Tag Archives: Iowa

Tallgrass Prairie Update

7 May

by Kathy Larson

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Frontier tallgrass prairie, we’ve planned several enhancements to the prairie and its surroundings.

First, we’re planting an additional six acres into prairie.  The prairie was originally planted to include these six acres but was used a few years later to grow herb crops.  It’s been in grass for the last dozen years; we’re excited to bring it back into tallgrass prairie.  We’re ready to plant as soon as it is dry enough, with an eight prairie grass mix: big bluestem, sideoats grama, Indiangrass, Virginia wild rye, little bluestem, Canada wild rye, rough dropseed and sanddropseed, and two legumes — Illinois bundleflower and partridge pea. Early next spring, we’ll plant wildflowers into the area.  We hope to add flowers that aren’t in our current prairie so we can increase the diversity of blooms.

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Our Tallgrass Prairie in Winter

26 Jan

by Kathy Larson

Iowa winter has been warmer and drier than normal. In fact, it wasn’t until nearly mid-January that we had our first real snowfall.

With a fluffy blanket of four inches of fresh snow covering the prairie, I grabbed tall boots and camera and headed out to take a look.

I expected to see a lot of tracks, but the winds were still blowing the light snow around, keeping the surface smooth except for a few small snow tunnels.

The tall grasses lean over, and, with the other prairie plants, form small caves that are havens for rabbits and rodents.

The abundance of seeds produced by the prairie’s grasses and forbs have mostly been harvested and stored as winter food. Viburnum berries still cling to the bushes edging part of the prairie.

Other than the biting wind, all was still. I could almost imagine myself wandering, lost on a winter prairie of the 1800s, when it was not uncommon for settlers to be caught in a snowstorm and not be able to make their way home.

As I made my way along the path, I played a little game to see how many of the plants I could still identify. Their dark shapes against the snowy whiteness was striking.

A Timeline of Frontier’s History

14 Aug

We’ve had some fans ask us about our start…here’s a timeline with some brief highlights about milestones in our history — and we look forward to many more!

FRONTIER TIMELINE

1976

Frontier begins as two-person operation.
Frontier started out offering difficult-to-find herbs, spices and botanicals to local co-ops.

1978

Establish $1/hr childcare subsidy and employee lunch program.
These two early employee benefits set the tone for three decades of family-friendly and innovative benefits for Frontier workers. We believe a company that creates, produces, and markets wholesome, natural foods and personal care products should also focus on workplace policies and practices that promote personal well-being.

Add first organic products to line.
Frontier was an early leader in promoting organic products and the environmental and social benefits of organic agriculture. We have held that position of leadership throughout our 30-year history. We were the first to offer organic herbs and spices and first to be certified as an organic processor. We have provided ongoing support of the organic industry and organic agriculture worldwide with programs like the donation of 1% of Simply Organic sales to organic farming causes.

Buy 5,200 sq. ft. grocery store in Fairfax, Iowa, and convert into operations facility.

Begin bottling essential oils in response to store requests.

1979

Begin selling other manufacturer’s products in response to store requests.

Incorporate as cooperative owned by customers.

1980

Return first patronage refund.
As a co-op, Frontier returns profits to its member/owners in the form of patronage refunds. Since the first check was sent out in March 1980, Frontier has returned almost $7 million dollars to members.

Implement computerized order systems.

1981

Elect Frontier’s first Board of Directors.

1982

Purchase 10 acres near Norway, Iowa and build 22,152 sq. ft. facility.

1983

Frontier listed 78th on Inc. magazine’s list of “America’s Fastest Growing Companies.”

Establish subsidized on-site childcare and cafeteria.

Produce 135-page Herb & Spice handbook.

1984

Expand Norway facilities to 31,992 sq. ft.

Change by-laws to allow non-co-operative stores to be Frontier members.

1985

Purchase first personal computers.

1986

Become first herb and spice manufacturer with certified organic processing.

1988

Introduce line of packaged spices in response to consumer demand.

Purchase additional 46 acres adjoining Norway site and expand facilities to 37,824 sq. ft.

1989

Introduce CO2 fumigation.
Frontier was the first in the Natural Products Industry to use a natural CO2 process to control infestation in herbs and spices. This natural process allows us to avoid the use of chemical fumigants and provide greater purity in our products.

Expand Norway facilities to 57,360 sq. ft.

1990

Start Frontier Research Farm for testing and developing methods of organic agriculture.

Launch line of bottled spices.

1991

Introduce line of herbal extracts.

Introduce Frontier Coffee, a line of gourmet, 100% organic coffee.

1992

Re-establish tall grass prairie on 21 acres of Norway site.

Introduce cryogenic grinding to preserve product quality in processing.

Begin selling Frontier products through natural food distributors.

