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Natural Foods Merchandiser

25 Ideas That Changed the Industry

In the two and a half decades since The Natural Foods Merchandiser premiered, the natural products industry has gone through enormous changes. Trends have come and gone, ?the next big thing? has arrived with a sizzle (and, too often, departed with a fizzle), and the sheer number of products has grown beyond what even the most ardent visionary could have imagined. Legislation, scientific research, alternative medicine, new manufacturing techniques, environmental concerns—all have had an impact on how the industry sees itself. After difficult deliberation, the NFM staff selected 25 ideas that we believe changed the natural products industry.

1. You Are What You Eat
The simple but crucial notion that our food choices affect who we are and how we feel may well be the most important reason the natural products industry has grown into the thriving business it is today. ?You are what you eat? has both positive and negative connotations. Shoppers now understand the link between diets high in animal fats and increased risk of heart disease, for example. But they also understand that making the right food choices can lead to a longer, healthier life.

The knowledge that what we put in our bodies directly impacts our health has led to growing consumer demand for organic fruits and vegetables without pesticide residues; for unprocessed, whole grains and raw sweeteners; for products without preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavors; and for meats free of antibiotics and hormones.

It has also led to increased awareness of how our food choices affect not only our own bodies, but also the planet?s larger systems—the soil in which we grow our food, the rivers from which we drink and the air we breathe.

2. Organic Farming and Gardening
As farmers shifted to chemical-based methods after World War II, a few agricultural mavericks continued to sound the importance of developing healthy, fertile soil using natural methods, known as organic farming. One of these was the influential J.I. Rodale, who founded the Soil and Health Foundation in 1947 and began publishing Organic Farming and Gardening magazine, a bible for a generation of progressive farmers.

In 1962, Rachel Carson?s Silent Spring documented the consequences of chemically based farming for a new, activist generation, and the organic farming movement gained ground. Carson?s work contributed to prohibition of the pesticide DDT and formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Today, their legacy lives on. Rodale?s foundation, now the Rodale Institute, continues to research and promote a philosophy that ?Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People.? Organic cropland in the United States more than doubled from 1992 to 1997 and doubled again between 1997 and 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2001, 2.3 million acres of cropland and pasture were dedicated to organic production, and organic foods are the heart of the natural products industry.

3. The Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act
In 1994, against all odds, Congress passed the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act. DSHEA was not designed to deregulate the supplements industry, but it did stop the U.S. Food and Drug Administration?s persecution of many herbs with a long history of safe use, and set guidelines as to how a supplement could be presented and described. For example, it prohibited supplements manufacturers from making disease claims for their products, and limited them instead to structure/function claims.

?DSHEA was a tremendous boost,? says Loren Israelsen, executive director of the Utah Natural Products Alliance and one of the legislation?s primary authors. ?We took the establishment on—FDA in particular—and we beat them. Clearly, the principal effect was psychological.?

DSHEA created renewed confidence in both the safety and legal status of supplements, for the general consumer and in the mainstream market. Consumers who had shied away from ?controversial? herbal products now felt better about buying them, and mass marketers who previously questioned the risks of selling supplements now moved in to meet this new demand. As if on cue, Wall Street money began pouring in, providing funds for advertising and new product development, and for a while, the media fell in love with supplements.

Those days have passed, but certain supplements—omega-3s and glucosamine, for example—continue to sell strongly. ?These are the ambassador categories,? Israelsen says, ?They serve as a Golden Gate Bridge that people cross with comfort, ease and confidence.?

4. Organic Certification
When it first became apparent that people liked the idea of organic foods—and would pay more to know how their food was grown—the organic label started appearing on decidedly nonorganic products. The idea of organic certification was created to protect farmers investing their livelihoods in organic agriculture, consumers paying more to support their efforts and responsible retailers acting as gatekeepers. In the early 1970s, California Certified Organic Farmers, Oregon Tilth and Washington Tilth Association were formed; all were pioneering participants in the dialogue about organic standards.

The concept of certification as independent third-party verification of clearly articulated standards was critical to the survival and success of the organic movement. As the market grew, however, a proliferation of different standards became somewhat unwieldy. Consumer confusion, coupled with opposition toward organic agriculture from some powerful forces, turned the eyes of the organic community to Washington and the possibility of a unified, consistent national standard for the organic label.

