Co-ops Build Local Economy
When is one dollar worth more than a dollar? When it's spent in a locally-owned business, on locally-made or grown products.
Consider your purchase a dollar invested. Fiddleheads buys many goods from local farmers, bakers, brewers, cheesemakers and more. Those growers and crafters in turn support local staff and a myriad of services: accountants, plumbers, veterinarians, mechanics, landscapers, dentists, baristas, truckers, marketers. Or, as they are otherwise known, neighbors. National Co+op Grocers (NCG) estimates that every dollar spent at a local store generates $1.60 in the community, moving outwards in this neighborhood network.
Fiddleheads has always been committed to supporting our neighbors. So far this year, we've sold 1,223 unique local items, a 30% increase over 938 items last year. In calendar 2015, we paid local producers $305,000 for their goods, which amounted to 15% of our total purchases. We're ahead of that track this year, having paid $160,400 in the first six months of 2016. If we use NCG's benchmark, that's more than a quarter million dollars radiating out into our local economy in only half a year.
We have worked with 94 local vendors over the years. These include:
What is local? As a rule, any producer within a 100 mile radius of New London counts as "local," which includes Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts. Most of our farmers and dairy producers are much closer, within 20 miles of the store. We also source from producers in Vermont and New York, reducing food miles whenever possible.
Of course, Fiddleheads cannot source every product in the Northeast. Citrus, ginger, avocados, bananas, many spices, tea will always grow in tropical or sub-tropical climates. But we work hard to find and support as many local entrepreneurs as we can.
Co-ops Build Relationships
Real people making and sharing real food, drink & more!
One of the most enjoyable parts of Fiddleheads' mission is meeting local entrepreneurs and sharing the fruits of their labors with our members and customers. When you shop at Fiddleheads, you're purchasing real food from real people in our part of the world. No anonymous corporations here, just talented bakers, brewers, farmers, cheesemakers, fisherfolk, soapmakers and more who live and work nearby. Meet a few of our many suppliers:
Lisa Bartlett Argilagos is a culinary school graduate who baked at a Florida resort, Foxwoods and Mystic Market before starting her own custom cake business, You Take the Cake, in New London. Her shop specializes in cakes for all occasions. For us, Lisa keeps our customers supplied with popular muffins and several kinds of brownies. Her moist, delicious carrot muffins fly out of the bakery case. When you're looking for a sweet treat, shop the right side of our case.
Thomas Johnson, better known as Chef Tomm, is culinary arts instructor at New London High School. His ambitious program teaches students about farm-to-table food, starting with a garden just outside the school. FRESH New London cleared the land and built 9 raised beds where students learn to plant, nurture, harvest and then cook and eat vegetables and herbs. Chef Tomm recently challenged his students to create products for sale at farmers' markets and here at Fiddleheads. They developed the recipe for rosemary focaccia, created the green-and-gold Whaler Café packaging, and learned how to cost ingredients and labor. This savory bread is delicious straight from the case, or warm it for a few minutes in the oven to enhance the rosemary and olive oil scent. We've also discovered that it's easy to slice any leftovers, freeze them and reheat in a toaster for a single serving or two.
Cheese & Dairy
Mystic Cheese Company is a collective that applies science and art to craft a unique line of fresh cheeses. The company sources its still-warm milk every day at Graywall Farm, a dairy in Lebanon. Founder Brian Civitello learned traditional cheesemaking in Italy. Jason Sobocinski, sales and marketing manager, knows cheese well from his retail experience owning Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro in New Haven.
The partners designed and built a portable farmstead cheesemaking kitchen in two recycled shipping containers. These mobile "cheese pods," installed at Graywall, yield several fresh cheeses, including their most popular variety, Mystic Melville. Try this soft ripening cheese with bread, chutney, or fruit preserves or add to cooked dishes of mushrooms, vegetables or pasta.
