Vermont Pride: A Strong Local Presence

By John Tashiro, General Manager

We’re just a few weeks away from the official start of summer bringing school vacation, sunnier and warmer temperatures (let’s hope) and a variety of events popping up all across Burlington and greater Vermont. I really enjoy this time of year and am grateful for all of our local farm produce and Vermont-made products on display whether at the Co-op, the Burlington Farmers’ Market or other places throughout the state.

Here at the Co-op, we will be wrapping up our financial year (FY17) at the end of this month and all I can say is how quickly time flies. This year especially, it has been fantastic to see the average sale of our over 2,700 local products exceeding 40% of our storewide sales. This is truly an amazing achievement ultimately driven by how much you, our Members, customers and the broader community realize and support the Co-op’s relentless focus around strengthening the local food system. Here in Vermont we have over 7,000 farms and close to 100 farmers’ markets that generate the highest agricultural sales of any New England state at $776 million with an annual economic impact of over $2.6 billion.

Vermont ranked first again for its commitment to raising and eating local food in the 2017 Strolling of the Heifers Locavore Index which is based on a variety of measurements from farmers’ markets and CSAs per capita to direct sales by famers to consumers and hospitals serving local foods. The Index also goes on to offer 10 reasons to consume more local foods: from preserving open space to boosting the local economy and building more connected communities. I encourage you to take a look at this simple and helpful reminder!

On a slightly different local theme, we are making great progress on the South End store with our opening now less than six months away! The basic roof membrane, plumbing and second story floor structure have been completed. The crew is pouring concrete to reinforce the steel frame; the outer building shell, except the windows, will be complete within the month, which will make the full shape of the store easy to see. On the inside, crews are creating everything from stairways to the loading dock and collection areas for composting and recycling. We are also continuing our extensive work around environmental remediation due to the heavy industrial use of the site for many decades. We have continued to work closely with the City and the State to remediate the site including removing lead and asbestos in the former buildings, establishing catch basins and systems to prevent storm and wastewater runoff, and appropriately managing the significant amounts of contaminated soil. The Co-op takes great pride in the variety of ways we serve our community; I am extremely proud and grateful for the incredible work of our staff and team of partners working on the South End, especially as it relates to offering the community a much cleaner building site than when we started this project.

You may have noticed that we started clearing the southerly parcel of our site (known as 75 Briggs Street) consisting of 1.684 acres. In March, the Co-op issued a Request for Proposals for those interested in the parcel and received a number of responses by the May 22 deadline. Our team will be reviewing and assessing proposals next month to move toward selling the parcel next spring.

As always, thank you all for your continued support as we make every effort to listen and best serve you, our Members and the broader community. Looking forward to seeing you under sunny blue skies, and warmer temperatures at the Co-op and wishing you all our very best.