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In 1977, using a program similar to Amway, Steve and Ron, co-founders of Pines International, had been trying to develop multi-level marketing for Pines Wheat Grass. After several weeks, they had sold only six bottles. On a whim they stopped into the Vitamin Cottage, a health food store in Lakewood, Colorado.

There they met Margaret Isely, who with her husband, Phillip, owned the store. When Steve and Ron told Margaret that they saw Pines a means to support environmental causes and sustainable farming, Margaret’s face lit up. She told them about some of the environmental causes that she and her husband supported. Steve and Ron had found a kindred spirit.

In less than ten minutes, they had sold 24 bottles to Vitamin Cottage, which was four times more than they had sold in the previous two weeks. From that moment on, they scrapped their multi-level marketing plans and decided to market through natural food stores.

Margaret not only purchased 24 bottles of Pines Wheat Grass for the store, she spent most of the rest of the afternoon carefully telling Steve and Ron all they needed to know about the natural food market. She explained how everything worked and gave them pointers on how to ensure that Pines Wheat Grass would be on the shelves of natural food stores across the USA.

She also encouraged them to attend the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) trade show, which was held each summer in conjunction with the annual meeting of an organization that represented all the natural food stores and producers in America.

As Margaret suggested, Steve and Ron started attending the annual NNFA shows. A few years later, they were delighted when Margaret was elected the National President. Even with all her responsibilities during those annual meetings, she always stopped by the Pines’ booth and gave Steve and Ron more encouragement.

Margaret and Phillip were pioneers. Their vision for the natural foods is now reality. Even though it was nearly 40 years ago when Steve and Ron first met Margaret Isely, she and Phillip had already been teaching health and promoting natural foods for more than 20 years. Now, nearly 60 years since the Isleys developed their vision, their children and grandchildren are carrying forward that vision for improving the nation’s health through wholesome natural foods.

Margaret and Phillip’s hard work in educating the public began in 1955 with their going door-to-door in Golden, Colorado, selling whole grain bread and lending nutrition education books to the people they met.

The Iselys knew that as people learned about good nutrition, they would want to order vitamins and bulk foods. They built a business taking weekly orders and delivering quality vitamins, supplements, and whole foods to their customers.

Their door-to-door business was so successful that they were able to open their first retail store within six months. In 1963, they purchased a store in Lakewood, Colorado that looked like a country cottage. In the fifty years since that first “Vitamin Cottage,” the Isely family has expanded to nearly 100 locations in more than a dozen States.

Margaret passed away in 1997. During more than 40 years of her leadership and during all the years since her death, the Isely family has seen the Vitamin Cottage grow from a “Mom and Pop” business to Natural Grocers stores throughout the United States.

Each year (and nearly each month), more stores in more locations are established. Each Natural Grocers store is spacious with excellent produce and a wide selection of quality products.

Natural Grocers specializes in certified organic, gluten free, non-GMO and vegan products. Each store has a wonderful selection of fresh organic produce, fresh food, frozen food, and refrigerated items, including organic dairy and juices. Each also has a friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable staff.

At both the national and local levels, Natural Grocers continues to provide leadership in all aspects of sustainable organic farming and expanding awareness of environmental issues. They actively support and participate in efforts to require the identification of GMO ingredients on food labels.

They support other environmental concerns as well. For example, although many natural food stores oppose plastic bags, owners and managers often feel they have no choice but to carry products in plastic containers. There is now so much plastic in most natural food stores, that even with eliminating plastic bags, more than 99% of the plastic remains.

Even so, Natural Grocers is doing all it can to encourage earth-friendly packaging. Certainly, in many cases it is difficult to find quality packaging for every product category, but Natural Grocers always seems to provide at least one item in each category that is not packaged in plastic.

Since 1977, Pines’ organic gluten-free wheatgrass and its other products have always been on the shelves of Natural Grocers. Pines not only packages in amber glass bottles, but also uses special metal caps to seal the bottles after the oxygen has been removed. Without oxygen, products do not devitalize through oxidation.

Since Steve and Ron first met Margaret Isely in 1977, many companies have capitalized on Pines’ success. Although these companies use phrases Pines introduced, they often take short cuts on quality, such as filling short, squatty plastic tubs only about half full to take up shelf space or mixing all sorts of inexpensive ingredients as fillers to further cut costs and hide the dull color of devitalized cereal grass.

Some use inexpensive and flimsy petrochemical plastic tubs and foil/paper/plastic packets. Both kinds of packaging result in green superfoods losing the vibrancy discovered by Charles Schnabel, George Kohler and other scientists. These kinds of packages with their cheap filler ingredients often cost a fraction to produce compared to what it costs Pines to produce its products, yet Pines often costs less!

Pines International is also the only company that follows the standards established by the father of wheatgrass, Dr. Charles Schnabel, in 1937. Pines uses glacial soils, natural rainfall (not ground water), and harvests only at the once-a-year stage that Dr. Schnabel determined produced the highest quality gluten free, naturally-concentrated, dark-green, leafy food.

Natural Grocers, Pines International and other companies that truly believe in sustainable farming practices and fair pricing continue to work year round to educate the public about organic farming and the dangers of GMO farming. Here is some of what both companies are doing to educate the public

Natural Grocers Advocacy Blog:

Pines International’s Organic vs. GMO education page:

Rather than promoting their stores as a national chain, Natural Grocers considers each store to be a “corner grocery” for its community. They want their stores to be known as places where each customer is recognized and appreciated. Each Natural Grocers store also believes it is important for a business to give back to its community. That’s why they support the efforts of non-profit groups in each community, especially when those groups are involved in the betterment of health and the environment.

Colorado is where you will find most Natural Grocers, but the company has expanded to Arizona. Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

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