National organic standards were implemented in 2002 after years of debate. Though not perfect, these criteria nonetheless have facilitated market growth and in many ways have established a gold standard for transparency and accountability in food labeling.

5. Natural Foods Co-ops
Before natural foods arrived in mainstream supermarkets, before there were chains of ?supernaturals,? there were natural foods co-ops—and many still exist. The ones that didn?t survive seeded the future with a commitment to whole foods and healthy communities. Some of the industry?s leaders came out of the co-op movement of the 1960s and ?70s, and bulk sections in today?s shiniest new natural foods supermarkets carry the DNA of the co-ops that once were.

Cooperative consumer groups, built on bulk purchasing without middlemen and labor divided among members, were not new to the hippie era. But the counterculture generation reinvented the concept with a focus on natural foods. Karen Zimbelman, in the Cooperative Development Institute?s Employee Orientation Handbook on Co-op History, writes, ?... these stores were opened by young and idealistic members. They set up co-ops to fit their belief in equality, not to follow their co-op predecessors. Most of the new co-ops sold only whole, unrefined and bulk foods. Their operating practices were diverse and experimental.?

Some co-ops closed or became private stores, some maintained their original principles as they expanded (such as Washington?s Puget Consumer Co-op), and some adapted and thrived, such as Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, founded in 1973.

6. Advent of Large Natural Supermarkets
When NFM was first published, shopping for natural foods often meant digging through bulk bins for whole grains, or perhaps buying vitamins. In the minds of most consumers, natural foods stores were specialty stores. With the advent of Alfalfa?s, Wild Oats, Whole Foods and other regional natural supermarkets, natural retailing went upscale and large scale, housing everything a shopper might need under one roof.

?In my experience, the natural products industry has been driven by the retail sector,? says Hass Hassan, co-founder and chief executive of Alfalfa?s, the 12-store naturals supermarket chain that he sold to Wild Oats in 1996. ?The larger, supermarket-style store brought natural products to a much larger range of shoppers in ways they could accept. Some consumers would have gone to small specialty stores, but the industry would have remained a much smaller niche market.?

The success of naturals supermarkets made the whole industry grow up quickly, forcing both the manufacturing and distribution sectors to become much more sophisticated, Hassan says.

7. Mainstream Markets Get Natural
It used to be a sad sight, the little ?health foods? shelf in a dark corner of the supermarket containing a few dried fruits, some protein powder and a couple of boxes of gluten-free pasta, all with a thick layer of dust. But that was then. Today, mainstream markets have woken up to the consumer call for more natural and organic products, creating well-stocked stores-within-a-store or using shelf talkers to point out the natural alternatives mixed in with the other cookies, condiments or juices. They?ve had to. Consumers today demand service and convenience, and their expectations have changed the retailing landscape for both naturals stores and mainstream markets. On one hand, the increased attention to natural products has allowed mainstream stores to lure a few customers away from natural markets. Consumers don?t have to make two trips now just to get organic milk or O.J. in their basket, along with the name-brand corn flakes.

On the other hand, the new visibility of natural products has led mainstream shoppers who are concerned with healthful eating to explore natural products more deeply. The passage of the USDA organic rule has also increased consumer confidence in the word organic and led to a higher level of awareness and education among shoppers in all channels.

8. The Emergence of Integrative Pharmacies
If you go to one store to fill your prescriptions and another to buy your supplements, you haven?t discovered the wonderful world of integrative pharmacies. Three of the biggest chains are Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, Elephant Pharmacy and Ritzman Natural Health Pharmacy, but the category has drawn customer raves and is sure to see continued expansion.

Don Summerfield, vice president of integrative medicine and co-founder of Pharmaca, based in Boulder, Colo., says his company has a unique approach to its products, which include prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements and homeopathic remedies. ?In our opinion, they are all medicine,? he says. ?We don?t value one higher than any other.?

Consumers who don?t know a great deal about alternative medicine may feel more comfortable with a pharmacy than a natural foods store. ?It provides a safe space for them to become familiar with complementary medicine,? Summerfield says. ?And it will only help the whole complementary medicine movement in becoming recognized as a legitimate form of medicine.?

