2021 INFRA Fall Newsletter

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2021 Fall The Real Deal

The Power of Connection PAT S HE RIDAN PRE S IDE NT & CEO

INFRA has long been known as a connector. We connect members to members. Members to industry partners. Brands to consumers. You get it. But our forced move to a virtual world has made the facilitation of connections more challenging than ever. At INFRA headquarters, we learned to connect virtually as a team. And the team continues to learn from members and partners. But I can share this with you, I have never felt so disconnected from people. So, I was lucky enough to recently connect with members and partners in person. I was thrilled to join a few thousand of you in Philadelphia to recall what face-to-face (or is it, mask-to-mask?) is and how important it is to all of us. It was strange…for about 5 minutes. And then we all remembered, the conversations flowed, old friends were back, and the smiles were wider than any masks could hide. Ah, connection…at last! But that was a moment, and I was reminded just today at a meeting with several members, where one mentioned how disconnected she felt. Was she alone? Many of us on the call assured her she wasn’t. And I realized that we’re not all the way back yet, that calls like this are important, and that we need to do more. We need to make sure that connections are often and real. I’m happy to say our team is out traveling to member stores again, and we intend to continue. I’m even more happy to share that I’ve been out to some member stores and plan to be out to many more in the coming months. I long to truly connect and I’m excited to see you all soon, whether it be in your stores, at a show, or at the in-person INFRA Annual Conference next July in Minneapolis (keep reading to learn more about the conference). Besides the rare opportunity to connect in person, we continued to explore our virtual opportunities for connection this past quarter. Since our last publication, we’ve had several opportunities to speak publicly, and I personally had the pleasure of moderating the first two in a series of INFRA Roundtables. The topics were timely, relevant, and powerful. “Sustainability in Operations – Past, Present, and What’s Coming” featured leaders from Coconut Bliss, Alter Eco, and Crofter’s Organic, and what a conversation it was. Despite the disruptions in our world, these three brand partners have kept a focus on, and are making impressive progress on, reducing their impact on climate change. These are brands we’re all proud to work with and promote. “Working with Independent Retailers – How Your Support Impacts Communities and the Greater Economy” featured two leaders from Natural Factors and INFRA Member Jerry Farrell from Rising Tide Natural Market. Every moment of this conversation is important to INFRA Members, from comprehensive MAP policies to education for your customers, to a commitment to Independents as the best path to an informed customer. Our partners who sponsored and participated were highly engaged and the conversations were so good that it almost felt like we were in the room together. If you missed them, links to the recorded sessions can be found later in this edition of the Real Deal. Whether it’s virtually or in person, the INFRA team understands the importance of being the connectors we are known to be and will continue to expand these opportunities as we execute on our mission, “Strengthening our members through collaboration to forge sustainable future”.

Rocket Market • Westview Corner Grocery • Guido’s Fresh Marketplace

50 Years of Doing Good: INFRA Members Celebrate INFR A MARKE TING TE AM

During the 1970s, environmental awareness and consumer demand for natural foods flourished. Independent business owners felt called to provide their communities with good, clean food that not only nourished body and mind but was also grown with care for the earth. A number of INFRA Members stores were born out of this time period and philosophy and, if you can believe it, they are celebrating 50 years of business this year! In the half-century they’ve been in operation, these members have become true pillars of their communities, constants in an industry that has seen so much change. While many aspects of business ownership have evolved since 1971, these members remain firm in the values that first drew them to good, clean food. To commemorate their years of success, we checked in with some of these independent retailers to hear how they’re celebrating this momentous occasion! GR ANITE S TATE NATUR AL S • NH Over their 50 years in business, Granite State Naturals (GSN) was never afraid to do things a

little differently. The values-oriented food store always stood firm in their beliefs but shifted their product mix with the changing interests of their customers. At times, they sold crystals, homebrew kits, and even futons to keep their selection fresh and their community engaged. GSN was constantly evaluating how to stay relevant and the ways they could best captivate their community in Concord, NH. Founder Peggy Jeannotte had a real knack for knowing how to diversify. Considered a true pioneer of the natural food movement in New Hampshire, she was a risk-taker at a time when women-owned businesses weren’t easy to come by. Over the Fourth of July weekend this summer, the store celebrated its 50th-anniversary with the grand opening of a new storefront, transitioning from the location they’d maintained since 1988. When asked what’s kept them energized in their mission throughout the years, second-generation owner Matt Jeannotte spoke of the joy they derive from being an independent retailer, “To be truly independent and really make our own decisions on what we carry, our personal product quality standards — that’s exciting.” He went on to say that “when a store’s been around as long Granite State Naturals team in front of new as we have, it’s exciting to see new parents who were shopping with their parents when they were location a kid in the store and, now they’re bringing their kid in. To transcend generations is exciting.” Check out pictures of their new location on their Facebook page! NATUR AL HE ALTH CE NTE R • MI When Natural Health Center (NHC) planned their 50th

