Greetings from the Co-op! I hope you have been able to enjoy some of this year’s beautiful (and early) foliage. We live in challenging times, but the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows are a much-appreciated reminder of our incredible natural setting and the simple joys of living in Vermont.
Another amazing aspect of living and eating here is the abundance of high-quality local foods. We recently completed a tally of local product sales at the Co-op and the total came to $9.8 million for the fiscal year that ended in June. At 38% of total sales, we enjoy one of the highest proportions amongst food co-ops nationally. This is testament to the talent and hard work of our local producers, along with our shoppers’ dedication to high-quality food grown nearby. We should also recognize the Co-op’s business model, which is centered around community and local food; we go to great lengths to partner with and support over 450 Vermont businesses each year.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund reports that in 2017 food manufacturing accounted for 26.5% of Vermont’s economic output, and that 64,000 Vermonters were directly employed by over 11,500 farms and food-related businesses. At the same time, our local food system faces numerous challenges including loss of farms, rising costs, volatile markets, and more, not to mention operating small businesses during a once-in-a-century pandemic. Our support of local food is more important than ever.
Local will be one of many topics at our first remote Annual Meeting on November 12. While we cannot meet in person this year, we do look forward to gathering online and sharing information about the past year and our collective future. We will all be getting used to the new technology together. Since remote meetings make it more difficult to converse, we will post annual report information ahead of time and host additional small group sessions before and after the Annual Meeting. Full information is being prepared for mailing in October.
I would like to offer a reminder that we ask shoppers to reserve our first hour of business (9 to 10 am) for those who are high-risk. We have heard from many folks that this practice is important to them due to a particular concern about exposure to the virus for themselves and loved ones. We appeal to our community to honor this request since we do not have a practical way to monitor and screen shoppers. We do lower the maximum number of customers (to 30) during that hour to provide more physical space for those who shop then.
My heart-felt appreciation to our member-owners, shoppers, employees, vendors, community partners, fellow co-ops and council members. We all contribute to our success as a community in staying safe and healthy while still being able to enjoy good food and local products.
Kari Bradley, General Manager