9. Earthbound Farms? Bagged Salads
The best ideas often seem so simple, so necessary, that you wonder why no one thought of them before. But sometimes it takes a little entrepreneurial genius to see the larger potential in a sensible idea. Myra and Drew Goodman did just that when, back in the early 1980s, they were washing salad greens from their small organic farm for a week of ready-to-eat family meals and putting them in plastic storage bags. The light bulb went on: Why not prep and bag their farm?s organic baby greens as a convenient, value-added product for markets, restaurants and stores?

An entire category was born from the Goodmans? bright idea. Their company was the first to successfully launch prewashed specialty salads in the retail market, and their small business became one of the organic industry?s remarkable success stories. Based in San Juan Batista, Calif., Earthbound Farm (now merged with Tanimura & Antle) grows organic produce on more than 14,000 acres. Both organic and conventional producers have adopted the idea of prewashed bagged salad greens and salad kits, complete with dressing and accompaniments, saving harried cooks all over the country countless hours.

10. Horizon Becomes the First National Dairy Brand
It?s hard to imagine a time when shoppers couldn?t go to the dairy case and pick out their favorite brand of organic yogurt or milk. Guess what? That time was 1991.

Horizon Organic Dairy was founded in 1991 and launched the first organic yogurt in the United States in 1992. In 1993, the FDA approved the use of the growth hormone rGBH in cattle, and suddenly buying organic was the only way to assure that dairy products were rGBH-free.

Horizon launched its organic milk in 1994, initially in natural products channels. It used a partnership with Dean Foods, which owns regional dairies all over the country, to place its happy-cow packaging in stores from coast to coast. By doing so, Horizon became the first national fresh milk brand—not just organic milk, but milk, period. By 1999, the milk could be found in 30 percent of mainstream supermarkets, and today that number is 65 percent. In just a decade, organic dairy has grown from a tiny niche to a complete category, with several other manufacturers now on board. Horizon?s products—which now include organic cheeses, juices and snacks—have led the way.

11. Soymilk Moves to the Cold Case
How do you take a niche item and turn it into a natural sales powerhouse? Steve Demos, founder and president of Boulder, Colo.-based White Wave Inc. (now a subsidiary of Dean Foods of Dallas), has made an art out of it. One of his most successful ideas was repackaging soymilk in gable-topped cartons and moving it into the refrigerated dairy case, right next to the cow?s milk products.

It was a simple idea with dramatic results that shook up the category. A study produced by SPINS, a San Francisco market research firm, and Soyatech of Bar Harbor, Maine, in association with Arthur D. Little, found that ?after being positioned in the refrigerated dairy case next to dairy milk products, refrigerated soymilk sales grew more than 500 percent in 2000 and shot past sales of shelf-stable, aseptically packaged products in mass-market outlets.?

White Wave?s Silk brand started the trend in 1996 and remains the leading brand of soymilk today, though other brands have followed suit. And with so many newly aware soymilk customers, manufacturers are now successfully introducing many other packaging and flavor options.

12. It?s Soy Good, I Can?t Believe It?s Not Meat
Misunderstood and oft maligned, the world of meat analogs has grown increasingly delicious, winning fans among naturals and mainstream shoppers alike. Several factors combined to fuel the growth of this market segment.

One of the first players in the category was Gardenburger, which initially sold only a grain- and vegetable-based patty and later branched out into soy-based meat analogs. ?This category really owes its existence to vegetarians,? says Scott Wallace, Irvine, Calif.-based Gardenburger?s CEO. In the late 1990s, he says, aggressive television and print advertising coincided with consumer concerns about food safety and pushed the category firmly into the mainstream.

?Consumers had issues with E. coli and other food-borne diseases, and were also concerned with how livestock was being raised, using antibiotics and hormones,? Wallace says. ?At the same time, there were significant improvements in the flavor and texture of soy for meat analogs, to the point where some products were so close to the products they were replacing, it was virtually impossible to tell the difference between the soy products and the real thing.?

With more and more consumers concerned about consuming animal products, for both health and environmental reasons, the increasingly tasty world of soy riblets and cutlets has a bright future.

13. Health Claims for Foods
In the fall of 1999, the FDA approved health claims for soy foods, based on scientific evidence that a soy-rich diet can help protect against heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. Coming on the heels of studies linking soy isoflavones to a reduction in menopausal symptoms, the new claim was a huge boost for soy sales.

Soy health claims—and many others, including the positive link between calcium and osteoporosis, and soluble fiber and coronary heart disease—owe their existence to a piece of 1990 legislation known as the Nutrition Labeling Education Act.