anniversary celebration this August, they knew they had to do it big! They created t-shirts incorporating their slogan to say, “50 Years of Feeling Better”, gave out branded wildflower seed packets, and ran giveaways all month long! Customers shared their reflections, stories, and memories from 50 years of NHC, and it was a celebration of community. At Natural Health Center, they work diligently to meet people where they are at, aiming simply to help folks feel better. “Whether that is helping them find the right product, or make lifestyle changes, or it’s just being a consistent, friendly face that they can come to,” second-generation owner Kate Wunderlin puts it. Since 1971, NHC has been a source of consistency in the city of Kalamazoo, MI, serving as a From left to right owners Kate, Kay, place where people can come to feel better in whatever way they need. Read their message on 50 years and Mike Wunderlin in their newsletter here! FR A Z IE R FARM S MARKE T • C A Since Frazier Farms Market first hit the scene in

Frazier Farms Market ad from the 1970s

1971, their idea has been to wow people twice. Once in the store with a great price and again at home when they take a bite of an amazing product, feeling all the more satisfied in their purchase. General manager of 16 years, Matt Poucher, says that hasn’t changed in the half-century they’ve done business. While consumers continue to call for greater transparency where they shop, that’s something that Frazier Farms has prioritized all along. “You can’t just have a good organic apple, you have to sample it, you have to tell the story behind it, you have to say where it comes from. Traceability, sustainability, fair trade, these are ideals that are very much integrated already into what we do.” It’s not half-hearted marketing; it’s who they are.

They celebrated 50 years like a big birthday bash, complete with festive balloons, beautiful cake creations, customer giveaways, and more! Click here to see their Instagram photos. In many ways, a 50th anniversary is a celebration of a whole community; it’s a celebration of the business as well as the customers who helped to lift them up throughout the generations. Matt says that Frazier Farms’ relationship with the community is very natural and organic, just like their store. They employ a lot of local people, many times giving them their first or second job. There is a strong connection between their team and the cities they are located in. Even more, they strive to be a good piece of the puzzle, often supporting local events however they best can, with product, people, or time. But wait, the celebration continues! Click here to read more about INFRA Members celebrating 50 years!


INFRA Retailers are numerous and diverse throughout the country, each bringing their own individual identity to the association. This collaboration allows individual members to thrive in their respective communities. Maintaining independence gives each retailer the freedom to serve their community and live out their mission. Many INFRA Members started their businesses to fill a gap in their local grocery landscape. One such store is Arkansas’ The Truck Patch. In 2012, I moved from California to a small town in Arkansas to support a school garden project at the local middle school. In my search for a well-stocked grocery store, I stumbled upon The Truck Patch in Mountain Home, AR, 30 miles from my new home. Although The Truck Patch wasn’t a part of INFRA while I shopped there—they joined INFRA in 2015—I recognized a store that stood out as a community resource. The Truck Patch, now operating two locations in Mountain Home and Jonesboro, AR, was founded to bring “the Twin Lakes area people an opportunity to shop for healthy alternatives to conventionally, mass-produced food.” Co-Owners Michael and Sarah Adler opened the original Mountain Home location in 2010. Their philosophy will be familiar to many of you. “We believe eating quality organic and natural food is one of the best steps you can make to greatly improve your health.” The Truck Patch offers so many products from local, family-owned businesses, including cage-free eggs, locally roasted coffee, freshly baked bread, and the freshest produce. Over 90% of the produce sold at both locations is certified organic. They offer the largest selection of organic fruits and vegetables available throughout Baxter and Craighead County. They have product standards that include the type of products they won’t offer as well. These no-no’s exclude products that contain artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, and sweeteners; partially hydrogenated oils; high fructose corn syrup; or added MSG. It’s just as important to look at what is in a product as what isn’t. The retail landscape in which they operate is dominated by large global players in a race to the bottom in terms of both price and quality. The Truck Patch store values set them apart from their local competition. THE TRUCK PATCH S TORE VALUE S

• • • •

Improve the health of our customers by offering the highest quality organic and natural products that do not contain harmful ingredients Educating and delighting our customers with our incredible level of service Reduce our carbon footprint by supporting local sustainable agriculture whenever possible To create a happy, healthy, and fun environment where our staff can grow professionally and personally

