My organic living “Aha!” moment: Walking into a co-op for the first time

This post is the first in a series in which Frontier employees share their organic living “Aha!” moment – an experience that shaped their commitment to a more mindful lifestyle.

By Alan Miles

My life changed in 1971 when I walked into New Pioneer Co-op at 518 Bowery Street in Iowa City.

New Pioneer Co-op, 1971

New Pioneer Co-op opened in Iowa City in 1971. It was after walking through this door, at 518 Bowery St., that I first encountered organic living.

It wasn’t that I suddenly saw the whole truth about natural and organic food in that moment, of course — it was more a butterfly effect from a seemingly minor event that reverberated across decades and almost every aspect of my future life.

That day, my outlook on food was broadened and deepened. Starting with brown rice and vegetables I hadn’t heard of, I saw new possibilities for cooking. Stir-fries became one of my staples.

I began spending time with others who shared my interest in natural food, and my awareness of environmental and political issues related to food grew. Books like Silent Spring and Diet for a Small Planet moved onto my must-read list and I became committed to organic gardening.

Alan Miles 1971

Here I am sometime around 1971, when my awareness of environmental and political issues related to food began to grow.

One of my new relationships became life-long. Shortly after my wife, Karen, and I were married, she became manager of a natural food co-op whose membership included a number of people who worked at Frontier Herbs. Soon she was hired to work at Frontier. A year later, I followed, and I have been here ever since, mainly writing about organics, natural products and sustainable living.

I’m convinced that the offhand decision to stop by that food co-op to see what was going on 40-some years ago had more of an effect on my life than many of the carefully assessed “big” choices about colleges, residences and such that I made. And I’m really glad that first New Pi store caught my eye – and opened my eyes to the richness of a natural and organic lifestyle.

Where did your organic living story begin?

Alan MilesAbout the author: A Frontier employee since before the co-op had computers (over 30 years), Alan explores ideas and issues related to a sustainable lifestyle — from cooking and culture to social and environmental responsibility. He enjoys Shakespeare, but not as much as college basketball. Alan is a family man, liking nothing better than spending time with his wife of 33 years, his four kids and four grandkids.

5 thoughts on “My organic living “Aha!” moment: Walking into a co-op for the first time

  1. While I certainly had my first “Ah” experience walking into the Boston Food Coop in Allston, MA (a neighborhood of Boston), right around the corner from where I had my first solo apartment (I had roomies before), my first “Aha” came earlier. As a college freshman bio major I had taken a field trip out to Rodale Farms, where I was introduced to amaranth and fish ponds. Later, I remember writing about organic farming for my peace studies seminar. At first, my professor questioned the connection, but I think I succeeded in building a case for what we now call sustainability, as against the highly Western and petrochemical “Green Revolution.”

  2. Pingback: My organic living “Aha!” moment: In an eggshell | The Cayenne Room

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