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Dr. Sue Keller

Edibles & Eateries

Gourmet food store

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River Valley Market

330 N. King St.
Northampton, MA
(413) 584-2665

General Manager Rochelle Prunty prefers to let River Valley's statistics speak for themselves, and they are impressive ones, especially for a relatively new business. The 4,000-plus-member family-owned co-op is exceptionally committed to sustainable, environmentally responsible business practices and the strong support of local food sources and economic exchange. Fully 20 percent of the food the market purchased in 2009 came from within 100 miles—about $1 million worth. Another $1 million worth was purchased from within the Northeast region. Want to know how that breaks down in terms of food? Well, for starters, the co-op purchased 14,000 ears of local corn, 36,000 pounds of local apples and 144,000 (12,000 dozen) local eggs. It also bought 13,000 gallons of local milk, 9,000 pounds of regional cheeses and 4,000 pounds of local beef, and continues to keep its doors open to all manner of local produce. It employs local people, champions its many source farms and supports locally owned businesses by hiring local contractors and advertising in local media. But it doesn't stop there. River Valley Market has also made an exceptional effort to set an example as a business that's serious about sustainable building and maintenance, and truly cares about the environment. Its recycling program diverted 81 percent of last year's waste from the local landfill through composting or recycling (an achievement which should merit a tax break in a town whose landfill is almost full)! Through its bag reuse program, an estimated 60,000 bags have been reused (approximately 85 trees' worth), and in happily symbiotic efforts, River Valley has raised funds for local nonprofits like the Food Bank and the Survival Center. To "top it off," the co-op's roof is covered with a 165-panel solar array that kept 82,000 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere last year, and though this produced power only meets a fraction of the market's need, 100 percent of additional purchased energy comes from "green" producers (mostly generated from wind power). Even if it didn't have all its impressive walking of the talk when it comes to planet and people karma, River Valley Market still stands out as an awesome choice for good, healthy food, period. Fresh meat and seafood arrive several days a week; a wellness section is packed with the best brands of vitamins and other supplements; there is beer and wine (much of which is also regionally produced) and a bulk foods section where you can find just about anything. Member specials are a big incentive to officially join. You can even dine in at River Valley, in its Quarry Cafe and bakery, which features fair trade organic coffee drinks as well as made-to-order fruit smoothies, a daily hot bar and salad bar equipped for breakfast and lunch. Baked goods include H&H bagels from Brooklyn (one of the co-op's few nonlocal indulgences), scones, muffins, pastries, gluten-free options and fresh-baked local bread from Bread Euphoria and Berkshire Mountain Bakery Bread. In addition, there are typically three homemade soups on hand at any given time. At 17,000 square feet, the co-op describes itself as "large enough to meet your needs and small enough to meet your neighbors." That's an equation we'd like to see more of, and it's hard to think of a better example of this year's Best of the Valley theme, "Desire to Inspire," than this collective of community members who've clearly decided that, in fact, there's a lot that's worth caring about.

Also won: 1st place Local green business
2nd place Place for fair trade products
2nd place Health food store
3rd place Place for homemade soup
2nd: Whole Foods Market
327 Russell St. (Rte. 9)
Hadley, MA
(413) 586-9932

and various locations
Also won: 1st place, Health food store

3rd: Cook's Shop Here
65 King St.
Northampton, MA
(413) 584-5116
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