Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

If you are a careful and conscientious food buyer committed to finding healthy and organic products while supporting local enterprise and family farming, then a visit to the Brattleboro Food Co-op should be at the top of your to-do list. You will find, as we did, that we have our own Whole Foods and Trader Joe's right here in Southern Vermont. There are so many high-quality foods and products at the Co-op that it would be impossible to adequately and fully describe it all in one article. So we’ll do our best to give you an idea of what you can expect when shopping at the Co-op.

Formed in 1975 as a small purchasing club, the Co-op today has 8,000 member shareholders providing a community owned, full-service, 15,000-square-foot store that is open and accessible to all who want to be part of a fun and exciting shopping experience. You don’t have to be a shareholder to enjoy the many benefits offered by the Co-op, but it's easy and affordable to join, as we’ll explain later. The Co-op provides an incredible, almost endless selection of outstanding foods and products at reasonable prices in a friendly and relaxed environment. Staff is knowledgeable and accommodating.

With farm-fresh milk delivered just about every day, the Co-op offers, among many other dairy products, grass-fed milk, glass-bottled from Manning Hill Farm in Winchester, New Hampshire; organic milk from Stafford Farm in Stafford, Vermont, and Meyenberg’s goat milk. An incredible selection of never-before-seen or hard-to-find yogurts include glass-jarred Bulgarian yogurt from White Mountain Farm in Austin, Texas. Using a 24-hour fermentation process to reduce lactose and aid digestion, these yogurts are made with only two ingredients, milk and culture. Numerous other healthy yogurt choices are available from sources including New York’s Hawthorne Valley Farms, Butterworks in Westfield, Vermont and Brattleboro’s own Sidehill Farm.

Part of the fun of shopping at the Co-op is discovering quality goods and items that are not usually carried in our local supermarkets. The grocery department is thoughtfully and fully stocked with 14,000 different products, many local and Vermont sourced. With more than 15 separate but substantial departments, the Co-op does it all. There is even a bulk purchasing department, allowing customers to stock up on nuts, seeds, grains, coffee, teas, baking supplies and much more that can be bought in quantity to save the consumer time and money. In addition, there is a 24/7 online ordering service with curbside pickup. Catering is also available.

An excellent meat department, stocked with hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, has well known and respected brands, including 100% grass-fed beef from Jericho’s Hardwick farms; poultry from Misty Knoll in New Haven, Vt.; lamb from Superior Farms; Meyer certified angus beef; organic, free-range chickens from Farmer Focus; Murray’s chickens, and turkey from family-owned and operated Stonewood Farm in Orwell, Vt. The Co-op has a huge selection of store-made, sugar- and gluten-free, pork and chicken sausage flavored with seasonings such as apple-cheddar and chicken scallion. Offering both quality and quantity, the Co-op meat department is the biggest and best we’ve seen in our area.

The deli department, with a dedicated team of more than 30 chefs and staff offer eat-in or take-out with dishes made from scratch in the on-site kitchen, providing something for everyone including vegan, vegetarian, meat, non-GMO and organic options. Homemade soups, brick-oven pizza and rotisserie chicken are also available. A hot buffet is served starting at 11 a.m. Grab-and-go meals, such as tempeh salad, southwest steak, eggrolls, sushi, and Thai food (from Anon’s in Brattleboro), make for a quick and easy lunch or dinner shopping.

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

Other departments include fresh seafood, both farm-raised and wild, with filets cut to order as well as homemade crabcakes and salmon burgers; floral and plant selections; a vast wellness and nutrition area including a full line of vitamins, health books and magazines; a housewares section filled with utensils, cookware, candles, and cards, great for gifting; an extensive wine and beer selection; a beautifully displayed array of cheeses, local as well as international (taste samples available); a substantial frozen foods department including a plentiful selection of local ice creams; a produce section displaying a wide range of organically as well as conventionally grown fruits and veggies; as well as a tasty choice of breads from Keene’s Bread Shed offering cranberry pecan, honey oat, multigrain and sourdough, among others.

Some of the items we especially liked were the artisan-infused cooking oils from the Loire Valley’s La Tour Angelle. These natural and organic products of avocado, basil, hazelnut, almond or grapeseed oil, produced in very small batches are authentic and delicious. So too are the various organic and gluten-free granolas from Brattleboro’s Back Roads, offering numerous flavors such as coconut crunch or dark chocolate pecan, all with no added sugar, salt or canola oil.

You get the picture. It's all here. Just stroll around and take it all in. Be prepared to spend some time, to leisurely enjoy all that the Co-op has to offer. If you need a pick-me-up, the store has fresh coffee from Brattleboro’s Mocha Joe's Roasting Company. Or, if you prefer, healthy smoothies and juices are available. Feel free to sit in the Whetstone cafe area, indoors or on the outside patio, weather-permitting. Grab a coffee or tea and a newspaper and just relax. The atmosphere at the Co-op is conducive for slowing down and being part of the community.

If you are traveling from a distance, bring your ice chest or cooler bags because you will probably buy more than you expected. Shopping at the Co-op is an efficient way to load up your refrigerator and freezer.

We’d be remiss not to recognize and applaud the significant role the Co-op plays in the community, partnering with nonprofit organizations and service providers to improve, nurture and support the people of Brattleboro as well as its surrounding neighbors. For those interested in becoming a shareholder, you can do so online or in the store. It’s quite reasonable to do with a one-time investment of $80. A 5% discount is provided for shareholders 65 or older or for those under 65 if they volunteer to work at the store for 2 hours a month.

The Co-op is at 2 Main St. in downtown Brattleboro. Free parking is provided. The Co-op is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it opens at 9 a.m. You can reach the store at 802-257-0236.

David Meiselman and Myra Packman are food and restaurant columnists for Vermont News & Media. They can be reached at