My organic living “Aha!” moment: From discovering organic food to growing it myself

By Joanna Mouming

​My organic living “Aha!” moment ​was when I first discovered the quality of organic food.

I am fortunate to have grown up eating meals that were prepared using fresh ingredients, rather than canned and frozen foods. I served, in a way, as sous chef to my mother in the kitchen as I became old enough to do so. I can’t snap beans, toss a salad or shuck corn without being reminded of doing so for the many years I lived in Syracuse, New York, with my family.

Our dream farm has a lovely view of the Iowa countryside and gives us new opportunities to explore the value of organic growing.

Our dream farm has a lovely view of the Iowa countryside and gives us new opportunities to explore the value of organic growing.

But despite having been raised on freshly prepared meals, I wasn’t raised on organic foods. While I was a young foodie in college, my interest in, and eventual commitment to, eating organic foods didn’t surface until a friend joined the New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City, and I went there with her. The food I saw on the shelves and the many farmers stopping in to deliver organic vegetables, fruit, flowers, eggs, etc., piqued my interest in organics.

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My organic living “Aha!” moment: Learning the benefits of eating well and sustainably

By Liz Hopkins

My organic living “Aha!” moment was when I was hired as the chef at Frontier’s employee cafe.

I didn’t really have a sudden moment of revelation when I fully realized the value of eating organically. Instead, I gradually learned about the benefits of eating well and eating sustainably. I converted over a period of years from a meat-eater to a vegetarian committed to buying organic whenever I can.

But even though there wasn’t a moment of sudden realization in my progression, there was that definite turning point — when I was hired to run the employee café at Frontier. I’d worked in hotel kitchens for many years, but when I started at Frontier Co-op, I found for the first time a sizable group of people who appreciated natural food and preferred to eat organically.


Learning on the job

The new job was definitely a learning experience — natural ingredients replaced the highly processed ones I was used to, and the nutritional value and wholesomeness of the food moved front and center. Efficiency was still important, but it didn’t trump food quality in the Frontier Café.

My outlook — and my skills — changed. I enjoyed the experience of learning to cook with whole grains, dried beans, seasonal produce and the like. It was easy converting familiar recipes to more natural versions, and it was fun to experiment with the almost unlimited seasoning palette of the spices Frontier sells. I felt great about the food I was making at work, and soon I was cooking the same way at home. Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: Connecting micronutrients to organic food

By Charlynn Avery

My organic living “Aha!” moment was during my study of micronutrients for a holistic nutrition diploma.

The word “organic” has always been important to me. What is derived from living matter is organic – not only in the context of plants, but all life. Organic means authentic, real and alive.

Charlynn (1)

My conscious choice to live organically was an early moment in adulthood when I realized that I wanted to live a life that was authentic and real. I had already began surrounding myself with organic products and making choices that reflected that ideal. However, it wasn’t until I educated myself about the impact of organic living on my health and wellbeing that I made the shift to where I am today. Organic ceased being an idyllic word and became a life priority. Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: Discovering the power of good food

By Kailee Meskimen 

My organic living “Aha!” moment was when I lost 50 pounds.

organic living

Many things have altered my life, but none quite like food. Yes, food. As a young girl, raised on canned veggies, frozen meat and TV dinners, I never assumed food was the enemy or worried about what was in it. In college, my diet consisted of everyone’s favorites: Ramen noodles, cereal and frozen pizza. After all, food is food, right?

Although I remained fairly active and was somewhat health conscious throughout college, I noticed my clothes were becoming snug and my confidence was plummeting. A few years later, I got married. I knew no matter what I looked like, my husband would always, always love me, but I was at my highest weight ever. What had happened to me? Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: Confronting my mom’s cancer

By Mariah Andrews

My organic “aha!” moment was literally a wake-up call.

I got the call from my sister Fran at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning eight years ago. My mom was in the intensive care unit at the University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics. She had nearly died from heart failure the night before.

At the time we didn’t know whether Mom would live or die, or what caused the heart failure.

We soon found out: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the disease-fighting network in the body known as the lymphatic system.

Me (third from left) with my sisters and mother in 20XX.

Me (second from right) with my sisters and mom.

A series of “Aha!” moments

My first organic living “Aha!” moment was learning about one of the risk factors for non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma: chemicals. Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: What’s in that jar of baby food?

By Sara Mallicoat

My organic ‘Aha!’ moment was at my baby shower, playing the “Guess the baby food!” game. 

We were all struggling to figure out what that reddish, funky smelling jar of baby food was supposed to be. I work in product development, so I’m used trying different things — and I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the time we tried Kala Namak Salt (a salt that is often used in Indian cuisine and tastes and smells a bit like rotten eggs). So, I tried this mystery jar of food, and found it didn’t taste like any fruit I’d ever eaten!

We all guessed strawberry banana — it turned out to be apple and cherry.

That sealed the deal for me; I knew I had to make my soon-to-be-born son’s baby food. In that moment with the mystery jar of baby food, I became passionate about feeding my child organic, healthy food options that would actually taste good (that was my hope anyway!).


Now with two little ones in tow, eating healthy, organic meals is more important to me than ever.

There are some good pre-made baby food options out on the market. However, I was already striving to eat organic fruit and vegetables and cut down on processed foods. I was determined to feed my son yummy, wholesome food that was made with love — even though I had no idea how to do it. But I figured I had plenty of time to figure out how to make it happen. Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: Proselytizing the milkman

By Katie Shatzer

My organic living “Aha!” moment was at a cocktail party, when I began debating the use of synthetic hormones in dairy cows with a sales representative from a dairy pharmaceutical company.

organic living milk

A simple glass of milk signifies an important shift in my lifestyle and beliefs.

This recent conversation started like polite chitchat often does: I asked the man about his line of work, and he replied that he was a salesman in the dairy industry.

I replied with a generic response, and he continued describing the products he sells. “Have you ever heard of rBST?” Continue reading

My organic living “Aha!” moment: In an eggshell

By Tom Havran

My organic living “Aha!” moment was when I experienced the difference between real, farm-fresh eggs and those from factory farm, caged hens.

organic livng chicken coop

The chicken coop from my childhood still stands at my parents’ Iowa farm today.

organic living Tom

Me at age 9

Around 1971, at age 9 or so, my first set of chores was to tend a flock of laying hens (leghorns) in the ramshackle chicken coop on the farm that I grew up on. I remember their snowy white feathers, bright yellow legs and jiggling red combs as they scurried and scratched about around my legs. This, my first lesson in taking responsibility consisted of many tasks: feeding and watering the birds, cleaning and changing their bedding, gathering and washing the eggs. Continue reading

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. Continue reading