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.
Every year the Brattleboro Food Co-op invites its growers to gather and share their experiences with the BFC over the previous season. It’s our first sign of spring around here! This year, a dozen of our farm partners participated, our highest attendance ever! Turns out—as with a number of other discoveries we have made in this unlikely time—Zoom meetings are pretty conducive to farmers’ busy lives, and they were more than happy to join us without having to come down to the store.
Deep in the woods of Dummerston, Vermont, you will find Mike Euphrat working on his sugarbush. Outfitted with a variety of tools, tubes, and taps he works to prepare, upgrade, and or check on his lines that deliver maple sap back to his evaporator on the Bunker Farm. The Bunker Farm is owned collectively by Mike, his wife Jen, her sister Helen, and Helen’s husband Noah. It is a multi-faceted farm in which Helen operates a nursery and private gardening business that focuses on rare and specialty annuals and perennials, Noah raises pastured chickens, pigs, turkeys, and cows for a meat CSA, and Mike manages their sugar bush and maple syrup business. It has been a large undertaking that has been tremendously rewarding.
I am currently recovering from a knee replacement, an unfortunate reminder that age and arthritis march along, regardless. This has occasioned me to be ever so grateful to our entire staff and to my colleagues on the management team, for allowing me to be offsite for several weeks in recuperation while things around the store continue to hum along at a pretty good clip.
However Wild Honey is a family owned and operated apiary located in Shaftsbury, Vermont. It began over 20 years ago with Jim and Gail Howe, and included their son Adam Howe. Through those early years they developed a love for beekeeping and apiculture. The family worked together to draw the artwork for their first Raw Honey label by hand, which was then given to a local printing company who used it to create the honey labels they continue to use to this day. They then sold their honey to a few local stores. This continued while Adam was away at college and after he returned home to Vermont.
Much has been said and written about the turn into this new year. At the Co-op, things are no different—our cumulative exhaustion is proof enough that things need to go better in this new year, as we will no doubt need to adjust several more times to new normalities. Still, I find that gratitude has actually been easier to come by in my own assessments, and I believe this to be true of lots of our community members and Co-op customers as well.
An inspirational story is brewing in Brattleboro, VT, from Healing From Foods, a company that centers around sustainable products and ideas rooted in the mantra “food is medicine.” Healing From Foods imports, markets, and sells Ojoche Tostado, a superfood coffee alternative sourced from women’s collectives in rural Nicaragua.
As we round the bend into the last month of 2020 (can I get an “Amen”?!?), we launch into the reconfiguration of the Bulk department to offer more options for you to select from gravity bins yourselves, as opposed to us bagging them for you in arbitrary quantities. Much thought, work, and investment has gone into this change, and we hope that you enjoy the effect on your shopping choices in that department. As you’ll see, we will continue to serve you with liquids, nut butters, and herbs, and have moved things around to make that a bit more efficient.
In case you were not one of the 145 owners who registered and/or attended the Brattleboro Food Co-op’s Annual Shareholder Meeting on the evening of Wednesday, November 11th, you can get a really good sense of the content by reading the minutes that will be posted once they are approved at the December Board meeting. They are actually quite descriptive.
Masks. They are the new fad, the new look of 2020, and have brought many creative people to the forefront of society, sewing together a staple of our daily fashion. With that in mind, Cindy in our Housewares department has selected four seamstresses who are now producing and selling masks here at the Co-op. The material patterns consist of everything from animals to food to flashy colors, with the common idea to protect us from the current pandemic. I was inspired by Cindy’s suggestion to feature four different folks who sew masks to sell at the Co-op as our Producers of the Month. Thus, I felt it best to let them share a bit about themselves from their perspective in a question-and-answer style format, unedited and directly to you our loyal Co-op customers. A big thanks to them for their countless hours of sewing to help keep our community safe. So, without further ado, Anna, Leslie, Linda, and Julia will share a bit about themselves and why they started creating masks.