Over the past two years, we’ve increased the products we buy directly from other co-ops. Not only does this support co-op producers who share our values, but buying direct eliminates middlemen, enabling us to pay a fair price and still offer the products to customers affordably. The Riojana wines, from La Riojana Co-op in Argentina, have sold 36,302 bottles since we introduced them in October 2015 (through June 2016). Over the past winter, we sold 128,791 fair trade avocados from PRAGOR, a farmer co-op in Mexico, imported by Equal Exchange. There are many great stories we could share, but this year, we’ve got dairy on our minds.
A “dairy” good co-op
You may have noticed more and more products from Cabot Creamery in our stores: it started with some basic cheddar, followed by wax-coated blocks of aged Cheddar just in time for the holidays. Then followed cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, sour cream, butter, canned whipping cream, and cream cheese. Most recently, we’ve begun using Cabot products “behind the scenes” in our stores and at our Food House: the cottage cheese on our salad bars, the butter in our kitchens and pastry bakery, the shredded cheese in our prepared foods, and the sliced cheese on our sandwiches. We swapped Cabot cheeses into our sliced deli cheese offerings and were able to drop the price. The wide use of Cabot products throughout our stores makes ordering easier and reduces costs, because we can place large orders more regularly.
And Cabot dairy is not just any old dairy. In the 1980s, Cabot began entering cheese competitions, and in 1989 they won first place in the Cheddar category at the US Championship Cheese Contest. Since then, they’ve continued to enter national and international competitions. Their Cheddar has won every major taste award, including the world’s best Cheddar. Recent  awards include best of class at the World Championship Cheese Contest for their plain Greek yogurt and their sharp Cheddar.
In August of this year, the American Cheese Society awarded Cabot first place for their Muenster cheese, which can be found in our specialty department.
Cabot Creamery is a cooperative owned by 1,200 family dairy farmers in New England and New York. It began in 1919, when a group of dairy farmers near Cabot, Vermont, joined forces to turn their extra milk into butter and to sell it throughout New England. Today, the co-op manages four plants that turn the farmers’ fresh milk into butter, cheese, and the other dairy products. (Cabot offsets all its butter churning with renewable energy produced at Barstow’s Longview Farm; grocery store food waste is converted to energy in an anaerobic digester!) All profits are paid back to the farmer-owners, who elect the co-op Board of Directors.
The co-op supports participation in the National Dairy FARM Program (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management), which provides guidelines for animal welfare and periodic farm inspections, including some by third-party certifiers. Cabot farm families have been awarded the New England Green Pastures Award 83 times. The award acknowledges environmental practices, contributions to agriculture and the local community, and overall excellence in farm management practices.
Co-op and community
Cabot Creamery is “all about community and cooperatives.” Every other year, they send a team along the East Coast on the Cabot Community Tour. As part of the tour, Cabot will join our Co-op Fair on September 11. They will sample cheeses paired with our WSM breads and Riojana wine. Cabot is sponsoring a raffle for Cabot gift baskets for $1 and $5 donations which will benefit our Cooperative Community Fund. Cabot will match donations up to $1,000.
Cabot encourages farmers and customers to volunteer by offering monthly prizes and annual grand prizes, including an annual cruise hosted by its farmers. Cabot awarded Weaver Street Market a spot on this year’s Cabot Celebrity Cruise in Alaska for an outstanding volunteer from our community. In October, WSM will accept nominations for the spot and will select five finalists. Cabot will make the final award in November. Watch for details in our weekly e-newsletter and on our social media.
Cabot also partners with co-op groups to spread the word about co-ops. For the North Carolina leg of the Community Tour, Cabot is partnering with the Cooperative Council of North Carolina (CCNC) to create community events that bring together co-op members and leaders to celebrate cooperatives and exchange ideas. CCNC will also participate in our Co-op Fair.