Breitenbush Herbal Conference, Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center, Oregon

The Breitenbush Retreat and Conference Center is a worker-owned cooperative on 154 acres of wildlife sanctuary in the Willamette National Forest of the Oregon Cascades. Even the description is full of beautiful words!

An event is held at this stunning location that we’re proud to sponsor: the Breitenbush Herbal Conference, an annual gathering for herbalists, healers, and students. As the Herbal Conference website describes it: “People come from all corners to celebrate and learn from some of the most inspiring teachers in the herbal community. The healing waters and ancient forests of Breitenbush provide an incredible setting for this magical gathering. Workshops, demonstrations, herb walks, and merriment, appeal to all levels of students.”

Our herbal expert Tim Blakley has been in attendance as a teacher at this event from the beginning, and happily returned this year to reunite with some of his fellow conference founders. He provided us with the delightful then and now photos below.

The event served as a fundraiser to benefit our friends at United Plant Savers as well. United Plant Savers is a group of plant enthusiasts committed to raising public awareness of the plight of our wild medicinal plants. They are dedicated to protecting these plants through organic cultivation, sustainable agricultural practices, and the replanting of native medicinal species back into their natural habitats. Their membership reflects the diversity of American herbalism and includes wildcrafters, seed collectors, manufacturers, growers, botanists, practitioners, medicine makers, educators and plant lovers from all walks of life.

Teachers at the first Breitenbush Herbal Conference, 1984.

Reunion of teachers, 2011. Tim Blakley is on the left in the front row.

Let us know if you’ve visited this beautiful spot in the Cascades, or attended the conference! 

New Twists on Everyday Spices

As we seek healthier eating habits while dealing with tighter budgets, cooking and eating at home is more attractive than ever. If you’re an at-home cook looking for an easy way to expand your culinary horizons, you might try creating some new taste sensations in familiar dishes by using new versions of your favorite spices to liven up family favorites.

Here are some to consider:

Cinnamon is an especially popular spice that comes from the bark of an evergreen tree. For an even sweeter seasoning, try Vietnamese cinnamon. Compared to the more familiar Indonesian types, Vietnamese cinnamon has a distinctly sweet flavor and exceptionally high volatile oil content, the key flavor component. Gourmet cooks rate it as the highest-quality cinnamon in the world. Try using it in everything from oatmeal and baked goods to desserts, beverages and savory dishes.

If you love heat in your food, you’ve probably learned the ways of cayenne. Cayenne adds color and flavor to Southwestern salsas, Indian chutneys, Thai curries, Mexican enchiladas, Chinese stir-fries, Texan chili con carne, Cajun hot sauce and many other recipes. But for a smokier flavor, try chipotle peppers, which are actually dried, smoked jalapeno peppers. Their smoky-sweet flavor is often used in Southwestern and Mexican dishes. Add a dash to liven up everything from chili to barbequed fare.

Freshly ground black pepper is popular in a wide variety of foods, works well in combination with other herbs and spices and is commonly found in spice blends. To change things up, try using Sichuan (Szechuan) pepper instead of black pepper to add an exotic twist to recipes. Gourmet Sichuan pepper is grown in China and offers an unusual, pungent flavor that begins as warm and lemon-like with woodsy overtones and finishes with a more intense bite. It intensifies the flavor of fish, poultry, cheese, and vegetables.

You’ve probably been using vanilla extract to flavor all kinds of desserts, beverages and other dishes. One way to ramp up the flavor is to switch to vanilla beans instead of using the liquid extract. Simply substitute one vanilla bean for each teaspoon of extract, cooking it with the liquid used in the recipe and then removing it. The most common type of vanilla, Bourbon vanilla beans, are grown in Madagascar and are very aromatic with a full, rich taste. But to bump up the flavor, try Papua New Guinea vanilla beans, cultivated in the lowlands of the Pacific Basin. They have a fruitier taste than that of the Bourbon beans, with some notes of cherry that add a deep, longlasting flavor to ice creams, frosting, and many beverages.

