On August 23 and 24, eastern Iowa hosted seven representatives from the Seikatsu Club Consumers Cooperative (SCCCU) of Japan. Working with Linn County REC, East-Central Iowa REC arranged for the group to tour the Frontier Herbs Norway facility and talk with its CEO, Tony Bedard.
The SCCCU began in 1965 when a group of housewives formed a collective buying club to purchase quality milk at low prices. Since then, it has grown into an association of 25 consumer cooperatives with 259,000 members that develops, purchases, and distributes about 3,000 general consumer goods, 60 percent of which are basic foodstuffs.
Building on the traditional Japanese values of purity and safety, the SCCCU emphasizes organic and natural products that are environmentally safe. The membership consists of urban consumers (primarily women), and the cooperative promotes sustainable agricultural practices and support for local farmers, ensuring that they receive a fair price for their products. It is very important to the SCCCU that its members know the producers who supply them with their products. In effect, the cooperative combines Western notions of individual harmony and self-help with Japanese ideas about collective efforts and active involvement in local communities.
The seven representatives from Japan felt very at home at Frontier Herbs, a cooperative that distributes organic herbs and spices and other natural products to retailers and distributors across the United States. Purchasing herbs and spices from around the world, it promotes sustainable agricultural practices through its comprehensive sustainable sourcing program, purchases fair trade-certified products, helps growers develop certified organic sustainable production methods, and improves the social conditions for workers, their families, and communities. It minimizes its carbon footprint by purchasing “green tags” from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
After visiting Frontier Herbs on August 23, the seven visitors toured New Pioneer Food Cooperative in Iowa City. New Pioneer, or New Pi to its members, is a grocery cooperative specializing in organic and natural foods. It is also a member of Frontier Herbs.
Coincidentally, Frontier Herbs CEO Tony Bedard was having electric service extended to a new property by Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative. Linn County REC CEO Kim Colberg, along with several of his staff, were among those escorting the SCCCU representatives that day and toured the Frontier Herbs facility with their Japanese guests.