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.
If nothing else, the challenge of surviving during the pandemic has taught us to prioritize, adapt and distill what is most essential. We’ve needed to re-examine and restructure how we live our lives – individually, locally in our community, and globally.
Darren and Sean Pierce grew up in Amherst, MA, and both attended Springfield College. They loved their upbringing in Western Mass filled with hobbies, playing sports, and attending concerts. After completing their degrees at Springfield College they both worked in the restaurant industry, most often as waiters and bartenders. Darren moved to San Francisco in the early 1990’s and while working as a bartender he started to learn about the specialty coffee movement, from both creating delicious offerings on an espresso machine and conversations with one of his regular customers.
A large part of what brought me to Vermont, and specifically Brattleboro, was the Brattleboro Food Co-op. I have family here and have been coming to visit since around 2000. I would go to the BFC (both at its previous location and the current one) and it just felt like home to me. I had the sense that I had found my people.