Nutmeg is the dried seed of the fruit of an evergreen, which most often comes in ground form. However, nutmeg, like many spices, loses both flavor and aroma after it’s ground. Instead, buy whole nutmeg and grind it yourself using a special nutmeg grater or a fine grater. Grinding it fresh produces a much more robust and fresher flavor. Warm and sweet, nutmeg adds depth to desserts, cheeses, savory dishes and a variety of vegetables. Don’t forget to sprinkle it on eggnog, mulled wines and punches. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are delicious with a light dusting of nutmeg, too.

With just a few simple substitutions like these, you can go beyond the everyday with your spices and create a whole new meal experience. You’ll be amazed at the difference small changes like these can make — and you’ll have fun bringing new, creative flavors into your cooking.

Don’t forget, it’s easy to try these spices by buying from the bulk section, because you only buy the amount you need.

Here’s an easy recipe that allows you to experiment with some varieties of the spices above.

Pumpkin Parfait


1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons sugar
6 ounces lowfat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup granola with raisins


In a small bowl, stir together pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, milk, and sugar. In 2 small bowls or ramekins, layer the pumpkin mixture and yogurt. Sprinkle with granola.

Layer in a parfait glass for a fun visual treat.

A Timeline of Frontier’s History

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


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.


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

Incorporate as cooperative owned by customers.


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.


Elect Frontier’s first Board of Directors.


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


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.


Expand Norway facilities to 31,992 sq. ft.

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


Purchase first personal computers.


Become first herb and spice manufacturer with certified organic processing.


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.


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.


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

Launch line of bottled spices.


Introduce line of herbal extracts.

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


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


Move marketing office to Boulder, Colorado.


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.


Founder and CEO Rick Stewart retires.

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


Hire Steve Hughes as CEO.


Sell Frontier Coffee to Green Mountain Coffee.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Celebrate 30th anniversary!

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

Happy 10th Anniversary to Our Simply Organic Brand

Please take a moment and enjoy our newest video, which highlights some major milestones of one of our brands at Frontier, Simply Organic.

Coinciding with the celebration of its 10th anniversary, Simply Organic® has surpassed the half-million-dollar contribution mark through a recent donation made to the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES).

Simply Organic’s One Percent Fund – SO1% – takes 1 percent of net sales on all Simply Organic spices, seasoning mixes, baking flavors/extracts, and baking mixes, and uses it to support organic agriculture through education, research, and grower development.

Summer Soups

Here’s a very quick idea for a summer dinner. A cool soup! If you’ve never tried a summer soup, you’re in for a treat. You’re likely to come across some new flavor combos when exploring cool soups. And this delicious summer fare made with the weekly bounty from your local farmer’s market is a perfect way to eat healthy and support local growers.

Cool summer vegetable soups are a nice variation from serving a salad. They can also be a hearty meal by themselves. Unlike the desired smoothness of a fruit soup, summer vegetable soups are often rich and full of texture. To get texture, feel free to add beans, rice, or bread to the mix.

Again, there’s nothing like a summer farmer’s market to offer you an array of vegetables for creating soups: spinach, avocados, cucumber, tomatoes, beets, carrots, corn and asparagus. Any of these creatively combined with herbs and spices in a summer soup will revive your weary taste buds after a long summer day.

Here’s a sweet and tangy recipe to get you started.

Chilled Carrot Honey Soup

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 cups water
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons mild honey
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6  thin lemon slices
1 tablespoon mild honey for drizzling

Combine all ingredients except 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice in a 3-qt heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until carrots are tender, 30-40 minutes.

Purée soup in 2 batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) until very smooth, then chill soup quickly, stirring occasionally, in a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and water, about 30 minutes. (Alternatively, cool soup, uncovered, 30-40 minutes, and then chill covered, until cold, about 4 hours.)

Stir in remaining 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and salt to taste. Divide soup among 6 bowls with a ladle. Float a lemon slice on top of each serving, then drizzle with honey and serve.

Remember, when cooled, some of the flavors of your vegetables may fade, so you need to start with the freshest ingredients you can. Newly picked vegetables will give you the most satisfying results.

Here are more summer soup ideas, and creative serving suggestions. Enjoy!

