Fire on the Tallgrass Prairie

by Kathy Larson

photos by Kathy Larson and Joe Coffey

On March 16, I watched the eastern half of the Frontier prairie go up in flames.  This part of the prairie hadn’t been burned for seven or eight years and the plant litter was thick, so the fire burned hot and fast.

Fire has been important to maintaining the prairie that covers the Midwest since before the arrival of settlers.  Native prairie grasses and flowering plants carry the buds for next year’s growth underground where they are protected from fire.  The buds of trees are above ground where they’re easily damaged or killed by fire.  Young trees and seedlings are killed by fire.

Fire also helps rid the prairie of the build-up of heavy plant litter which can smother or shade other plants.  Burning opens up the land to sun and rains and returns nutrients back to the soil.

Our local fire department volunteers are our prairie burn heroes.  They take the opportunity to practice handling grass fires by conducting a controlled burn of our prairie.  For us, it’s assurance that the fire won’t get out of control.

The day was perfect for the burn: sunny, warm and breezy.  While we didn’t want a strong wind, the 10-mph wind out of the south was perfect to help hurry the flames along.

The burn began with a water truck driving around parts of the perimeter and wetting down trees and bushes that were close to the prairie.

The firefighters then started a back fire on the north side of the prairie using a small drip torch.

The back fire burned more slowly because it was burning into the wind.  It created a burned area that would corral the main fire.

The firefighters left an opening in the backburn to provide exits for wildlife. We saw pheasants, rabbits, snakes, mice and many red-winged blackbirds moving to the unburned section of prairie.  We always burn our prairie in alternate years to leave nesting sites for the prairie wildlife.

As the backburn started to die out, another was started on the lower east and west sides of the prairie.  The east burn came up over a small hill, and catching the wind, began to turn hot and strong with flames shooting up into the air.  It was our first sight of the strength and ferocity of a prairie fire.

The final phase of the burn came when the rest of the east side and the south sides were set on fire.

If all went well, the fire would burn the rest of the way across the prairie and end at the small pond.  I walked to the pond to watch the approach of the fire.  As it came over the ridge the sound was loud and a bit frightening.  Flames were 20 feet high and the fire was advancing very fast.  I looked up from my camera and it suddenly seemed that it would overwhelm me and my small pond area refuge.

Not to worry, though. Minutes later it was all but over and lingering smoke and the ashes of the dead foliage puffed across the blackened prairie.

Five days after the burn, the blackened prairie is already turning green.  Helped along by rain and warm temperatures, the benefits of fire can quickly be seen as newly exposed soil hastens the emergence of plants.

Next month we’ll look at what’s coming up — in both the burned and unburned portions of the prairie –and we’ll see how they compare.

A September Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

by Kathy Larson

The first day of fall was a good time for September’s stroll through the Frontier prairie. It was a typical Iowa fall day – it started cool and mostly sunny and turned cloudy before I was finished taking pictures of what was in bloom.

Plants flowering at the time can be grouped in three categories – asters, goldenrods and sunflowers – all of which produce nectar that attracts bees, butterflies and other insects.

Two hundred species of asters are native to North America, many of them residents of the Midwest prairies. We planted three of them in the Frontier prairie and all three were in full bloom for my walk.

Sky blue aster (Aster azureus) is a diminutive plant – I found it hiding here and there among the taller plants and shorter grasses. The flowers, as the name implies, are a delicate shade of blue.

Heather aster (Aster ericoides) is a bushy, branching aster with one-inch flowers that have white petals and yellow centers. The flowers look like another native (and very common) aster, daisy fleabane, which is often considered a weed. It blooms in early summer.

New England aster (Aster novo-angliae) is among the largest of the asters, growing up to four feet high in the prairie (and as high as six feet in the garden) with flowers a little over an inch in diameter. The flowers are a deep purple, purple blue, or occasionally rose-colored. I tried for several years to get some pink ones started at home with no success, and then one year, almost by magic, one of the seedlings I let grow was pink flowered. These asters are showy, but the tall plants tend to fall over in the garden unless supported. In the prairie, the plants look neater because they are shorter and can lean on their many neighbors for support.

