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.
Fear has been on my mind lately. You’d think, after living several (some might say many) decades in this society, that I would not be surprised at the centrality of fear to our human reactions and decisions. In my continuing education about white supremacy and my privileged existence, the constant drumbeat of fear in the appallingly consistent steps that we have taken against populations of color is overwhelming. What in the world are we so afraid of?
I had no idea what I was going to write about until Grace, a newly elected board director, shared a link to in The Commons titled “Not a word, but an action.” It was the subtitle that ensured I would read the article very carefully: “What does ‘community’ really mean, especially for those who face moments of being outside of it?”
Are you searching for another vegetable to enjoy other than the commonly used carrot, potato, or beet—one that is locally available during the winter months? Well, then, you must try the wonderful parsnip, a winter root that is seriously underutilized and underappreciated!! I recall eating parsnips as a child many years ago, when very few people seemed to know about them. I was not all that fond of them, since my mom usually steamed them. To her credit, she was just eager to expose her young kids to many different vegetables. But there are so many other ways to prepare parsnips that are much tastier and more appealing.
My visit to Global Village Cuisine was filled with warmth, delicious aromas, and enriching conversation. Co-founders Damaris and Mel Hall are genuine and authentic people that were as curious about me as I was about them. They both have smiles that bring delight to those around them and their food is impeccably crafted and infused with that joy. In fact, Global Village Cuisine creates some of the best food you will ever taste with authentic African inspired, ready-to-eat meals and samosas. Their meals are free of all eight allergens, mostly vegan with the exception of a few dishes that contain chicken and beef, and accompanied by delicious spice and herb flavors instead of over-salting. They have hand-crafted frozen food fit for anyone’s needs and have time-tested their recipes over many years of serving food at festivals, catering, and owning a restaurant. Their primary focus is to shift the perception that frozen food is only salty TV dinners, when in fact it can be highly nutritious food that makes dinner preparation simple. By aiming to craft food fit for every type of diet they have dreams to go national, and with that financial success they plan to make social impacts that will stretch beyond the dinner table.
At our January 2020 Board meeting, our General Manager Sabine Rhyne said she was, “deep into her own learning cycle,” in response to the difficult discussion about race she facilitated with shareholders at the November Annual Meeting. I appreciate Sabine’s candor and the level of trust and respect she and BFC Board Directors have for each other. I am grateful that she shared this self-reflection with us, and thank her for providing me with a topic and a title for this article.
It’s primary election season, with all of the attendant nervousness, activity, and exhaustion that this calls up for us, especially those who are active and working hard to get out the vote. This democracy has had more than its share of events and processes that have called into question the agency we have—or don’t—upon our form of government.
Each month, Co-op employees nominate colleagues they want to honor, and a committee comes together to vote on a winner. This month Monica in the Front End was selected. During the holiday season, a shopper checking out through her line was $4 short on her grocery bill. Monica kindly opened her wallet and pulled out the money to pay for the remainder of that person’s bill. This was an example of exemplary customer service and we thank Monica for making someone’s holidays a bit more special.
Perhaps a little of my personal history is in order as I begin my first year as the new Board president. I’m a baby boomer in my mid-sixties who moved to the Brattleboro area as a 29-year old. I’d just completed four years of teaching at a Waldorf school in New York City. Having grown up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, this area geographically felt very much like home. Joining the Brattleboro Food Co-op was one of the very first things I did upon moving here in 1983 – quality food and a sense of community being my big motivators. (It was in college at the University of Maryland where I shopped at my very first co-op.) Soon with a baby and a toddler I spent a fair amount of time in the kids room at the Co-op when it was on Flat St. I also volunteered as editor of the first regular Food For Thought newsletter, a role I enjoyed for about 10 years.
This time of year, we begin to work on our planning documents, from three-year plans to the more specific and detailed annual business plan that we prepare for the start of our fiscal year in July. As part of these annual rhythms, we assess trends in the industry, thinking about how our Co-op will fall in line or buck trends. As an engaged Co-op shareholder, it stands to reason that you would be interested in this information as well.
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.
Ten years ago this month, just two days after an earthquake devastated the Caribbean island of Haiti, Co-op member Sheila Humphreys and then-deli clerk Mariam Diallo began a conversation that led to a decade-long connection between our community and Foyer Evangelique Orphanage (OFEU) in Haiti.