Kirkwood Community College: Hospitality Arts Program

We’d like to introduce you to one of Iowa’s newest luxury hotels – and it’s run by and for students.

Students in Kirkwood Community College’s Hospitality programs prepare for careers in the field via practical experience in management and food preparation at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, a world-class teaching hotel in Cedar Rapids.

Instructors supervise students in the daily operation of the bakery and catering service. The Class Act, the facility’s restaurant, features creative gourmet dining for the public, at very reasonable prices.  Students also cultivate the Vineyard, and sell the fruits of their labors at the Hotel as well.

In addition to learning management techniques and food preparation, 300+ students also study technical subjects such as financial record keeping, food fundamentals, nutrition, computers, food purchasing, sanitation, equipment, human relations, and the safety and legal aspects of the hospitality industry.

The newly built center is eco-friendly. Some highlights of the energy efficient features include seven pumps that freeze ice in nine “ICE KUBE” units late at night when energy rates are lowest. That trapped ice then melts the next day, cooling the classrooms, kitchens and Class Act restaurant when daytime electric rates are much higher.

The Hotel uses geothermal ground-heat exchangers, with more than 200 bored wells. It brings up cool temperatures in the summer and warm temperatures in the winter to help cool and heat to the 117,000 square foot facility.

A system of motion sensors detect when no one is in a classroom or other space, turning lights off when no one is in the room. Unoccupied guest rooms are put into a “dormant” mode when unoccupied. A new guest registration will automatically re-activate the room.

Oh, and they use Frontier spices in their classrooms and kitchens!

David Horsfield, Department Chair of the Hospitality Arts Program, recently took time out to answer some of our questions about his work and the program. His commitment to training exceptional hosts is inspiring. We’re especially appreciative of his insightful comments on working with spices.

Tell us about what you do at the Hotel.

My position as Department Chair of the Hospitality Programs at Kirkwood Community College involves overseeing the 5 separate hospitality programs offered at the College: 2-year Associate of Applied Science Degrees in Restaurant Management, Culinary Arts, and Hotel Management, and 1-year Diplomas in Culinary Arts (Bakery Emphasis) and Food Service Assistant. I have been teaching at the College as a Chef Instructor for 5 years, and we currently have approximately 315 students studying within our programs.

Our structure is somewhat unique in that our curriculum is delivered in a blended format that includes classroom instruction, practical labs, and also practical work within the various outlets and departments that comprise the full service, 71-room Hotel at Kirkwood Center.

Our Culinary students spend time working in the Class Act restaurant and in the busy banqueting kitchen. Restaurant students both serve and ultimately manage service within the restaurant dining room. Bakery students work with the Hotel pastry chef to produce wedding and special occasion cakes. Hotel Management students spend time in housekeeping and front office.

Our model embraces the best elements of using faculty and industry professionals to give students the skills and insights necessary to be successful in the hospitality industry.

What are some of the main things the students learn in this environment versus a classroom?

Our blended learning environment allows students to acquire knowledge and skills through a variety of class formats that include classroom instruction, practical labs, and the by working with professionals in our restaurant and hotel customer contact points.

Our practical lab classes are a blended format where we deliver a detailed theory session in the kitchen before transitioning to cook dishes related to the theory we have just covered. As an example, our Indian Cuisine class, which runs for 12 hours over 3 consecutive days, begins each day with a discussion of Indian culture, ingredients, and the interplay of how different religions within India impact the processes and ingredients with which Indian dishes are prepared.

This allows us to reinforce concepts through practical application. Personally, I find that food always tastes so much better when it has been prepared with a deeper understanding of how the elements within a dish join together to create the broader flavors and textures that are enjoyed by a diner.

There really is no substitute for the practical learning gained from working with professional staff and directly with guests.

What seems to surprise the students most about the hospitality field?

A lot of our Restaurant and Culinary students begin exploring the hospitality industry as a profession with the intent of entering straight into the restaurant sector, assuming that this element is really the only option for the industry.

I really enjoy exposing students to the fact that the hospitality industry encompasses so many broader options, such as working with cruise line operators, health care providers, major amusement parks, and specialty food producers.