Host first Herbfest.
Frontier hosted 13 HerbFest conferences. HerbFest was the country’s largest annual conference on herbs and sustainable living, drawing as many as 1,425 participants each August to the Frontier site in Norway, Iowa. Recognized experts from around the country and the world led hundreds of seminars on natural living that were attended by people from all over the United States.

Frontier CEO Rick Stewart receives Iowa Small Business Person of the Year Award.

1993

Create botanical garden at Norway site.

Working Mother magazine picks Frontier as one of the “100 Best Companies in America for Working Mothers.”

Introduce organic Frontier beer.

Expand Norway facilities to 86,076 sq. ft.

1994

Working Mother magazine again picks Frontier as one of the “100 Best Companies in America for Working Mothers.”

Establish Frontier Coffee social programs.

Build coffee roasting facility in Urbana, Iowa.

Buy Aura Cacia Aromatherapy brand.

1995

Launch first line of certified organic essential oils.
Another example of organic leadership, with Frontier using the expertise gained in sourcing organic herbs and spices to bring the first organic line of essential oils to the marketplace. Just as Frontier’s early promotion of organic botanicals helped create the market for organics, this cutting-edge move into organic essential oils set new standards and built support for organic growth in aromatherapy.

Launch first Frontier web site.

Distill basil essential oil in conjunction with Purdue University.

For the third consecutive year, Working Mother magazine picks Frontier as one of the “100 Best Companies in America for Working Mothers.”

1996

Establish Goldenseal Project.
The Goldenseal Project was created by Frontier to encourage the development of cultivated sources of goldenseal to counteract overharvesting of the plant’s native populations.

Aura Cacia begins in-house gas chromatography testing program.
The expansion of Frontier’s in-house quality testing program to include gas chromatography testing for all oils allowed us to achieve a new level of control and make a truly meaningful guarantee of quality and purity. Our industry-leading quality-testing program with GC allows us to determine the chemical composition of oils to a greater degree of accuracy than other methods allow.

1997

Move marketing office to Boulder, Colorado.

1998

Frontier given “Socially Responsible Business Award” by Natural Products Expo.

Create herb preserve and research farm in Meigs County, Ohio.
Frontier purchased 68 acres in the Appalachian region of Ohio and founded the National Center for the Preservation of Medicinal Herbs (NCPMH) to preserve native populations of at-risk herbs and research methods of cultivating them to counter the effects of over-harvesting.

1999

Founder and CEO Rick Stewart retires.

Expand Norway facilities to present total of 115,248 sq. ft.

2000

Hire Steve Hughes as CEO.

2001

Sell Frontier Coffee to Green Mountain Coffee.

2002

Donate NCPMH to Rural Action.

Organic certification regulations go into effect; Frontier already in full compliance.

Introduce Simply Organic, 100% organic line of spices, seasonings, flavors, mixes and boxed dinners.
The Simply Organic brand is Frontier’s most ambitious effort to date to increasing the reach of organics with affordable, convenient culinary products that fit the modern lifestyle.

Eliminate share money requirement for members.

CEO Steve Hughes resigns. Board creates committee to assume day-to-day operational control and rehires previous key managers. Return executive and management functions to Norway, Iowa.

2003

Hire Tony Bedard as CEO.Move Aura Cacia to former coffee facility in Urbana, Iowa.

Sell boxed dinner portion of Simply Organic to Annie’s.

2004

Adopt mission statement “To convert the world to natural and organic products.”

Begin offering Fair Trade teas.
Fair Trade certification ensures standards are met for wages, living conditions and working conditions for tea pickers.Establish Frontier wholesale web site with online ordering. As we steadily expand and enhance our online service, we expect it to grow in importance to our customers. Over $2 million of sales have been placed on the wholesale site since it went online in September 2004.

Achieve record sales and profitability.

2005

Establish Well Earth program to develop high quality and socially responsible suppliers around the world.
Frontier’s Well Earth program was created to proactively find and develop high-quality and socially responsible organic suppliers around the world and partner with them in producing products and implementing social programs. Our first Well Earth partner is an Indian vanilla supplier that offers workers unusually good job opportunities and pay and contributes to feeding disadvantaged schoolchildren throughout India. Well Earth is a valuable tool in providing our customers with products of the very highest quality and integrity.

Establish Aura Cacia’s Online Aromatherapy retailer training.

$43.4 million in sales leads to record year in sales and profitability.

Achieve new records in market share for aromatherapy and spice products.

2006

Celebrate 30th anniversary!

Today, after even more expansion and advancement, we’re dedicated to continuing our tradition of excellence in all we do.