The Adlers recognize a variety of stakeholders, including customers, staff, producers, and the environment, as key to their success as a business. A business that is rooted in values can authentically promote itself as a mission-driven organization. This marketing is one way to attract younger shoppers, including Millennials and Gen Zers, who are more focused on a brand’s commitment to sustainability and social responsibility than previous generations. The Truck Patch serves its community with integrity, transparency, and most importantly, passion. Health, that of shoppers and the planet, are cornerstones of their business. Their customers appreciate the staff’s wealth of knowledge and view The Truck Patch as an asset in their community. The foundation of their business is to provide a fun, friendly place to grocery shop for their neighbors. Follow along with The Truck Patch on Facebook (@TheTruckPatchNaturalMarketJB, @TheTruckPatchNaturalMarketMH) and Instagram (@ Jonesboro_TruckPatch, TheTruckPatchMountainHome) and visit their website to learn more!

The Truck Patch • Instagram


It seems like 2021 was the year in which we all stopped, took a collective breath, and began to reflect on how we continue to move forward in our era of COVID. 2022 should be a year in which we will be able to continue looking to the future. COVID aside, people are grappling with a lot; everyone is dealing with taking care of their own health as well as the multi-faceted, complicated problems caused by climate change. At the same time, people are also exploring the world around them in new ways, looking to their communities and regions for new foods and experiences. COVID has changed the landscape and we’re not free of its grasp yet. Most people are no longer stockpiling toilet paper, but stores are still seeing the effects of the pandemic in specific convenience categories — functional beverages and bars are two areas hit by the lack of impulse shopping. Issues with supply chains will continue for some time as well. However, spending time at home has inspired a lot of people to flex their cooking muscles, and many are learning of ways to cook using new ingredients and looking to their stores to provide those “new” local items, or what some are calling “local exotics”. Heirloom and indigenous ingredients are seeing a resurgence as people look back into history for inspiration and ideas on the future. According to the Food Report 2022, the idea that the lessons of COVID (food stockpiling, making do, and being resourceful) have translated into a continued desire to eat in a way that is healthier, locally-focused by necessity, and with less waste is gaining traction. COVID has given us new reasons to be health-focused. Food synergy — the idea that two nutrients can be combined to give both even more nutritional power, like vitamin C and zinc, for example — is making its way into the mainstream. This concept has been used in wellness department products for a long time, but now it’s making its way into packaged grocery goods as well and could be a trend to watch for in 2022. Ingredients like rice and beans, broccoli and tomato, and black pepper and turmeric are combined to become nutritional powerhouses. In wellness departments, the focus on immune health will continue to be important as well. Wellness shots, which often combine multiple functional ingredients and food synergies, are showing a lot of potential. More wellness ingredients moving into grocery are continuing to trend. Probiotics, prebiotics, and fiber continue to be top functional ingredients as we learn more about the gut biome and how it affects other systems, notably, the immune system. Where functional beverages may be seeing a sales slump in your store, many of these functional ingredients are in these types of products, which could be an opportunity to gain some sales back. Along with personal health, planetary health and doing what we can do to combat climate change is going to guide what shoppers will be looking for in 2022. Plant-based meat alternatives will continue to trend, and products that blend meat and vegetables may be more in demand. The trend towards omnivorous diets and products such as Applegate’s Well Carved burgers, which are a blend of beef, cauliflower, lentils, and even more veggies, is a way that shoppers can still indulge in their preferred protein source while feeling better about the addition of vegetables. Omnivorous shoppers are shoppers who will try a meatless alternative when they want to but will also consume animal products, giving stores an opportunity to gain sales by attracting this broad demographic. Vegetarian and vegan foods are another steady trend that should continue to grow more in 2022. Beyond sustainable products, brands themselves need to demonstrate what they are doing to contribute to a healthier planet. Look for an increase in social and environmental causes that brands work with; consumers are increasingly looking for brands that align with their values and who are transparent about their social and environmental practices. Bulk departments have an opportunity this year to capitalize on the zero-waste trend. More and more shoppers are wanting to find ways

