Lactose-intolerant localvores will have something to be thankful for in November. Andrew Meyer and Todd Pinkham of the Vermont Soy Company in Hardwick plan to start producing chocolate, vanilla, and plain organic soymilk. They hope to follow later with tofu, soy yogurt, a kefir-like soy beverage and tempeh. Many of their recipes were developed in concert with the Nutrition and Food Sciences Department at UVM and, ideally, they will all be produced using soybeans grown at multiple small farms in Vermont.
This venture would have been impossible just a few years ago, according to Pinkham. The market just wasn't there. The soy beverage industry changed drastically in 1999, when the FDA ruled that soy products could carry a "heart health" claim on their labels. When large dairy companies realized they could process soymilk using existing equipment, many went into full-scale production. These companies have demonstrated a huge demand for soymilk, leading the way for companies like Vermont Soy.
But Pinkham suggests that large dairies often operate in ways that aren't eco-friendly, even when the soymilk they churn out is certified organic - for example, clear-cutting South American rainforests to make room for large fields of soy. Vermont Soy is careful about their suppliers, even for their packaging: Their recyclable plastic bottles are made in South Burlington. You can't get much more local than that.