Fiddleheads sources seasonal vegetables from half a dozen family farms in Waterford, Salem, Ledyard and Lebanon. Hunts Brook Farm in Quaker Hill grew all of our lettuce this year, from spring through fall. Customers also enjoy their tomatoes, kale, Asian greens, eggplant, sweet peppers, summer squash, herbs and more. This month, while still delivering lettuce and kale, Rob and Teresa Schacht also provide plump heads of garlic and the biggest leeks we've seen.
Rob, also known as Digger or Digga, uses organic methods to nurture nutrient-dense soil. This creates a balanced soil with the application of natural minerals and beneficial microorganisms. Feed the soil, feed the plants.
Seawell Seafood Market, a family-owned store in Pawcatuck, supplies us with Black Pearl salmon, sustainably raised Atlantic salmon from northern Scotland, where the cold North Sea meets the Atlantic. Certified ISO 14001 management assures this salmon is grown under carefully monitored conditions, from egg to harvest. The flavor is clean, with buttery fat. It's the best salmon we've ever tasted, and needs only the simplest preparation. We're delighted to be able to offer a fish that meets the highest environmental management standards and practices. We can also order local dayboat scallops, local oysters and other fish for our customers.
Einkorn is an ancient wheat that is a boon for anyone with gluten sensitivity. Unchanged for thousands of years, this grain originated in the Middle East and now grows in Italy. Never hybridized, Einkorn has 40% more protein and 15% less starch than typical wheat flour.
The local connection? Carla and Rodolfo Bartolucci founded Jovial Foods to bring this uncommon flour to the U.S. – with headquarters in North Stonington! They founded the company after a long search for good, organic alternatives for a daughter with a serious gluten sensitivity. Einkorn was a surprise, one they decided they had to share with other families. Fiddleheads offers Jovial gluten-free pastas, flour, cookies, crackers and wheat berries.
Tired of too-floral, itty-bitty bars of soap? T. Gates Councilor and Maurice "Punk" Beebe of Mystic decided to make their own – big bars that wouldn't melt after a couple of showers, in scents that appeal to guys, as well as to women. That proved easier said than done, but they persevered, experimented, tweaking formulas, making batch after batch, improving each time. They commissioned one-of-a-kind molds that make each large bar (almost ¾ of a pound) look like rough-hewn stone. After developing The Rebel (leather, orange, clove and bay rum scents) and The Mechanic (peppermint, tea tree and basil), Gates and Punk realized they had something other folks would probably like, too. And Burly Stone was born. Find Burly Stone soaps, beard elixirs and balms in our Wellness department.
Beer & Brews
Step by step with the rise of the local food movement came the discovery of local beer. Microbreweries provide a taste experience completely different from mass-produced beer. New London's own Safe Harbor Beer is a case in point. From the easy-drinking 1790 Lager to hoppy Safe Harbor India Pale Ale, Safe Harbor experimented with different recipes before arriving at its signature tastes. Created in New London, brewed at the Cottrell Brewing Co. in Pawcatuck.
Artisan Beverage Cooperative isn't quite in the neighborhood, but this Greenfield, MA-based co-op is a model of a worker-owned cooperative. It's the home of Katalyst Kombucha, our bulk kombucha. Bring your own bottles or buy our refillable ones to satisfy your thirst. Kombucha is a naturally fermented, slightly fizzy drink that starts with tea sweetened with organic cane sugar. Katalyst flavors its teas with Concord grapes from a New York coop, organic blueberries grown in Massachusetts, and/or fresh-pressed organic ginger.
Fiddleheads Builds Sustainability
At Fiddleheads, sustainability matters. Walking through our aisles, you’ll see shelves filled with local and organic produce, coffees grown on farms which protect biodiversity, and household products made with renewable and recycled materials. In every department, our buyers ask, “Is this product good for our environment? Is it safe for our pollinators? Is it healthy for our producers and consumers?” We know that the choices we make today will have repercussions for generations to come.