to cut down on the amount of plastic and single-use packaging they’re using. Along with zero-waste, upcycling will continue to be an exciting trend, as brands try to use what was formerly waste to create new products. From flours made with the byproducts of oat and soymilk production to crackers and snacks made with cast-off bananas and potatoes, there’s an opportunity to push back against the idea that to be good, food has to be perfect looking. The proliferation of “ugly vegetable” CSAs and food delivery means that we may be looking at a near-future when we don’t have to cull an item just because it doesn’t look right, and therefore cut down on food waste in a substantial way. Wellness departments shouldn’t neglect to give their herb sets a critical eye. Herbs have long been a crucial part of wellness departments, and customers are turning back to these ancient ingredients. Herbs for immune health are doing well of course, but there is gathering interest in herbs for brain health, memory, stress, and general cognitive function. Sleep, stress, and digestive health are three key areas that wellness departments would do well to focus on as we move into 2022. Besides the probiotics and herbs that have been supplement staples for years, nootropics are an exciting area to focus on in 2022. The increase in interest in these supplements that claim to improve cognitive function in the areas of memory, creativity, and motivation, is very likely related to peoples’ recent need to be able to work and focus at home while simultaneously teaching their kids, getting new puppies, cooking all their own meals, and weathering a pandemic. Common nootropics include L-theanine, phosphatidylserine, Bacopa, and hup-A. Gaia Herbs’ Nootropic Focus and Alpha Brain from Onnit are two supplements that have a blend of different nootropics to give full-spectrum benefits. As 2022 approaches, retailers should remain confident in their ability to provide healthy food to their communities. With a customer focus on taking care of their health and the health of the planet, independent natural food stores have an opportunity to bring climateconscious brands and practices to the forefront and provide a strong path forward for a future in which we can feel good about the food choices we’re making, together.

Looking Forward: Webstop and the Future of Digital Marketing AUS TIN HINKLE PROMOTION S MARKE TING LE AD

INFRA is pleased to announce that we have entered into an agreement with Webstop to provide a pilot group of members access to INFRA digital promotions. The humble print sales flyer, it’s ubiquitous, a beacon for customers to find the best deals on their favorite products. And honestly, it hasn’t changed much in the past 50+ years. The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the shift to digital, and consumers are increasingly relying on technology to guide their shopping decisions. As INFRA focuses our lens to 2022 and beyond, one thing has become abundantly clear: it’s time to intentionally shift more into the digital space. We recognize that print flyers most certainly fill a need, yet we also know that catering to shoppers from all demographics will allow INFRA Deals to further permeate the market. Webstop is a platform that integrates with retailers’ websites to create a seamless and interactive experience with digital promotions. Customers can view sales items, create shopping lists, explore recipes, and clip digital coupons. It also has integration with many e-commerce suites for retailers who would like to expand their offerings to include pick-up and/or delivery. Most meaningful for INFRA is the ability to view consumer behavior with the aggregated insights the analytics will provide. What are consumers clicking on and why? What ads are gaining the most attention and why? How can we use this information to continuously develop and grow our Vendor Opportunities Program to fulfill the needs of consumers, members, and vendor partners alike? We look forward to learning more about the opportunities inside of Webstop for more meaningful digital promotions and possible expansion of the program.

Sample Retailer Site


I have been involved with producing apparel since I was 16 years old, I started selling screen printed tee shirts in high school and continued to create apparel in college while attending the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, MN. Tee shirts were my breakthrough into entrepreneurship. After graduating from Saint Thomas, I invested into a small team of entrepreneurs who were developing the company JuiceBot, a raw, healthy, juice vending machine that dispensed raw cold pressed juice at the touch of a button. It was through this experience where I gained a deeper understanding of organic, sustainable products. After leaving the Los Angeles based startup, I shifted my focus to the industrial hemp industry where I gained understanding of the benefits of the industrial hemp plant and the new legalization of CBD. I soon realized that I could reincorporate my passion for apparel while utilizing my enhanced mindset and understanding of how important organic, sustainable products are for our world, our bodies, and our land. In 2019, I began immersing myself in the Minnesota industrial hemp industry. I attended events, volunteered, and gained as much knowledge as I could surrounding industrial hemp and its diverse number of applications. I started buying hemp products for myself and others to use and started to begin the sourcing process of quality hemp fiber textile products. Through my networking in the industry, I made deeper connections. OG Hemp Goods only sources organic hemp fiber products with transparent supply chains. Our tees and hoodies are manufactured by Enviro Textile, a female led natural fiber company who are pioneers in the industry and are the fifth generation in their family to work with natural fibers. Summer and Barbara have been developing America’s access to hemp fiber for nearly 30 years, since it has been legal to import hemp fiber. We feel confident in importing these garments from China because they put the garments through a strict certification process that includes: ISO 9001, USDA Certified Biobased Product, Certified to OE Blended Standards, ASTM International, and NFPA International. Our manufacturing partner has developed the highest level of certification that ensures the factory producing the materials operates out of an ISO 9001:2015 facility, using organic fibers that are produced in a closed loop water facility. The dyes, plastic, and bleach used are all as low-impact as possible on the environment. Hemp is better than cotton every step of the way, from the fields where it’s grown, to the factories where it is made with less water, and then when it’s on our customers’ bodies. Hemp requires less water to wash and dry, the quick drying fibers create a breathable fabric that is anti-microbial, and anti-odor! These unique characteristics differentiate it from cotton, but did you know hemp is up to 6x stronger than cotton? Hemp is a fiber intended to last a lifetime, our garments get softer with every wash, keeping that “feels new feeling” every time you put it on. Also, they are bio-degradable, so at the end of its product lifecycle, it can be composted and returned to the earth. We recently became a top seller on Faire Market, our preferred sales channel for retailers seeking to outfit their employees (or customers) with certified organic industrial hemp and cotton tee shirts or hoodies. We also believe that you would be interested in purchasing “Hempy Feet” socks, hats, and tote bags. These are all available via Faire Market. We also offer custom water-based ink screen printing out of Apple Valley, MN. Using water-based inks is an eco-friendlier option for printing onto organic garments, it also allows for unlimited colors using their PRISM INK technology (great for PRIDE events in the future)!

