inclusion and systemic racism has developed quite a bit in our community since the Annual Meeting of 2019, when we were rightly challenged about racist aggressions that we were perpetuating in our store. Although we had begun some work on our understanding, we clearly had much to learn, and I recommitted our organization to a more rigorous and focused attention on inclusion and equity.
There is a way for professional dairy farmers to have truly loving partnerships with their animals. This is the central notion of AlpineGlo Farm that Rachel Ware wants to convey. Plus, milk from animals who are relaxed, secure, and respected invariably makes the best cheese. Aspiring animal-loving goatherds, pay attention!
As you well know, the governor has indicated that the reopening phase will be accelerated, with the numbers of those vaccinated reaching an acceptably high percentage.
We have long said that the initial herky-jerky moves that we all made to protect ourselves and each other from virus transmission, though difficult and confusing, wouldn’t come close to the difficulty of emergence. Now, conflicting messages and even conflicting ordinances have served to sow apprehension among businesses as we all prepare to navigate the transition ahead.
The Miller family’s dairy farming tradition began in southern Vermont in the 1800s. Then in 1916, Arthur Lyman Miller was seeking a larger plot of land and purchased 300 acres in Vernon. The family and their herd of Holstein cows migrated to Vernon and began to ramp up their farming capabilities. Since the farm’s inception in 1887, they have always raised Holstein cows, making them one of the country’s oldest registered herds. Now, in 2021, they raise over 300 total cows, including young ones and a bull, and they milk close to 190 on a daily basis.
Sorbet dates back hundreds of years and is one of the earliest frozen treats. The original sorbet was created with either ice or snow and flavored with honey, fruit, or wine. The ancient Greeks and Romans and folks in the Middle East were big fans. The earliest written recipe for sorbet traces back to the 1600s in Italy. One thing we can discern from the history books is that sorbet was created many years before its dairy-filled friend, ice cream. Nowadays sorbet continues its long tradition as a fruit- and ice-based treat that, for many, is appealing because it is free of fat and cholesterol.
Things are changing in the Co-op! As I reported last month, we are making some changes here and there to plan for the Café reopening, which we are targeting for mid- to late-June. We are operating under the assumption that the governor is moving towards a full reopening of restaurants by July 4, so we are hurtling towards that goal. Some changes you may have already seen include modifying the Customer Service desk to include all aspects of service, including Shareholder Services.
Each year, during mud season, we plan. We begin to think about new options for physical space, upgrades to tools, decisions about expanding or contracting certain food categories, and along the way, we try to figure out how our sales will respond. As you can imagine, this past year has been a wild ride, with unexpected twists and turns. I have so much respect and admiration for our management team, who came together and figured out pandemic adjustments, again and again, displaying real teamwork and support for each other as we reacted and reformulated.