The Brattleboro Food Co-op deli first opened in 1988, thirteen years after we first opened our doors. It has since grown into a full-service deli that includes a pizza oven, self-serve hot bar and salad bar, made-to-order smoothies and sandwiches, grab-and-go meals and snacks, cases filled with entreés and salads to suit any need or desire, meats and cheeses sliced to order, desserts, coffees, and one of the biggest production kitchens in Brattleboro–and there are more developments to come. Despite all the growth and expansion, one important thing has remained the same: everything is made from scratch, ranging from sauces and marinades to salads, casseroles, and baked goods. The stock in our soups is simmered for hours in a big silver cauldron, the eggplants have been sliced and grilled to tender perfection, and the muffins, scones, and cookies are baked fresh every day.
Red Hen is a bakery located in Middlesex, VT, dedicated to bringing delicious artisanal breads to their local community. Sounds simple, right? But the reality involves so much more. Randy George and Liza Cain have delved into each aspect of their business with an enormous amount of care and integrity, from local agriculture to workers’ rights. As a result they’ve contributed a lot more than beautiful, nutritious food to our area. If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it should be that there is a lot of overlap between great food, a healthy environment, and a flourishing community.
Jon and Lizzie Deloge’s interest in mushrooms started in an unusual way—not through foraging, eating, or from psychedelic experiences, but from dirt! A few years ago, through Jon’s study of composting, he came to think of fungi as powerful “commodities brokers of the soil”: they pull in minerals and other nutrients from the surrounding earth and make decisions about which nearby plants they’re sent to. The more he learned about these incredible life forms, the more intrigued he became, and his wife Lizzie shared his interest. With a baby in their future and a desire to homestead and live closer to the land, in 2020 they decided to transition away from Jon’s successful landscape design business in Cambridge, MA, and seek a new home in southern Vermont.
It’s always been a tough road for dairy farmers. Back in the days before the invention of things like cream separators and pasteurization, everything had to be done by hand, and a lot could go wrong. Milk would often spoil before it even reached customers, whether during the difficult process of separating the milk from the cream or the long drive to the railroad depot with horse and cart. And doing all of this alone made it even harder.
The exuberant and resourceful Wendy Mackenzie grew up in the green hills of Vermont, surrounded by her mother’s gardens. Yet, it wasn’t until the mid-’90s that she developed a fascination with herbalism and plants. At the time, she was a high school health teacher in Wilmington, VT, and invited a local herbalist, Isabelle Hadley, to do a presentation for her students. When Wendy got her hands on the dried flowers and essential oils, she was hooked. “This was back when I didn’t know a daisy from a daffodil,” she said, but the seed was planted, and eventually, it blossomed into Meadowscape Botanicals.
The ride to Misty Knoll Farms is about two and a half hours from the Brattleboro Food Co-op, and every turn greets you with a new field, farm, barn, or gorgeous pasture with animals and crops. It is a delightful ride that reminds you of how abundant agriculture is in Vermont.
During the 1980s John Palmer assisted his daughter in raising turkeys for a 4-H project. Together they raised 20 or so turkeys in his basement and yard. At the end of the project, he gave away the ready-to-cook turkeys to friends and family, generating amazing responses.
Dan Seals has been the quiet partner behind Yalla hummus & falafel for years. As of January 1st, 2022, he officially owns fifty percent of Yalla Foods Manufacturing, LLC, the wholesale wing of the Yalla enterprise, and is responsible for producing all of the world-class Yalla hummus and falafel we know and love. Atop the foundation of generosity, integrity, and soulfulness laid by founder and partner Zohar Arama, Dan is poised to build an ever more thriving business and bring their delicious creations to an ever-widening Yalla community.
The inception of Prohibition Pig and their current success have been built miraculously on the back of a natural disaster and a global pandemic. Not many businesses can claim to have weathered such adversity but the folx at Prohibition Pig can. In 2011, the space where their current restaurant and brewery is located on Main Street in Waterbury, VT, was flooded during Tropical Storm Irene, forcing the brewery and pub that occupied it at the time, The Alchemist, to find a new location. However, the owners of Prohibition Pig wanted to keep the 200-year-old building alive and continue its history of serving food and brewing beer, so they persevered through a big cleanup of the premises.
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.
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.
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.