Watching students develop a greater appreciation for food, wine, & ingredient pairings is a great part of being involved in training the next generation to enter into this great industry.

All photos courtesy Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

What are some of the ways you use our spices?

We utilize Frontier herbs and spices on a daily basis both in our culinary labs and in our outlets.

Our plan of study includes a 6-week intensive class on International Cuisine that encompasses exploring the ingredients, culture and flavors of so many of the world’s great spice-oriented cuisines, including Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, Thailand, India, and Italy.

Using top-quality spices in our recipes makes a world of difference when it comes to authenticating the true flavor profiles of these cuisines.

Second-rate spices lead to second-rate food. Our chef instructors are big believers in the principle that respecting the balanced flavors of ingredients – especially spices – leads to the creation of memorable flavor combinations.

Knowing how to correctly cook with spices takes careful thought and attention so true flavors are gently extracted for maximum benefit. The cuisine of India is one of my personal favorites as is it incorporates the subtleties of so many diverse spices.

Do you have a popular recipe you’d like to share with our readers?

Here’s a great-tasting vegetarian Indian dish that perhaps looks a little complex at first glance at the ingredient list, but it’s really quite simple once you’ve gathered the spices.

The asafoetida could be substituted with onion powder and a couple of pinches of garlic powder. Jaggery is a solidified extract of molasses that can be found at an Indian grocery, but dark brown sugar will provide a fine substitute.


3/4 teaspoon tamarind pulp

1/2 tablespoon ghee

1 each bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seed

1/4 teaspoon black sesame seed

1/2 pinch asafoetida

2 ounces fresh fennel bulb, cut small to medium dice

3/4 teaspoon ginger, grated

4 ounces butternut squash, peeled and cut medium dice

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon red chili powder

1/16 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 cup yogurt, drained through cheesecloth for 10 minutes to remove excess whey

1/4 teaspoon jaggery (or brown sugar)

1/8 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 each serrano chili pepper, deseeded and finely chopped

1/2 sprig fresh cilantro

1/8 cup yogurt

1 teaspoon cucumber, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon fresh mint

1/8 teaspoon lemon zest

1 pinch black mustard seeds


Soak tamarind pulp in 1/2 cup of warm water for 20 minutes or until soft – knead the pulp to break it down before straining and keeping the juice / water and discarding the remaining pulp solids.

Heat ghee in a medium skillet over medium heat and when hot, add bay leaf, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, black sesame seeds, asafoetida and sliced fennel; sauté for 2 minutes until all ingredients are very aromatic.

Add the ginger and butternut squash and continue to cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.

Mix in the turmeric, dry chili and season lightly with salt. Add coriander powder and stir in yogurt; cook, covered, over low-medium heat for 15 minutes or until squash are half cooked through.

Add jaggery, tamarind juice, garam masala and green chili.

Cover again and cook over low heat until squash is cooked through and tender.

Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and serve with steamed basmati rice.

Do you have any advice for those who are considering entering the hospitality field?

I truly believe that the key ingredient to success in the hospitality industry is passion. Really caring about exceeding the expectations of guests, whether it is in the hotel or food service sectors is the defining characteristic that makes your interaction as a hospitality professional memorable for customers.

For me, passion means truly loving what you do and striving to deliver quality at every opportunity. Gaining knowledge and a thorough understanding of ingredients and the ways in which they work together is a great way for a chef to create dishes that will exceed expectations every single time.

I always tell my students that cooking is a form of art and that they are training to become artists with ingredients as their medium… oh, and also that cooking should be fun!

Thanks so much, David. We really appreciate the value you place on spices as a chef’s expression of individuality.

For a final treat, here’s the in-room video you’ll see when you’re a guest at this unique facility.

Organic Food Apps

If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, we’ve gathered up some apps you may want download to make your search for organic foods and markets a bit easier.

We realize not all of you are iPhone or iPad users, and some of you use other kinds of smart phones. But to keep things simple, we’ve kept this list just to the Apple apps for now.  We’ve discovered there aren’t a huge amount of apps in general for those who shop and cook organic; and the majority of the available ones are for Apple users. We’d love to know of more if you have some to share.

Here are links to the downloads, or links to information about the download.