A July Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

7 Jul

Kathy Larson, Frontier’s VP of Sustainability, took another walk through the tallgrass prairie at our Norway, Iowa, headquarters with her camera, and shares her experience and photos with us here. She’ll return again soon to chronicle the prairie’s changes throughout the year.

With parades, flags, and fireworks over, it’s a good time to head out to the prairie for a relaxing look at nature’s more lasting glory.

A lot has changed since a month ago — everything is taller and more lush. The red-winged blackbirds are as noisy as ever, flying over my head then perching on last year’s sturdy compass plant flower stalks, keeping an eye on me as they guard their hidden nests. A prairie is prime nesting and feeding habitat for these birds, whose diet is about 75% small seeds and grains and 25% small insects — both of which are plentiful here.

Both of the species of echinacea in our prairie are starting to bloom. Echinacea pallida has slender pale purple-pink, drooping petals with a conical seed head rising above them.

Echinacea purpurea’s light purple flowers are wider and form more of a disc.

Another purple flower is horsemint (Monarda fistulosa). The plants are widespread through the upper parts of the prairie and covered with flower buds. The whole plant has a minty-spicy aroma and flavor. Teas made from horseweed were commonly used as remedies among Midwest native peoples.

Two milkweeds adorn our prairie. First is the orange-flowered butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Next is the common milkweed (Asclepias syrica), which has pink and white flower balls at the tops of the plants. Although the milkweeds are much loved by butterflies, none would come and pose for a picture this day.

The color yellow is not to be outdone by the pinks and purple on this walk. Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia serotina) are found here and there in the drier parts of the prairie — their brown center discs like dark eyes looking out from among the sunny petals.

And yellow coneflowers (Ratidibida pinnata) are just starting to send out their yellow petals from their gray/brown central cones.

The flowers of the golden Alexanders, so prevalent in last month’s prairie, are all but gone, and seeds are starting to ripen and turn brown.

The spotted St. John’s (Hypericum punctatum) is just starting to open its half-inch yellow flowers with their numerous stamens that give the flower’s center a whimsical, fairyland look.

Canadian milk vetch (Astragalus canadensis), a legume that helps add nitrogen to prairie soil, grows here and there in small dense colonies, its white flowered spikes easily hidden by surrounding plants.

Another plant with spikes of white flowers is prairie false indigo (Baptisia leucantha). The inch-long, pea-like flowers open first at the bottom of the foot-long stalk.

Along the prairie edges, I find a few yarrow plants (Achillea millefolium) with their white clusters of flowers atop finely divided foliage. While not planted as part of the prairie, yarrow grows wild in old pastures and waste areas and has found its way along the prairie edge where there is plenty of sun.

A stroll over to the small wildlife pond at the edge of the prairie reveals that the recent hot weather lowered the water level several feet.

The track-covered muddy banks now exposed are proof of the pond’s value to the wildlife living in and near the prairie.

When the sun goes down later, the night will be filled with the singing of the frogs that make their home there.

Enjoy Kathy’s previous prairie visit.

And here’s our food feature on Cobblers, Crisps & Pies as Summer Fruit Treats.

A Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

2 Jun

Kathy Larson, Frontier’s VP of Sustainability, took a walk through the tallgrass prairie at our Norway, Iowa headquarters with her camera in hand recently, and shares her experience and photos with us here. She’s agreed to return regularly (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it) to chronicle the prairie’s changes throughout the year.

With both a strong warm breeze out of the southeast and gathering clouds foreshadowing rain, I stroll out to the Frontier tallgrass prairie to see which plants are growing and which are blooming.

I notice many remnants of last year’s foliage, including tall stalks of compass plant and ironweed, which are the favorites of the redwing blackbirds. The birds perch atop the stalks to survey their territory and noisily warn away competitors — and they obviously consider me one.

Bunches of dried grasses, still standing tall throughout the landscape, hide much of the new plant growth, but it’s there. Many plants, like gentian and mondarda, are just starting to poke their heads out from the soil. Others, like the Maximillan sunflowers, are already nearly a foot tall, with last year’s flowering stalks rising from the center of the new green leaves.

The only prairie plant I can find that is flowering this early is Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), a member of the carrot family. The plants are just starting to bloom. When fully opened, their bright yellow clusters of flowers will provide a source of nectar for many types of bees, wasps and small butterflies. Golden Alexanders grows in moist prairies and abandoned fields and is scattered throughout the lower and wetter parts of our prairie.

Along the walking trail that circles the prairie, the dandelions are blooming with plenty of sunny yellow flowers — and almost as many fluffy seed heads, ready to be spread afar on the spring breezes.

I see that Frontier employees are not the only ones to walk the prairie trail. Tracks from pheasants and deer crisscross it too.

It’s a pleasure to walk across this vibrant and diverse prairie.

I’ll try to return often and share what I find there with you.

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