We’re proud to have been chosen as INFRA’s preferred partner for their team’s gear this year and hope that we can support your team or customer needs as well. For more information on how you can get your hands on my products for your employees or for your store, please connect with me in any of the ways below. Company Instagram: @OGHempGoods • Email: sales@hempgoodsdistribution.com • Personal Instagram: @Steve_The_Hemp_Guy • Website: www.hempgoodsdistribution.com

Together Again at INFRA Events SCHEDULE AT-A- GL ANCE November 10: INFRA Roundtable Series — Diversity and Inclusion in Bringing Brands to Market • Register here! November 25 - 26: INFRA Office Closed December 2 – 5: SOHO Expo • Find us at Booth 721! December 24 - 25: INFRA Office Closed December 31: INFRA Office Closed

January 26 – February 11: KeHE Summer Show — Digital Show February: 2022 Winter Real Deal on the way! February 1 – 2: UNFI Show — San Jose, CA February 2 – 3: KeHE Summer Show — New Orleans, LA February 6 – 8: Winter Fancy Food Show — Las Vegas, NV February 21 – 23: UNFI Show — Orlando, FL

January: Look for the 2022 INFRA Annual Conference Tabletop RFP


Consumers are demanding change. The current spotlight on social justice and systemic racism has magnified the need to address food inequities throughout the natural and organic food industry. Consumers are expecting that the organizations they patronize will solve issues that are important to them, creating a shift in where consumers shop and what they buy. To meet those demands and remain relevant, it is imperative that INFRA member stores and our partners act with intentionality by supporting BIPOC and women-owned companies in the food industry. Join us for a conversation on how we can collectively be part of the solution by intentionally bringing more diversity to our shelves and meeting consumer expectations. Wednesday, November 10 from 1pm-2pm Central. Register here!


The past year has presented new operational challenges and the need for accelerated innovation and quick thinking around longstanding and advancing sustainability practices. Listen to the conversation about how these industry leaders are addressing the long-term impacts of climate change during a time of competing priorities, supply chain shortages, and operational disruption. View the recording here! S E S S ION 2 : WORKING WITH INDE PE NDE NT RE TAILE RS – HOW YOUR SUPPOR T IMPAC T S COMMUNITIE S AND THE GRE ATE R ECONOM Y

Independent grocers are owned by members of the community and often they are the conduit through which trends and consumer preferences flow. The relationship between your local grocer and the brands they carry runs deep, they are built on integrity, trust, and an alignment of values. Supporting local businesses and the products they choose to bring to consumers is imperative in strengthening communities, supporting state and national economies, and creating sustainable food systems. Listen to the conversation about what it means to be independent and how the mindset of partnership emanates from consumer to retailer to brand partner and back. View the recording here!

• SOHO EXPO • December 2–5, 2021 • Orlando, FL INFRA is a SENPA Summit Exclusive Sponsor at this year’s SOHO Expo. Registration for the conference is free for SENPA members. If you’re attending, come see us at Booth 721! Click here to learn more and click here to register!

• EXPO WEST • March 8–12, 2022 • Anaheim, CA We look forward to seeing you at Expo West in the spring! Additional information about INFRA Events at EXPO West coming in early 2022!