Whole Foods Market Missions

Expand your palate by exploring a range of delicious, nutrient-dense foods. Learn more about healthy eating and start a conversation with your social networks about your mission to better health. Complete steps of varying difficulty and earn badges through fun and educational missions. Get simple, practical advice on cooking, nutrition, green living, food storage and more.


With GoodGuide, you open the app in a store, take a photo of a product’s bar code and instantly discover information about how green the product is.

Organic Food and Gardening News

Whether you’re new to or a veteran of organic food and gardening this app will give you daily tips and information about organic food and gardening that are practical and useful.

The True Food Shopping Guide

The Center for Food Safety, a non-profit organization, created this app to help shoppers become more educated about which foods/brands contain genetically modified foods and which ones don’t.

Farmers Market

This app lists over 2,500 markets in New York, D.C., Washington, Vermont, Delaware, California, Florida, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia, and stores information on each location’s selection and specialties.

Dirty Dozen

Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic.


Using GPS, Locavore searches for in-season, local food by pinpointing farmers’ markets near you. It’s an easy way to find local, in-season food, pinpointing nearby farmers’ markets & farms that sell the products. Also includes recipes, and ways to share your finds on Facebook.

And finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t recommend one of our brand’s apps:

Simply Organic

With the Simply Organic app, you can browse our collection of hundreds of recipes, and ingredients.  You can access the latest Simple Savings coupons, and find the store nearest you that carries Simply Organic products.

Please share your favorite organic apps; we’d love to add them to this list.

Guest Post: Sri Lanka Sourcing Trip, by Tony Bedard

Today’s post is by Frontier CEO Tony Bedard, who accompanied Purchasing Manager Kai Stark to visit Well Earth partner SOFA, the Small Organic Farmers Association, in Sri Lanka. For more about SOFA and the Frontier-funded Training Center there, see our website article, Organic Training in Sri Lanka.

At least once a year I try to make a sourcing trip with a member of our purchasing team. I not only get a better understanding of the work of our purchasing staff, but the trips give me firsthand knowledge of our relationships with our grower partners. I can then share what I learn with our employees, our board, the media, and our customers.

Early this year, I accompanied Kai Stark on a trip to Sri Lanka — an island nation off the southeast coast of India. Sri Lanka is roughly half the size of Iowa with seven times as many people.

Until 1972 it was known as Ceylon — the source of true Ceylon cinnamon. Sri Lanka is the center of the Buddhist religion and culture. It’s a very beautiful island with lush tropical forests and a very diverse landscape. It’s also said to have beautiful white beaches, although we didn’t get to see any of those.

The island was prized for its location on a main shipping route early on, and it was colonized by the Dutch, then the Portuguese, and finally the British before gaining its independence as Sri Lanka in 1948. I guess this partly explains why they drive on the wrong side of the road (to us, anyway). Sri Lankans showed us time and again that they had no problem passing into oncoming traffic or driving on the shoulder of the road.

It takes a lot of travel time to get to and from Sri Lanka. On our trip home, we left at what was 9:00 AM Saturday morning back home in Iowa and arrived here at 10:30 PM on Sunday night, worn out by two ten-hour flights, a couple long layovers and another two-hour flight from Dallas.

After a similar long flight on the way there, we landed in Colombo and drove to a city called Kandy, where we met with our supplier partners. The company has a number of facilities around the city of Kandy that process and package cinnamon, cloves, lemon grass, ginger, nutmeg, and teas along with a few other spices and herbs.

While we found their plant and facilities to be very nice and the employees extremely positive, it was even more impressive to see the network of over 2000 small organic farmers — most of whom farm less than two acres of land to support their families. While in the fields, we saw how the farmers grew and processed the nutmeg and cinnamon that we buy.

We’re glad that Frontier’s purchases allow the farmers to earn a 10-15% premium for growing organic products.

One of our primary goals for the trip was to check on the progress of a new training center near Dambulla, in the central part of Sri Lanka. The training center includes roughly 100 acres of experimental farm ground where growers can get both classroom and hands-on training in growing organically and bio-dynamically. During the first year after the center opened, over 120 farmers were trained — some from as far away as Pakistan.

