How I Fell in Love with Natural Foods Movement

Abigail R. Harris
September 19th 2019

by Abigail Harris – Executive Director, Provender Alliance

You know the stories about innocent high school sweethearts who lost touch after graduation, go on to live their lives, re-meet years later, fall in love for real, and create a meaningful future together? Well, that’s me and you (the Provender Alliance Community and larger natural products trade).

A long time ago, I served on CCOF’s marketing committee to contribute to a movement in which I believe. I was fresh out of college and definitely the youngest person on the committee, and before the National Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

I remember proposing the idea of putting stickers on every piece of organic fruit to distinguish it from conventional ones (often sold side-by-side in the bins, like at my local natural food store). Back then, pretty much the main stickers on produce were on commercial banana bunches — take your pick – Dole or Chiquita. My suggestion to the committee was summarily dismissed as too expensive. (It probably was for farmers back then, given the humble state of organics at the time. Fast forwarding to today; hard to imagine not having those distinguishing stickers now, right?)

I started an organic candy company and worked as a natural food caterer. However, my professional career then turned in another direction and I spent the last 20+ years as an entrepreneur in a completely different industry. My personal passion for natural foods has never waned. I know my local farmers’ market vendors by their first names. Their kid’s names, too.

Six months ago I found my lost love of the natural foods trade and assumed the position of incoming executive director at Provender. I’ve been working closely with Vicki Reich, our previous ED, learning how to put together the 3,000 puzzle pieces that fit altogether to organize and orchestrate the 43rd Provender Alliance Annual Educational Conference coming up in a few short weeks.

In addition to Vicki, I’m blessed with a dedicated Board of Directors – its the first time I’ve ever worked so closely with a working board. Luckily, they are a group of folks who care deeply about Provender and are working diligently to uphold the vision of integrity throughout the natural food and products industry.

So I’m a virgin, really. A Provender “conference virgin”. Never having been before, I’m going to be wearing one of those newbie designations on my badge like other first-timers.

I’ve got the rosy flush of anticipation about the phenomenal keynote speakers (three this year!), the Conscious Leadership Intensive, 25+ dynamic workshops and their amazing presenters, delicious meals, and of course the “world-famous” snack room.

I’m arriving with fresh eyes to see and open ears to hear what our members have to say: what your real needs are, how Provender Alliance can further help you flourish both financially and in the integrity-based work you do for a vibrant and healthy food system and future.

I am so looking forward to the dynamic interchange that gathering in person provides the Provender membership. This is the place where our motto is made real:


Please come up and say hello. I’m excited to meet you in person!