Thank you to our 2021 Sponsors! More information about 2022 Sponsorship opportunities coming in early 2022. Questions? Reach out to Erica Schulte King at eking@infretailers.com.

• INFR A ANNUAL CONFERENCE • INFRA can’t wait to reunite in-person at the 2022 INFRA Annual Conference! Join us for a return of the tabletop buying event and the chance to connect face-to-face once again. Date: July 27–29, 2022 Location: Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot • Minneapolis, MN Tabletop Save the Date: Thursday, July 28 Look for the Tabletop RFP and more information on registration coming in January 2022!

Look for the 2022 INFRA Annual Conference Tabletop RFP in January!

2022 INFRA Annual Conference Speaker Proposal If you’re interested in speaking at the 2022 INFRA Annual Conference, we want to hear from you! Please submit a proposal here.

• EXPO E AST RECAP • It felt so good to be back together again - connecting with members and industry partners at Expo East this September! In addition to the time spent with our community, we were honored to sponsor the BIPOC Happy Hour and Friday night concert. We were grateful to once again be together!

Aaron Gottlieb of Native Sun Natural Foods Market and INFRA’s VP, Member Success Danelle Rydel

Digable Planets rocking out during the Friday concert sponsored by INFRA and Presence Marketing

Staff from Guido’s Fresh Marketplace stopped by bright and early for INFRA’s Retailer Meeting

Want to stay up to date on all INFRA events, press releases, and news? Email Meggie Smith at msmith@infretailers.com to subscribe to our mailing list!

Supporting Organic Farmers Through On-Farm Research PROVIDED BY ORGANIC FARMING RE S E ARCH FOUNDATION

Organic farming is a combination of centuries-old production techniques with new innovative practices that will help us fight climate change, improve biodiversity, and build resilient farms and communities. On-farm organic agricultural research ensures that the most efficient and effective farming practices are explored, documented and shared, and can serve as a catalyst for change toward a more equitable, sustainable and just food system. However, organic research is severely underfunded at the USDA and research institutions nationwide. That is why for the last 30 years the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has funded small-scale on-farm research projects that address common farmer and rancher challenges with innovative and practical solutions, investing over $3M and awarded 355 grants. To ensure we understand the most current challenges of farmers and ranchers, we conduct a national survey every 3-5 years to hear directly from organic producers about their needs. We will soon publish our 2021 National Organic Research Agenda that uses data from our most recent survey and farmer listening sessions. We’re very proud that many of the projects we have provided seed grant funding have allowed farmer-researcher teams to gather preliminary data, leading to much larger research grant opportunities. We are especially excited about our 2021/22 research grant cycle as the projects we fund will focus specifically on climate change resilience and mitigation. We believe it is critical to foster the next generation of researchers and support historically underserved and marginalized communities, while also ensuring all farmers have the most up-to-date and science-based information. To this end, we are prioritizing early career researchers and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) applicants, reserving half of our grants for BIPOC farmers and researchers. This year we have an exciting opportunity for businesses to support our research program! The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) has awarded OFRF with a $66,000 grant that requires a 100% match from our own fundraising. We are dedicated to funding as many projects as possible and we need your help to make sure we meet the match! If you are interested in helping ensure more on-farm research is conducted, please consider becoming an OFRF research partner. You can do so by emailing Haley Baron, OFRF’s Partnership and Development Manager at give@ofrf.org. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like to learn more about other aspects of our work! The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is a national non-profit organization founded in 1990 to advance organic agriculture through scientific research. As a champion of organic farmers across the U.S., we work to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems by cultivating research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.


Each day, the INFRA team works to support independent natural food retailers across the country thrive. We are lucky to work in an industry that is centered on local communities—making sure people have access to good clean food while working to impact an entire industry—from supporting regenerative organic agriculture and partnering with brands that view sustainability through the entire supply chain. The “local” and the “global” are two sides of the same coin. As part of INFRA’s commitment to community, all employees receive one paid day to work with a non-profit community organization whose mission is aligned with INFRA values. This volunteer time is called a Day of Love. We’re all working in our day-to-day roles to support strong local food systems. Taking this a step further means our growing team can dive right into something that is happening in our backyard. Remember the saying, “Think globally, act locally”? In recognition of Good Food Month, and to encourage our busy team to find the time in their schedule to volunteer, INFRA declared October to be a “Month of Love”. Michele Lamppa, Director of People & Culture, said, “We noticed that not many were using their volunteer hours, and thought we’d try making October a Month of Love for INFRA staff!” As a supportive reminder to use this time before the end of the year, INFRA’s Culture Committee put together a list of organizations around the Twin Cities, as well as national non-profits for our remote staff that lives around the country, to spark inspiration.