It was a joy and a privilege to see firsthand the impact that our business with them has on the growers and other workers and their families and communities. We can all be proud that our work here at Frontier has such a positive impact on people halfway around the world.

Tony Bedard, far right.

Kai Stark, left.

Check out the Frontier website for more information and a video about this sourcing trip to Sri Lanka.

Second Scholarship Award at UCSC Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture Announced

The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California at Santa Cruz is working to transform the way we grow and distribute food into a sustainable system that provides social justice and protects the environment. This internationally recognized program integrates social and natural science research, academic and experiential education, and public service.

In December 2009, the Simply Organic 1% fund and the Frontier Foundation made a combined $130,000 donation to the Center to establish a perpetual scholarship in their Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program.  That year, the first recipient was Evelyn Rosas.

The six-month, full-time program at the University of California Santa Cruz prepares participants to establish their own organic farms and market gardens or to be hired by the growing number of organic farming operations nationwide.

This year’s winner of the Simply Organic scholarship for the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture is Israel Dawson. Congratulations, Israel!

Israel Dawson, scholarship recipient.

Israel says he’s starting with a lot of self-taught food production knowledge, but little formal training. “I was mostly learning from reading and from trial and error,” he says. “This program is giving me the real grounding I need.”

Israel’s focus is on developing the skills to create Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects, with the goal of getting locally grown organic food into the hands of more people through co-ops, farmers’ markets, and urban farming efforts.

He would like to develop a local CSA business model that could be readily adapted in a variety of settings. “This local model would help establish jobs and provide affordable means for people to have a healthy diet from and within their local communities,” he says.

“This is the premier sustainable and organic training program in the U.S.,” says Kathy Larson, Vice President of Sustainability at Frontier. “During my visit in August 2009, I was impressed with the quality of the program – and even more so with the apprentices enrolled in the program. Our scholarship empowers a new generation of sustainable agricultural leaders, who otherwise might not have the opportunity to participate in advanced training and contribute as fully to the organic community.”

Each year, one apprentice receives a scholarship for 100% of tuition to learn organic farming techniques, develop and evaluate new ideas to tackle issues of inequality in the food system, and integrate social and natural science research, academic and experiential education, and public service to transform the food system.

A donation of $70,000 was made from the Simply Organic One Percent Fund (SO1%), which is generated by one percent of sales on all Simply Organic products. The Frontier Foundation™ donated the remainder.

Please let us know if you’ve visited the program at UCSC, or if you have any programs such as this one in your area.

A Local Gathering to Promote Local Foods in Schools

Last night we attended a gathering we told you about earlier: Cool Aid! a fundraiser at the Onteora Middle School/High School Cafeteria, in Boiceville New York. Cool-Aid proceeds will fund the purchase of a walk-in freezer for the central kitchen of the Onteora Schools.

The walk-in freezer will allow the cooks at the school to effectively extend the growing season for locally sourced produce, reduce waste of plentiful fresh foods, and increase nutrition by freezing fruits and vegetables picked at the height of their nutritive value.

We’re here to say the event was a great success!  Maxanne Resnick and a large group of volunteers worked to bring the idea to life.  This group included students who helped serve and did an impeccable job keeping the tables clean.

The line-up of local chefs provides a look at the array of culinary talent and the intriguing regional cuisine in this area.  The chefs included Dan Leader, Giovanni Scappin, Curt Robair, Bill Warnes, Ric Orlando, Devin Mills, Pika Roels, and Kevin Katz.

The chefs were paired up with a regional farmer of their choice and two students, and together they served up tasty and healthy foods that anyone, especially kids, could make.

Each hors d’ouevre was $2 each, and trust us, we ate like kings.

The live music, silent auction, food crafts for kids, juicer and smoothie bars, plus an array of other presentations made this an event for all ages. Watching the members of the community chat and enjoy great food together made it fun and memorable.

Check out some photos from the evening.

More details about the chefs.

Frontier was happy to help sponsor the event, and we hope this idea might inspire you to find ways to help schools or any other institutions in your area move towards using more fresh ingredients from local sources.

Please let us know about your local food projects!