NLEA came about because Kellogg, armed with scientific data, rolled out a promotion linking oat bran consumption to reduced risk of colorectal cancer. At the time, the FDA considered that any such health claim for a food product automatically turned the product into an unapproved drug. However, the substantiation for such a claim was so strong that the FDA eventually capitulated.

Now, any manufacturer with adequate substantiation can petition the FDA to allow a health claim. But perhaps the biggest impact of NLEA was in the minds of consumers. Before health claims, soy was good for you. After health claims, it could actually reduce your risk of heart disease.

14. What Does It Mean for a Food To Function?
In 400 B.C., Hippocrates wrote, ?Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.? Clearly, he wasn?t working for the FDA. His words, however, have served as inspiration for manufacturers of nutraceuticals and functional foods.

Intriguing, exciting, mystifying, electrifying, dismaying. Call them what you will, functional foods are one of the most talked about and least understood developments in the natural products world. In spite of all the press coverage they?ve received, getting two manufacturers (let alone consumers) to agree on what they are can be difficult.

Functional foods can include everything from calcium-enriched orange juice or oatmeal with a heart-health claim, to snack foods laced with St. John?s wort or soups marketed as supplements. The most reputable functional foods contain components that provide a demonstrated benefit, such as cholesterol reduction, or they help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis or heart disease.

Todd Runestad, science editor of Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals, says, ?It?s a way of getting into the healthy lifestyle in a tasty way, without taking impersonal pills and supplements.? One of the most interesting new functional food ingredients, he says, is tagatose, a sweetener used by Tom?s of Maine in certain toothpaste formulations. The added benefit? It helps prevent cavities.

15. Alternative Medicine Goes Mainstream
Not so long ago, seeing a chiropractor was considered wacky; a naturopath, unimaginable. Now even mainstream medical doctors are recommending herbal remedies, and consumers can find traditional doctors under the same roof as homeopaths and acupuncturists. How did it happen?

?More physicians today are willing to either incorporate herbals into clinical practice—the more progressive ones—or at least are more knowledgeable and accepting of their patients? use of these products,? says Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council. ?And there are obviously physicians who are learning that even nonherbal modalities have their value. And patients are exercising their right to seek other treatment alternatives.?

In fact, much of the growth of alternative modalities has been driven by consumer demand for wellness and prevention. Pharmaceuticals are intended to cure or alleviate illness. Herbal remedies, on the other hand, are preventive and, because they don?t require a prescription, empower the consumer looking for self-care options to enhance wellness.

16. Scanners, Bar Codes and OrderDog
Twenty-five years ago, supermarket clerks punched in every price by hand. But by the early 1990s, everyone in America except George H. W. Bush knew how point-of-sale scanners and product bar codes worked. Scanners and bar codes allowed stores to easily and quickly track inventory, change prices and place orders. There was just one hitch.

Actually, there were a few hundred hitches—namely, all of the natural products companies (chiefly supplements and personal care manufacturers) who sell directly to stores, bypassing the distribution system. Until recently, each of these orders had to be placed by hand, either by calling in the order or waiting for a company rep to visit. Enter Dallas-based OrderDog, a Web-based system that allows stores to place all their individual company orders at the same time as their distributor orders, using the same handheld scanner.

Darrin Peterson, OrderDog president and co-founder, says the system functions almost like a routing service, collecting the scanned data and transmitting it directly to each manufacturer. Both Wild Oats and Whole Foods are now using the system. ?It has simplified the whole supply-chain process,? Peterson says. ?At Whole Foods, instead of taking two buyers all week long [to order], one buyer can do it all in a four-hour period, then receive all week as the shipments come in.?

17. National Natural Distribution
Before the emergence of natural chain supermarkets, perhaps it worked just fine to have many small distributors scattered across the country. But the explosive growth of the natural products industry couldn?t help but change the distribution system.

?Manufacturers responded to the growing market by developing more and more new products and developing relationships with distributors,? says Greg Leonard, corporate vice president of trade relations for Tree of Life Inc. ?As the industry grew, so the scale of the distribution business grew. As the industry consolidated, the distribution business consolidated.?