Last month, stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida) was just starting to flower. This month, it’s in full bloom, with waves of fragrant flowers attracting many nectar-loving insects. The bright yellow flowers are small and arranged in dense clusters at the tops of the plant.

The other species, late goldenrod (Solidago gigantea), is blooming all through the prairie and also attracting a variety of bees and insects. This yellow-flowered, wide-ranging goldenrod is the state flower of our neighbor, Nebraska.

Our prairie is home to large colonies of Maximillian sunflower (Helianthus maximilliani). Its 3-inch wide, yellow flowers trail up a single tall stem that towers over most other plants on the prairie (up to 8 feet high). Blooming goes on for about a month and the display they make when they are in full bloom is stunning. Maxmillian sunflowers are also a smorgasbord for wildlife – rabbits nibble on the young plants, various caterpillars feed on the leaves and stems, nectar- and pollen-gathering bees and insects feast on open flowers, and birds and small mammals eat the seeds.

Prairie grasses are another good source of food for prairie dwellers. While the shorter grasses, such as little bluestem,

have long since finished flowering and are dropping their seeds, two tall grasses, big bluestem (Andropogon geradi) and Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) are at their showiest.

Big Bluestem is often the dominant grass in tallgrass prairies. Above ground, the plants grow up to eight feet tall, and the roots can extend 12 feet deep. It’s often planted for erosion control and as a windbreak, but it also makes excellent livestock forage.

Indiangrass resembles big bluestem in spring and early summer. It grows to a height of seven feet and, as it flowers, it develops attractive plumes with a yellowish-bronze appearance Indiangrass is valued for its showy appearance in wildflower gardens.

I end my walk at the wildlife pond on the edge of the prairie. It’s been very dry in this part of Iowa in the last few months and the pond is very low and most of the surface is covered with algae. But the trees and plants around the pond are filled with birds and insects, and there are fresh tracks all around the edge of the pond. This small haven is still important to the wildlife living in and near the prairie.

Thanks for coming along on my walk! See you again next month.

An August Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

The hot and humid weather of July and early August finally breaks, and I take the opportunity to grab the camera and head out to the prairie. My first impressions are of yellow – waves and waves of yellow flowers covering the prairie. As I walk in and begin looking around, I start distinguishing different yellows and seeing many other colors dotted here and there.

First to greet me are the orange-pink seed capsules of spotted St. John’s Wort. Last month the plant was in full bloom with lovely yellow, five-petal flowers — and this month’s pointy pods, fat with developing tiny black seeds, are as attractive as the flowers.

I remember from previous years where a patch of prairie gentian (Gentiana alba) is located, so next I go searching to see if I can find the low-growing plants amongst all the grasses and taller blooming plants. I find several clumps of the barrel-shaped, greenish-white flowers. The flowers are tipped with a blush of pink, and I really like their unique shape.

The green spikes of blue vervain (Verbena hastate)—with their small, purple-to-lavender-rose colored flowers—are found here and there throughout the prairie. The flowers open, just a few at a time, starting from the bottom of the spike and moving upward. The seeds persist on the spikes and provide a seed source for birds in the winter. At one time, Native Americans roasted and ground the small seeds to make meal.

Another blue-flowered plant is blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). On the upper part of the 3- to 5-foot leafy stem, one-inch light blue flowers grow from the area where the leaf meets the stem. A showy plant when in bloom, it can be found in open woodlands, along streams and in moist areas from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Last month the milkweed was in bloom, and this month, seed pods take the place of the fragrant purple flowers. Like lots of kids, I used to open these pods and pull out the silky strands attached to each brown milkweed seed. If they were ripe enough, even a light breeze would scatter the seeds and fill the air with the soft milkweed down.

The importance of milkweed to monarch butterflies is well known. The females lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and the caterpillars that emerge spend their lives eating and growing on the milkweed. The “milk” of the plant is somewhat poisonous to other animals, a gift that helps protect the monarchs from predators.

