As week four of my tenure at the Brattleboro Food Coop comes to a close, the word ‘emergence’ comes to mind. Emergence is the process of coming into view or being after being concealed. It is Spring, a season of rebirth and renewal so it seems only fitting that our community is also cautiously emerging as the long ‘winter’ of the pandemic begins to subside. While there are still signs of the passing winter and the threat of a new variant remains present, the signs of Spring and life beyond COVID are beginning to take shape.
When I asked Elaine Morley what it’s like to have the same job for forty-one years, she replied that things are ever-changing at Couch Brook Farm. Her day’s work varies according to the seasons and cycles of growth. And when you purchase the organic fruits, flowers, veggies, herbs, or pottery produced at Couch Brook, you not only contribute to a small, independently- and woman-owned organic farm, but you also support a rootedness and steady, enthusiastic dedication that has lasted since Elaine created her business in 1981 at the age of twenty-three. Now, at sixty-four, she and Couch Brook are still going strong.
I am excited to be writing my first contribution as the General Manager of the Brattleboro Food Cooperative! After a very eventful cross country move that included a U-Haul breakdown, a blizzard warning, and a high wind advisory my family and I are finally settling back into life in New England.
Just south of the border in Greenfield, MA, New England Naturals has been a pioneer in granola since 1977. Their granola was first baked in pizza ovens and some of the original recipes are still being produced today. The mission of NEN is a commitment to the values of trust, integrity, excellence, and sustainability. Being an employee-owned organization allows their staff to be deeply invested in their work and ensures that a high quality product is produced each and every day—all while having stock in the company. They are seeking to grow their distribution across the country with a continued push towards healthy ingredients and delicious flavors.
Just off Main Street in Brattleboro, VT, a farm called Grateful Greens is growing nutrient-dense greens in what was an unused basement and office facility. It’s an amazing concept built on the goal of creating a more sustainable and resilient food system. This dream is made possible by founder James Mayer’s can-do attitude plus his experience with the use of highly efficient indoor farming techniques. It has also been brought to fruition through investment, property, and knowledge from the folx at Delta Vermont. This extremely successful farming model is in the early adopter phase and with proper planning, use of renewable energy, and expansions, it could become something that truly brings to us a more secure local food system.
February has always been the month that focuses on love and affection and I wanted to focus some attention on our employees. As Shareholders, we have all been feeling the strain of COVID and all of the ways it is tiring and stressful for each of us. I wanted to send out some extra love and appreciation for our staff for how hard they have been working to keep the shelves and coolers full, making fabulous food, keeping the store clean and in working order, ringing you out at the end of your shopping trip. Also for all the behind the scenes stuff that happens upstairs with Marketing, Finance, IT and HR.
Dar Tavernier-Singer and John Singer, founders, owners, and operators of Tavernier Chocolates, have called Brattleboro home since they moved here from the Bay Area of California in 1999. In 2014 they started Tavernier Chocolates, and in 2016 they were featured as Producer of the Month here at the Brattleboro Food Co-op. As we explore the chocolates available for Valentine’s Day season, it felt appropriate to circle back and catch up with Dar and John on how they have fine-tuned their approach and their sourcing practices, and where things are headed in the coming years.
It’s been a little more than ten years since I began working at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, and a little more than six since I took on the General Manager role. Looking back, this organization went through so much in that time, it’s a little hard to believe. Traumatic tragedies, difficult tensions, epic mechanical failures, transitions a-plenty, and ultimately a long and winding road to profitability.
The holidays are here, and our staff must be thanked tremendously for creating an amazing atmosphere at the Co-op. From stocked shelves to handmade food to great customer service we are fortunate to have such a thoughtful and talented group of people serving in this community owned grocery store. For this reason, we are taking a pause from our Producer of the Month feature and focusing on staff and their holiday gift selections. Additionally, you may have already seen many of our staff on social media; and we will continue to post portraits throughout December in an effort to highlight so many of our wonderful people! In this Holiday Gift Guide, we will feature some of the familiar faces you see here at the Co-op with their favorite products for the holiday season.
I want to take some time, in this season of gratitude, to thank all of the people who have taken on the challenge of bringing us at the Co-op along on the initial journey of understanding our part in our racist culture and policies. I can’t imagine how exhausting and frustrating it must be, day in and day out, to teach—often ever so gently—basic understanding on topics that our teachers have dealt with every day of their lives and have physically experienced from their ancestors’ lives.
Some cheese is made in large factories from milk that’s been shipped from hundreds of miles away. Some is made in small cottages on tiny farms. Shelburne Farms cheddar is made in the Vermont equivalent of Hogwarts, Winterfell, or a Disney castle, depending on your reference point. This non-profit is a uniquely Vermont fairy tale: Shelburne Farms cheddar is the rich, savory, crumbly-creamy crowning jewel of an organization that strives to make a positive difference in the world, radiating out from its historic, pastoral 1,400-acre campus.
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.