Winter Approaches on the Prairie

by Kathy Larson

It’s sunny and the winds are finally down the day after our first major frost here in Eastern Iowa – a perfect day to visit the prairie. So much has changed over the last few weeks. The eastern half of our prairie still has some purple aster and yellow goldenrod flowers scattered about while the western half has no flowers left of any kind.

Most of the butterflies that were so numerous just a few weeks ago are gone now. Those that remain are clustered around the areas where there are still some flower blossoms.

In a protected corner, a nice stand of Maximillan sunflowers still hold their own — with numerous sunny yellow flowers climbing the tall thick stems. It’s the only stand left, with just a few scattered stragglers elsewhere to remind us of the flowers that dominated most of the prairie for nearly a month.

Grasshoppers are prevalent on the mowed paths where they graze on the grass.

Prairie paths are mowed monthly to make it easy to see all parts of the prairie without having to hike through thick, tangled vegetation.

Even though most of the prairie flowers are gone, replaced by the seeds that will drop to the ground or drift to new areas in hopes of finding a suitable place to put down roots, the walk is as enjoyable as ever.

No open soil is available on our soon-to-be 20-year-old prairie, so most of the seeds that don’t manage to migrate elsewhere will feed migrating and over-wintering birds, mice, shrews, quail and pheasants.

The prairie floor seems to be a solid mass of vegetation, but a closer look shows small tunnels everywhere through the grasses – places for creatures to nest, run and hide. And as I walk, I hear little rustlings here and there.

I notice something unusual in a section dense with goldenrods — numerous swellings on the stems of many of the goldenrods. The swellings are called galls, and are made by a parasitic insect called a goldenrod gall fly.

The female lays her eggs inside the stem. The larva, when it hatches, eats stem tissue, causing the stem to grow abnormally and produce a gall. The larva stays inside the gall, eating and growing until winter when it creates an anti-freeze like substance that keeps it alive during the winter. In the spring, it will exit the stem as an adult fly.

While the prairie is ending its abundance of colorful blooms, the many interesting textures and shapes of the foliage and seed heads keep the prairie beautiful and interesting.

And animal life goes on — the prairie will provide food and shelter even through our long, cold Iowa winters.

We’ll check back to see how that wildlife is faring as the days turn cold and snowy.

An Inside Look at the LEED Silver Certified Frontier Natural Products Co-op Headquarters

As we told you in an earlier post, Frontier Co-op achieved LEED silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the renovation of their original warehouse in 2010.

Areas considered in this certification are energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as a variety of other sustainable practices. By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

Here’s a video that provides a visual of these upgrades and practices — and gives you an inside look at our headquarters.

Tips for Sustainable Travel

Summer means travel if you’re lucky. Each time we travel, we’re looking for ways to lessen our use of disposable goods – in other words, we look for sustainable elements in hotels, eateries, public transport, and shops we visit along the way.

This quest has led us to become fans of the website Traveling Greener.  The blog features an extensive roundup of global travel tips and informative websites.

A recent feature explains some of the advantages of staying at a rental property rather than a hotel in order to travel more sustainably.

We’ve found this to be true as well. Obviously a rental villa or apartment uses less energy than a big hotel. Consider all the “less” involved: less waste, no daily changing of linens, no waste from an adjoining restaurant, and from our experience, they often stock the rooms with products and supplies that are made locally, which equals less fuel used in transporting goods.

A recent post on Traveling Greener features Lara Dunston, who blogs with Terence Carter about sustainable, local and experiential travel at Grantourismo. Lara offers her top 10 tips on traveling sustainably. A few of them:

  • Apply the same eco-friendly practices you would at home: separate rubbish, re-use plastic bags, use lighting, electricity and water wisely.
  • Travel to the destination by train or boat instead of plane; once you arrive use public transport, ride bikes, or walk everywhere.
  • Shop at local markets, farmer’s markets, organic markets, and specialized stores, such as butchers, cheesemongers and fishmongers. If you must use a supermarket, check packaging carefully.
  • Use small, local, independently-owned businesses to keep the money in the community, instead of big supermarkets, department stores and global franchises.
  • Do eco-friendly activities: walking tours, nature-based activities, visit small museums, local parks and gardens, and use local, eco-certified, responsible travel companies.

Maybe you’ve never considered these sorts of travel options. If not, we hope you’ll explore some of these ideas.  And knowing how careful some of our customers are about sustainability, we know some of you are experts on traveling that way too.

Please share some of your own tips and experiences with us!

Frontier’s On-site Childcare

A warm spring day was a welcome addition to a recent celebration at our on-site childcare facility. Photo courtesy Shelly Buswell

We enjoy giving you some inside views of our operation here in Iowa. Every now and then we post some photos of our employees on Facebook, and our fans there seem to enjoy it. Our blog gives us an opportunity to do the same, and also to go into a bit more detail.

A Jump Castle never fails to create excitement, and might be a plus when it comes to napping later. Photo by Jess Otter

At our Norway facility, as an employee benefit, we operate a state-licensed childcare center that serves around 70 children. Frontier subsidizes about half the cost for our employees, with discounts for multiple siblings. Employees’ children can also enjoy day camp fun during their summer break from school. Employees at other locations are provided a subsidy for licensed childcare for their children.

Our CEO Tony Bedard drops by to read a story. Photo courtesy Shelly Buswell

Last week, the kids celebrated the Week of the Young Child, and we snapped some photos on Wacky Day. To the tireless staff at our childcare center, Wacky Day may not have seemed much different than some other days, but it made for some cute photos!

Think you have what it takes to handle this crew every day? Photo by Jess Otter

You can read more about our employee benefits here.

Thanks for stopping by.

Come on in!

Frontier headquarters, Norway, IA

Welcome to the Cayenne Room, the Frontier Natural Products Co-op blog.

For the past two years, we’ve enjoyed bringing you information via Facebook and Twitter, and this blog is our way of continuing that engagement with you, our customers. As a company, Frontier seeks to lead the way in bringing nature — and peace of mind — to those who use our products. We’re happy to have yet another outlet for doing so.

You’ll meet the people who make our products, sell our products, and use our products.

We’ll bring you information here you won’t find elsewhere: about food, recipes, health, and nutrition.

We’ll also give you an insider’s perspective on our sourcing and our Well Earth program. We’ll be exploring ways for you to live a natural lifestyle.

And of course, we’ll be examining the true meaning of one of today’s very widely used words: sustainability. As a leading supplier of organic herbs and spices, we’re inspired daily by our goal to leave future generations with a healthier world than the one we live in today. We’ll share that journey with you.

Now, it’s your turn. We’re listening. Please take a moment and let us know what you’d like to see in our blog. It can be a thought about some of the topics listed above, or some additional ideas of your own.

Thanks for joining us!