We Walk the Walk
Our commitment to sustainability begins with our own practices. 100% of the electricity we purchase is generated by wind farms and supplied by Arcadia Power. We save pounds of edible food scraps each day for the pigs at Firefly Farms in North Stonington. We give other compostable materials to one of our owners, Bob Stuller, who provides mountains of compost to FRESH community gardens and other local gardeners. We’re also avid recyclers: check out our new infographics about recycling and composting in the café.
We Provide Sustainable Options for You
If you’d like to reduce your carbon footprint, consider this: the transportation sector produces a quarter of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, and our food system is partly to blame. The average apple in the United States travels over 1,700 miles from orchard to market! At Fiddleheads, we offer an incredible selection of apples grown within 100 miles of the co-op. And it’s not just our produce that’s local; many of our baked goods, dairy products, eggs, beers, honeys, meats, tofus, soaps and skin care products are local, too.
Or maybe you’d like to reduce the amount of packaging you use. In that case, you can buy grains and beans, coffees and teas, olive oil and more from our bulk department. We even offer bulk laundry detergent and bulk beauty materials. By buying products from our distributors in bulk and allowing customers to portion what they need it greatly reduces packaging waste.
We also carry a multitude of items designed to reduce waste. Have you ever wished you didn’t have to throw out an entire product because a single component had worn out? Our Preserve toothbrushes and Full Circle cleaning utensils—made from recycled plastics and sustainable bamboo—come with replaceable heads. Our Decomposition notebooks are made from 100% recycled paper. BNTO Canning Jar Lunchbox Adaptors turn a mason jar into a lunchbox, complete with separate compartments for wet and dry ingredients—and it was co-invented by former New Londoner Josh Resnikoff.
Protecting Pollinators & Eliminating Pesticides
At Fiddleheads, we know that our food system depends on a healthy population of bees, butterflies and other pollinators. That’s one reason we buy from organic, CT NOFA and Integrated Pest Management-verified (IPM) farms. For example, many of our apples come from Champlain Orchards in Champlain Valley VT, which relies on biological controls like natural predators and mating disruption rather than bee-harming pesticides. Our cotton products such as canvas bags, Eat More Kale tee-shirts and Maggie’s socks are made with organic cotton. We also carry a wide assortment of shade-grown, organic coffees and chocolates. By using sustainable farming techniques, coffee and cocoa farmers not only protect pollinators and migrating birds, they also mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. All of our organic, fair trade Equal Exchange coffees, teas and chocolates are on sale for Fair Trade Month October!
Sustainability is the Foundation for Everything We Do
We choose to be locally owned and controlled so that we will continue to benefit Southeastern Connecticut. We choose to prioritize buying from local vendors in order to build a resilient, sustainable local economy. We choose to offer eco-friendly products because we know that our health relies on our planet’s health. We’re here for the long term well-being of our community and our environment. That’s what sets co-ops apart!
Building community comes naturally to Fiddleheads. Our co-op exists because people who wanted to make Southeastern Connecticut healthier, more resilient, and more sustainable came together to make their vision a reality. We started with a handful of people meeting in living rooms and expanded to a few hundred owners by the time we opened. Now, almost nine years later, we’re over 2,600 strong. Our friends, families and neighbors are deeply invested in Fiddleheads, and we, in turn, are deeply invested in our community.
Community is embedded in the notion of cooperatives. Co-ops all around the world operate according to seven cooperative principles. The seventh principle is Concern For Community. Focusing on the needs of members co-ops create programs that strengthen surrounding neighborhoods. At Fiddleheads, we take this principle to heart and it plays a large part in our daily operations. We’re continually expanding and refining the ways we serve not only the people who’ve invested in us, but also the people, organizations, and businesses whose well-being is entwined with ours.