We’ve made progress in seeing volunteerism amongst staff, with some teams taking it as an opportunity to do off-site team building during a time when we’re not gathering in-person daily in the office. Volunteering in our communities is an important way to engage with and connect to the INFRA mission. Several folks from the Retail Services Team — Hannah Gomes, Michael Paynic, and Matt Ryan — volunteered with the Du Nord Foundation. The foundation has several initiatives, and the team worked with the Du Nord Foundation Community Market, a community-supported food pantry. Started in response to the lack of food options in the neighborhood after the civil unrest in May 2020, the underlying tenet of providing stability through crisis came to life by supporting over 3,000 neighbors with tens of thousands of pounds of food and supplies. The Community Market is “a welcoming place for a neighbor to find free, healthy, and fresh foods and supplies for their table”. Matt Ryan, Retail Services Manager, enjoyed the chance to meet up with his team in person. The work was meaningful and fun! “It was a great chance to provide to those in need by working with a foundation From left to right, Matt Ryan, Hannah Gomes, and Michael Paynic volunteer at Du Nord Foundation’s Community Market that was started by a BIPOC-owned business. Beyond direct aid, the foundation hopes to build an incubator for community-focused businesses. We packed orders which had the added benefit of connecting me to my grocery stocking roots!” The work is ongoing, as COVID-19 has exacerbated economic disparities. The team volunteered for a prep shift, which involved packing grocery orders that are distributed free of charge to neighbors in need. This direct aid is one way to ensure that people can feed their families. Michael Paynic, Food Services Program Manager, was moved by the human connection evident in this neighborto-neighbor support. As someone who often donates to register round-up campaigns and other charitable fundraising initiatives, “actually volunteering, you get closer to the issues in your community. You see the need, and it’s more real,” said Michael. Neighbors place orders online for their groceries and household supplies, and volunteers pack the orders. This allows for customization that isn’t often available with other food distribution models. Michael was able to see the breakdown of the family for each order, noting that he included a larger jar of peanut butter for the family with three kids, and selected an avocado that was ripe along with one that would be ready in a few days for the single-person household, so they could enjoy fresh, ripe avocado all week long. Michael implores folks to volunteer, saying “Just go out and help—physically help people—it’s fun and you get to make someone’s day.” With the uncertainty of the past 18 months, it has been difficult to find the time, space, and energy to volunteer. Many organizations that were a natural fit, like food banks, were restricting the opportunities to serve and juggled increased demand for their services with safety precautions. The services that non-profits provide are still needed in our communities and incentivizing this type of volunteerism is one way that INFRA is helping to support those in need.

WELCOME TO THE TEAM! I am so grateful to be on the INFRA team! I came on board as the Controller at INFRA in July of this year. Since then, I’ve been handling the day-to-day transactions to get a feel for the flow of debits and credits and soaking up everything I can about all the things INFRA does. My role will be to oversee the accounting functions at INFRA (including financial reporting, budgeting, processes, and workflows). I’m looking forward to growing the accounting/finance team so that I can more directly support members in the future.


Before coming to INFRA, I was a CPA in public accounting, working primarily with small businesses (<$20M). I helped clients with accounting systems and procedures, financial statement preparation, obtaining financing, and buying or selling a business. All those things happen with an eye toward taxes and, accordingly, I have done a great deal of tax planning and tax preparation for both small businesses and their owners. I left public accounting in 2015 to take on the CFO for a client in wholesale distribution business in 2015.

In the past five years, my determination to save the planet has kicked into overdrive and I’m always looking for ways to eat and live more sustainably. Working at INFRA allows me to be mission-aligned at work and home now! I act as treasurer for both Compassionate Action for Animals (Twin Cities VegFest host) and SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary in New Richmond, WI and stay busy with their accounting, tabling at events, or doing farm chores. My free time finds me playing music, cooking food, walking dogs, planting things, or scouring YouTube for another DIY art project of some kind.