Speaking of butterflies, there are many sizes and colors dancing across the flower tops in the prairie. I notice that when they stray to the bordering soybean field, they don’t stay. The soybeans are tall, lush and green, but not a weed, a flower or any other bit of life is seen to mar the orderly rows. The juxtaposition of rich, noisy prairie diversity against the quiet, sterile, conventionally farmed bean field is striking and a testament to biodiversity.

Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) is a plant valued by Native Americans and settlers alike for its medicinal properties. The spike-like white flower heads dot the prairie, often growing next to the still-blooming echinacea.

There are only three yellow-flowered plants blooming, but the height of the two of them cause them to dominate the parts of the prairie where they are flowering. Cup plant (Silpium perfoliatum) grows up to 8 feet tall and has showy 3-inch yellow flowers at the top of the plant. Cup plant is so named because the large, paired leaves clasp the stem in such a way as to join together and form a shallow cup that collects rainwater.

Compass plant (Silphium lacinatum) also grows up to 8 feet tall and has 3- to 4-inch yellow flowers like those of the cup plant, but they are located on tall flowering stalks. The plant is also sometimes called rosin weed due to the gum-like material formed in the upper part of the plant during flowering. Native Americans and pioneer children chewed this “gum.”

The third yellow-flowered plant, stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida), is just starting to open and is not as noticeable as the towering Silphiums.

It’s so easy to move through the prairie from one flower to the next, but the Frontier prairie is, after all, a tallgrass prairie, and that means grasses – big bluestem, little bluestem, switchgrass and sideoats grama grow happily among the many flowering forbs.

See you in September!

by Kathy Larson

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.

A July Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

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.

Father’s Day at the Farmers Market

As we did on Mother’s Day, we headed to the Farmers Market to take some photos of dads enjoying their special day.

We knew it was going to be a fun excursion when this was the first thing we saw.

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Hope you had a wonderful day, dads!

Moroccan Food

A team from Aura Cacia, our essential oil brand, recently traveled to Morocco on a sourcing trip. We always like to hear about the cuisines encountered on these trips. A few notes they shared with us about the food: Tagines were often used to cook the food, no pork was ever served, fruit was served as dessert, argan oil was used in many dishes, and the photos don’t really show how large the dishes were!

Because of Morocco’s interaction with many other cultures and countries throughout history, today’s Moroccan cuisine is surprisingly diverse. In addition to imported spices, many ingredients are home grown, including saffron, olives, lemons, and mint. Common spices used daily include cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, pepper, paprika, ginger, coriander, sesame seeds and anise seeds.

We’re going to let the team’s photos do the rest of the talking.

Veggie and meat dish.

Salad in Morocco.

Main course served in Moroccan home.

Honeycomb appetizer, for dipping bread.

Fruit platter, served as dessert.

Cous cous veggie dish made with argan oil.

Chicken dish with almonds.

Here’s a recipe from our recipe files for creating your own Moroccan spice rub, using coriander, fennel, cardamom and cloves.

Moroccan Barbecue Spice Mix

Dry toasting whole spice seeds intensifies their flavor and fragrance. You can liberally rub this enticing spice mix over salmon, halibut, pork, chicken or beef before cooking, or add it to sautéed onions with chopped kale, collard greens, or cabbage, sea salt, and black pepper with a little bit of broth, then cover and simmer for a delicious side dish. Thanks go to Chef Bruce Sherrod of Berkeley, CA, for sharing this recipe.

1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
1/4 cup whole fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole shelled cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves

To toast seeds: Combine spice seeds in a dry, medium-size skillet over moderate heat. Stir until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Pour seeds into a shallow bowl to cool.

To grind: Finely powder the toasted spices in a spice-dedicated coffee grinder (not the same one you use for coffee) or mortar and pestle. Store in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to 6 months (use sooner if possible).

To use with fish or meat: Season steaks, chops, fish, beef or pork roast with coarsely ground black pepper and finely ground sea salt; roll the meat in a portion of spice mix and press firmly to coat all over. Allow the seasoned meat to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, or cover loosely with unbleached parchment paper and refrigerate for up to 4 hours before cooking.