One way we do this is by donating to and working closely with community organizations. For example, so far this year we’ve donated over seven hundred pounds of food to the Gemma Moran Food Center and have partnered with F.R.E.S.H. New London (Food: Resources, Education, Security, Health) on a number of events; helping them to increase access to healthy, local food. We served as a satellite location for their Spring Plant sale, sold assorted pepper plants and Aji Dolce peppers in our Produce department, contributed a gift basket for a summer fundraiser at the Seehund, and donated cheeses to the Farm to Pier dinner benefitting F.R.E.S.H.
In an effort to promote sustainability and community enrichment, we created the Neighborly Nickel program. Each time you reuse one of your shopping bags at Fiddleheads, we give you a wooden token that directs a five cent donation to one of three featured organizations. We’re excited to announce that our patrons have chosen F.R.E.S.H. New London, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and V.E.T.S. (Veterans Equine Therapeutic Services) as our Neighborly Nickel recipients from October until year end. We look for organizations that share our goals of benefiting the welfare of our community by bolstering health, human and animal rights, and environmental sustainability. If you know of an organization that would benefit from Neighborly Nickel contributions in the future, please ask a staff member for an application.
We’re thrilled to support New London High School students by selling their Rosemary Garlic Focaccia Bread and pizza dough. NLHS culinary students source their ingredients, make their bread and pizza dough, and price their products. It’s a great learning experience for them and a great eating experience for the rest of us. You can find their focaccia bread in the bakery case and their pizza dough in the frozen foods aisle.
The Co-op strives to create educational opportunities for all. This past summer we encouraged dozens of children to try a rainbow of vegetables with our Veggie Passport program; providing produce at a promotional price to participating families and creating fun, veggie-related activities for the kids. We’ve also hosted drop-in workshops such as making your own botanical bug sprays, and look forward to hosting an informal talk with Herb Pharm on Immunity Boosting and Stress Relief on Wednesday October 19th.
Fiddleheads participates in New London celebrations and events. You might have spotted us this past March in New London’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. We were the scrappy bunch with “kale feathers” in our hats, kids in wagons, and a jolly fellow pushing a wheelbarrow full of compost! We sampled grilled pesto crostini for the Spring Food Stroll, gave away bottled water and cupcakes during Sailfest, and tabled weekly at Field of Greens Farmers’ Market. Next up, the Fall Food Stroll! This Wednesday, October 12 from 5:30-8:30 p.m., we’ll be offering Mulligatawny Soup, and hosting a beer tasting inside the store. We always offer a vegan, gluten-free option to appeal to the needs of many. The semi-annual Food Strolls are fundraisers for New London Main Street and bring hundreds of enthusiastic people to the many small businesses and restaurants in downtown New London. You can purchase a ticket in person at the Garde Arts Theater from 10:00-5:00 or online at www.newlondonmainstreet.org.
We try to reach out by offering food and festivities for anyone interested. For Earth Day, we held a community cookout with live music and affordable, eco-friendly grilled sandwiches. More recently, we held an ice cream social, where everyone could mingle and enjoy Farmer’s Cow ice cream with eclectic toppings. And that’s not all; we have more community events coming up later this year. For Oktoberfest, we’re offering weekly beer tastings, dubbed Thirsty Thursdays, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. culminating in a bar crawl on October 27th. For Election Day (November 8th), we’re offering free coffee or tea to anyone wearing an “I Voted” sticker. Democracy is worth celebrating! Whether you’re voting for your state and national elected officials this fall or for the Co-op’s Board of Directors this spring, your vote and your voice are important. On November 11th, we’ll be giving away slices of apple pie for our “American as Apple Pie” Veterans Day celebration honoring those who have served.
We’re proud of what we do for our community and want to do more. Fiddleheads was formed because our founders knew that if we pooled our resources in a grassroots effort, we could make Southeastern Connecticut a better place to live. That same desire still motivates us today.
Because building community is what co-ops do.
If you’re looking to participate with the co-op via events, donations or otherwise, contact Rae Hutchins via email email@example.com.