Building a Better Community
THE BRATTLEBORO FOOD CO-OP
By Kate Leversee and Garett Kopczynski
The 16th of June is a big day for the Brattleboro Food Cooperative: they are moving into their new location, a gorgeous ‘green’ building that is years in the making. This is a new stage in the history of a cornerstone of Brattleboro and allows the Co-op to deliver its full value to shareholders and community. Formed as a buying collective in 1975 the organization has grown to accommodate the collective needs of its shareholders by delivering: reasonably priced healthy food that is environmentally conscious, a welcoming marketplace, a sustainable business that improves the local economy and a co-op that encourages participation in its core values. As a focal point for Brattleboro’s values as a state the co-op is an extension of the beautiful natural environment of Vermont and highlights the co-op’s support of locally-focused life.
The new building is a visualization of this idea made real. From the ground up the 17,000 square feet building has been designed with an environmental and community aesthetic. The building’s insulation minimizes heat loss and prevents air infiltration and is partially clad in a slate siding from Vermont itself which reduces resource use and cost. The partial green roof reduces urban islanding of heat and will mitigate storm water runoff and when circumstances permit, more green roof will be added to the structure. The interior is made up of polished concrete to reduce maintenance, ceramic tile from 100% recycled products and counter surfaces made from 100% recycled paper manufactured in Springfield, VT. The environmental impact of the facility has been reduced by taking such actions as creating a bio-retention area for storm water and planting vegetative strips to prevent overflow of nearby streams. The building uses highly energy efficient refrigeration, natural daylight and state-of-the-art light fixtures as well as solar power to keep its energy impact minimal. Designed with input from the shareholders and a very hands on approach, the building will be sure to please.
Though the building is a major highlight for the Co-op, it is by no means the only expression of the values of the organization. The co-op is always looking to enhance its abilities through the support of its members and provide more opportunities for participation. The Co-op features education and outreach programs such as is its free nutrition and healthy eating program. This program introduces a variety of healthy, natural and locally grown foods to school children in an effort to broaden their food experience and help them understand healthy food choices as they grow to adulthood. This builds a healthy understanding and relationship to the food network and establishes good eating tendencies early on in life.
The co-op has made its impact on the community of Brattleboro and its story is one that shows its resilience and spreads the idea that food is life. It unites a community and impacts those that are passing through. The governor of Vermont, Pete Shumlin, commented on this in an article posted on the Brattleboro Food cooperative’s website telling a story about how he found his favorite tea while visiting Brattleboro, knowing it would be in the Co-op. The governor stated “I can always expect to find food that’s good for my body and my community, quality service, and countless friends who are happy to stop and chat. You might say the Co-op is a microcosm for our great state. We’re in the middle of an agricultural renaissance in Vermont because more and more Vermonters care about where their food comes from, what’s in it, and who grew it. Co-ops are obvious partners in this movement.” This characterizes the value of the Brattleboro Food Co-op as an engine behind building a better community.