Tree of Life expanded its operations to more than 15,000 stores in North America and began international distribution as well. United Natural Foods Inc. was created from the mergers and acquisitions of several major natural distributors, including Mountain People?s Warehouse in California, Rainbow Natural Foods in Colorado and Blooming Prairie Warehouse in Iowa. The resulting megadistributors were better positioned to serve the new type of natural products retailer, even as they continued to work with their traditional base of smaller, independent naturals stores.

Ultimately, the new breed of natural distributors may have an even greater impact on the world. ?As an industry,? Leonard says, ?we are succeeding with exactly what many industry veterans set out to achieve many years ago?to make a difference in the health of consumers through the products our industry offers and the health of the planet by increasing organic production and sustainable agricultural practices.?

18. Private Label
Private-label organic foods are becoming prevalent in both natural foods chains and conventional grocery chains?so much so that one of the newest organic companies, Aurora Organic Dairy of Longmont, Colo., is building its business largely on the private-label market. Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, Safeway, Trader Joe?s and Kroger all contract with manufacturers to supply them with store brands that are natural, organic or a mix of both.

According to the Private Label Manufacturer?s Association, store brands now account for one of every five items sold every day in U.S. supermarkets, drug chains and mass merchandisers, representing more than $50 billion of current business at retail. While organic and natural choices are still a small piece of the pie, it?s a huge pie.

Retailers typically sell store brands at a lower price than name brands, though the products are competitive in quality. It?s a boon for consumers who understand that organic private-label goods meet the same certification standards as popular organic name brands.

19. Natural, Vegetarian and Organic Foodservice
Many of the natural products industry?s most dynamic ideas came early on, but others are just beginning to hit their stride, such as foodservice packaging for organic and vegetarian foods. Foodservice professionals for institutions, including college, university, hospital and company cafeterias, are responding to customer demand for organic ingredients. In turn, more and more organic manufacturers are packaging products in foodservice-size amounts and actively selling to the foodservice market. Muir Glen, Organic Valley and Earthbound Farm are just a few that do so.

Central distribution is important to a successful foodservice market, and large mainstream distributors like SYSCO are recognizing the opportunities; natural products industry professional Bill Stewart has created a vegetarian and organic division called Moonrose Vegetarian for the Houston-based conglomerate.

In response to growing concerns about childhood obesity and nutritional deficiencies, vending machines in schools are also being restocked with natural and organic choices. Companies such as Stonyfield Farm and White Wave are placing products in high school vending machines to test the market.

20. Healthy Home Meal Replacement and Fast Food
Walk into any natural products store, and the busiest spot is likely to be the prepared foods section. The word deli no longer does justice to many of these lavish displays of fully cooked, ready-to-eat or take-home selections. In fact, the market for healthy home meal replacement foods is so strong that Whole Foods Market, the Austin, Texas-based chain, made take-out and prepared foods a central focus of its new Columbus Circle location in New York.

Busy consumers are also turning to the organic and natural fast-food restaurants that are just beginning to appear. O?Naturals, currently with four locations in New England, is the vision of Stonyfield Farm founder Gary Hirshberg and business partner Mac McCabe. Ingredients are natural, often organic, and service is as casual and speedy as any fast-food emporium, without the polystyrene, plastic or preservatives.

Chipotle, a Mexican fast-food chain owned by Oakbrook, Ill.-based McDonald?s with almost 300 locations, uses some naturally raised meats and organic beans. And even at traditional McDonald?s restaurants, there?s a new focus on healthy choices, like yogurt and salads with Newman?s Own dressings.

21. Healthy Convenience Foods
What if even take-out food isn?t fast enough for your crazy schedule? Natural foods manufacturers haven?t ignored those who really eat on the run. The ?grab-n-go? concept offers many choices, including a daunting selection of energy and meal replacement bars?most soy-based, and some with organic ingredients. New manufacturing processes and packaging options are helping to grow this category, resulting in products like drinkable yogurt, smoothies and single-serve flavored milk drinks that are shelf-stable.

Many products that cater to convenience are aimed at kids, teens and moms trying to pack healthy lunches for kids. Products like natural and organic lunch kits and single-serving packages of raisins and baby carrots mimic conventional choices, allowing kids to eat naturally without being labeled ?different.?

Frozen organic foods also hit the mark for convenience. From frozen fruits and vegetables to full meals, often with popular ethnic flavors, frozen foods are a complete category today, guaranteeing that microwave ovens and organic and natural foods are no longer strangers.