I am excited to begin my career with INFRA as one of the new members of the Region Manager team. I am thrilled to be joining forces with such an experienced team as I come on board with this amazing organization. My focus as a Region Manager will be to support the INFRA Membership by identifying our members’ unique needs and goals and matching them with the robust variety of resources that INFRA has available. I come to INFRA having worked at numerous mission-driven, independently-owned natural food stores since 1986. I still wake up each morning genuinely excited to embrace the shared challenges and collective rewards our industry makes available to each of us. Most recently, I worked for three years as the Wellness Buyer at Franklin Community Co-op in Greenfield, MA and prior to that I was VALERIE AGNEW a shareholder and served in a variety of elected leadership roles at worker-owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco, CA for over 22 years. I value the shared commitment to strengthening Region Manager and growing local economies by continually striving to evolve regenerative and sustainable practices while providing our communities with the best food and health products on the planet. This good work is where my heart is. In my free time, I love to play and listen to music. I enjoy getting outside to play golf, hike, bike, and generally absorb the incredible beauty of New England. I love to read and learn new things. I’m currently nose deep in books about the racial history of the U.S.

I am thrilled to join the talented INFRA team as a Region Manager serving the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii! My role as Region Manager is to optimize business development with member stores to support their success and continue the strategic growth of INFRA. I have a deep appreciation for the role independent retailers have in the food system and a passion to see them succeed. I am here to engage with our members and stakeholders, provide support, and forge a sustainable future together. I have experience working in multiple roles in the natural food industry. Most recently I worked on the vendor side as an Area Sales Manager for Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt and Farmhouse Culture. Before that, I spent ten plus years working as a Territory Manager and Sales Representative for Presence Marketing CHRIS MILES and Advantage Solutions. I started my natural foods career working in retail at Bloomingfoods Co+op. Later, I helped manage a Wellness department at PCC Natural Markets. As an Account Manager and Region Manager Sales Representative for food brokers, I provided retailers with sales and merchandising support. As an Area Sales Manager for Ellenos, I helped build a brand of Premium Greek Yogurt for a family-led manufacturer of the product. At Ellenos, I managed key account calls for New Seasons Markets and KeHE. In these past roles, I have been instrumental in working with independent retail chains and Category Managers in the development of product selection, promotional planning, pricing strategies, and supply chain needs. I am excited about the opportunity to utilize my work experience and skillset to support our members with all the tools INFRA has to offer. Some fun facts about me are that I love healthy eating and clean living. Living in Portland, Oregon gives me unique access to many local food producers and farmers. I enjoy cooking although I am a complete amateur “chef”. My big accomplishment is baking an old family holiday recipe of tortiere last winter. My go-to breakfast is a Perfect Bar and a cup of Stumptown coffee. On weekends, I run the trails in Forest Park. Running trails in the early hours of the morning gets me in touch with my primal side! I like to take deep dives on Spotify to discover legends of blues and jazz. I have a lifelong passion for music and continue to hone my skills. I have played guitar for over 30 years. My claim to fame is winning three Battle of the Bands competitions in high school and playing in a punk band in Seattle. I look forward to connecting with my INFRA family and industry partners in the coming months. Cheers for now!

CONGR ATS ON YOUR PROMOTION! NICK REARDON Category Manager We are pleased to announce the promotion of Nick Reardon to Category Manager! Nick brings a blend of experience with the Purchasing team including, strong project management and organizational skills, and a passion for category management. Congrats Nick!


INFRA Team Q3 Anniversaries Matt Ryan • 9 years Retail Services Manager

Emily Soejoto • 4 years Category Manager

Sarah Shindelar • 6 years Administrative Services Lead

Pat Sheridan • 3 years President & CEO

Nick Auzenne • 4 years Director of Purchasing

Jesse Roque • 2 years Retail Services and Merchandising Specialist

Meagan Van Beest • 2 years Region Manager

INFRA Team Q4 Anniversaries Kate Fletcher • 12 years Senior Category Lead

Nick Reardon • 6 years Category Manager

Cat Vranyes • 2 years Supply Agreement Lead

Erica Schulte King • 9 years Director of Marketing and Communications

Danelle Rydel • 5 years VP, Member Success

Michele Lamppa • 1 year Director of People & Culture

Pat Rector • 8 years Region Manager

Matt Olson • 3 years Fresh Program Manager

Board of Directors Cheryl Hughes, Board Chair The Whole Wheatery

Summer Auerbach Rainbow Blossom

John Pittari New Morning Market

Emily Kanter, Vice Chair Cambridge Naturals

Terry Brett Kimberton Whole Foods

Adam Stark Debra’s Natural Gourmet

John Wood, Secretary The Green Grocer

Brian Kvistad Blossom Grocery

Mylese Tucker Nature’s Cupboard

Sasha Galitzki, Treasurer New Moon Natural Foods

Laughing Water Real Food Market + Deli


Independent Natural Food Retailers Association 2356 University Ave W, Ste 200 St. Paul, MN 55114 (651) 888-4700 naturalfoodretailers.com @infretailers


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