Sear seasoned fish or meat in a heavy, oven-proof skillet with coconut oil, clarified butter or ghee (2 tablespoons per 1 1/2 to 2 pounds fish or meat) until hot but not smoking. Sear 1 to 2 minutes per side, then finish in a preheated 400°F oven.

To shell whole cardamom seeds, place 1 tablespoon of whole cardamom pods (they have a beige color) on a cutting board. Rock over them with a heavy-bottomed skillet or chef knife. Pull away and discard the shell fragments, then measure the black seeds. Repeat as needed. To skip this step, buy shelled cardamom seeds.

Let us know if you have experience with Moroccan foods, or any favorite recipes you’d like to share!

A Walk Through Our Tallgrass Prairie

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.

Frontier Awarded LEED® Silver Certification

Our renovation included our building facade, while using 100 percent of the existing building’s skin, roofing, and flooring.

Frontier is proud to announce that we’ve been awarded LEED® Silver certification for a major renovation at our manufacturing facility. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. LEED certification is established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

We achieved LEED certification for 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.

“We’re honored to achieve this level of LEED certification, as it truly represents our ongoing commitment to sustainable operations,” stated Tony Bedard, our CEO. “It also gives our employees and customers a benchmark for what Frontier has accomplished up to this point and identifies opportunities where we can continue to improve in the future.”

“The green building movement addresses global climate change, dependence on non-sustainable and expensive sources of energy and threats to human health,” said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, which established LEED certification. “The work of innovative building projects such as Frontier’s facility is a fundamental driving force in the green building movement,” Fedrizzi added.

LEED certification of Frontier’s manufacturing facility was based on a number of green design and construction features. Here are some highlights:

  • We completely renovated 7,200 square feet of existing warehouse space with a focus on where energy and/or mechanical systems could be best optimized, including plumbing, HVAC, lighting, and a re-finished concrete floor.  Frontier was able to use minimal resources to establish native landscaping, avoiding the need for a permanent irrigation system. Inside, flush and flow fixtures in restrooms cumulatively achieve 35 percent water efficiency compared to conventional building flush and flow fixtures.
  • We specified energy-efficient envelope lighting, HVAC (water-source heat pumps and commercial RTUs), carbon dioxide sensors and two on-demand water heaters. Altogether, Frontier’s energy efficiency measures will conserve more than 77,000 kilowatt hours compared to a similar conventional building. That’s equal to 55 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Frontier's new employee cafe, featuring a re-finished concrete floor.

  • In addition, Frontier purchases renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset 100 percent of its facility’s energy requirements and carbon offsets to offset 100% of our product shipping. Frontier’s REC portfolio includes renewable energy generated from wind farms located in Iowa.
  • With a goal to minimize materials and resources as much as possible, Frontier’s renovation reused 100 percent of the existing building’s skin, roofing, and flooring. The renovated interiors promote indoor environmental quality and include low- or no volatile organic compound adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, cabinetry and surfaces.
  • Frontier installed a rapidly renewable bamboo-plank stairway and used cradle-to-cradle (C2C) certified furniture in Frontier’s boardroom, meeting room and offices.

The renovation takes advantage of the natural light flooding our atrium.

  • Frontier’s renovation of existing employee and visitor parking areas maintained parking capacity while protecting and restoring 63 percent of the site with native and adaptive plant material. In addition to designed bio-swales, detention basins, and an on-site wetland, the engineered slope and grade of the employee parking area removes 100 percent of solids in runoff by capturing and filtering more than 90 percent of average annual rainfall on-site.
  • Frontier also created preferred parking spots for 11 low-emissions vehicles and 12 carpools plus added 11 secure bicycle racks with nearby shower and changing facilities. Altogether, the parking program’s goal is to lower greenhouse gasses from employee commuting by 135 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

This award is the culmination of hours of work and dedication on the part of many teams here at Frontier. The job was interrupted at one point by the devastating Iowa floods in the spring of 2008, which took most of the crew away to work on other emergencies.

Each time we gather in our beautiful new test kitchen, we celebrate the achievement!

MORE PHOTOS HERE.    Click “show info” on the slideshow for details.

All photos by Kitty Sheehan.