22. Recycled and Recyclable Packaging
Natural products and recycling go together like, well, spelt bread and soy cheese. It?s no wonder that natural products consumers and manufacturers are committed to the recycling process. There are more recycled packaging options now than ever before.

Today, natural delis can order forks and spoons made from natural plant sugars found in corn. The cutlery, sold by Biocorp, completely biodegrades within 60 days and uses up to 50 percent less fossil fuel in manufacturing than do ordinary plastics. Retailers find the added cost of such products—which have grown increasingly competitive in terms of price—builds customer loyalty as well.

Dow Chemical Co., a company that rarely leaps to mind when discussing earth-friendly policies, and Cargill Inc. have teamed up to develop a biodegradable polymer that is fully compostable.

Other companies have come up with special arrangements for recycling their packaging. Stonyfield Farm has teamed up with Recycline to turn used yogurt containers into toothbrush handles. Nancy Hirshberg, Stonyfield?s vice president of natural resources, says that recycling is good, but there are even more effective ways to reduce waste. ?The best thing to do is not create packaging, the second best is to use the least amount of packaging possible and the third best is to recycle it.?

23. Genetically Modified Organisms
When the natural foods and organic agriculture movements began, genetic modification of food crops—inserting DNA from one species into a foreign species—wasn?t on the radar screen. Developing alternatives to food additives, pesticides and industrialized agribusiness was challenge enough.

Genetically modified organisms arrived as part of commercial farming in 1996. Today, the United States has embraced GMO farming more than any other country, yet consumers are largely unaware that as much as two-thirds of conventionally produced processed foods are likely to contain genetically modified ingredients (primarily corn and soy derivatives).

The organic community successfully fought to prohibit GMOs in organic production, making organic a safe harbor for concerned consumers, at least in theory. But contamination of organic crops is a reality, and organic farmers bear the burden of protecting crops and testing for purity. A natural pesticide relied on by many organic farmers is also commonly used in GMO technology, making heavy use so widespread that insects may rapidly develop resistance, leaving organic farmers without a critical tool for which there is no natural substitute.

Though many consumers would like to see GMO foods labeled, powerful chemical and food industry lobbies have, so far, blocked that possibility.

24. Organic Goes Gourmet
The best customers at farmers? markets in the 1980s often turned out to be the region?s finest chefs, as they discovered that organic and seasonal foods offered inspiring flavor and diversity. Alice Waters, of Berkeley, Calif.?s famed Chez Panisse restaurant, was an early proponent of the idea that the best food money could buy was also the most environmentally sustainable, fresh, seasonal and locally appropriate. Other chefs, including Odessa Piper, Deborah Madison, Rick Bayless, Jesse Cool and Nora Pouillon, helped deconstruct old notions of fussy gourmet food to give birth to a new standard of organic excellence.

Today, these chefs are stars, and they?ve influenced professional and amateur cooks everywhere. Many helped form and build the nonprofit Boston-based Chefs Collaborative, a national network of more than 1,000 members of the food community who promote sustainable cuisine by celebrating the joys of local, seasonal and artisanal cooking.

The organic-goes-gourmet trend is evident in natural products stores, too, where once-exotic gourmet cooking ingredients fill the shelves.

25. Farmers? Markets and Community-Supported Agriculture
The organic movement inspired consumers to learn more about where food comes from, leading to interest in buying directly from farmers. Small farmers, in turn, sought to sell directly to consumers, to set their own prices and build farm identity. Farmers? markets proved to be a winning solution that communities across the country have embraced. These outdoor markets feature regional producers selling the best in seasonal produce, often in a festive setting with music, prepared-food vendors and activities for kids.

According to the USDA, the number of farmers? markets in the United States increased 79 percent from 1994 to 2002. According to the 2002 National Farmers Market Directory, there are more than 3,100 farmers? markets operating in the United States.

Community supported agriculture offers the ultimate in farm-fresh eating. CSA consumers share the risks and rewards of farming: Members buy shares at the start of the season, and then receive weekly harvests directly from the farm. The Robyn van En Center for CSA Resources estimates there are more than 1,000 CSA farms in the United States today.

Mitchell Clute is a free-lance writer in Crestone, Colo. Elaine Lipson is a Boulder, Colo.-based free-lance writer and the author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook (McGraw-Hill Contemporary, 2001).

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 3/p. 54, 56, 58-60, 62

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