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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

A Conversation with David Harder: Registered Herbalist and Owner of Nature’s Way Market, in Easton

Apr 03, 2015 12:18PM ● By Beth Davis

David Harder is a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and is trained in diet and nutrition. This month, he and his wife, Linda, are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Nature’s Way Market, in Easton.

What inspired you to open a health food store in 1975?

At the time, I was into a spiritual pursuit that involved meditation, which included service to others. I also lived by the philosophy that in order to be healthy, you must eat healthy. Opening a health food store allowed me to help people by teaching them that the quality of their food can impact their quality of life.

How has the store evolved over the years?

When we started, we gleaned ideas from existing stores and had high hopes. Most of our product was bulk, unpackaged items. We had wooden keg barrels full of grains, flours and other goods; 2 gallon jars filled with dried fruits; hundreds of bulk herbs; and two small coolers featuring local produce and dairy items; some California yogurt and tofu in bulk. We did have some packaged items, such as pasta, and a short wall of supplements.

In the late ‘80s, we modernized our format, but much remains the same. We have a mix of bulk grains, nuts, dried fruits, produce, meats, dairy products and more. We also have a complete line of supplements. We source locally whenever possible, including grass-fed beef and beef products from Harvest Home in Upper Mount Bethel Township and fresh raw milk, cheese and eggs from Swiss Villa Farms in Lancaster County. We focus on educating our customers and helping them make the best choices for optimal health.

What are some of the most notable changes you have seen in the industry over the past 40 years?

I’ve seen a mixed bag of good and bad. Over the past 40 years, there have been changing standards which folks use to judge quality – unprocessed and whole, rather than processed; organic; etc. Along the way, the lines have started to become fuzzy when it comes to organic. The standards for organic were once held very high and unfortunately it has has lost some of its clout. I see some local farmers going for organic certification, but most are not because of the cost. The most important thing for consumers is to know your local farmer. If you do, you know what he’s up to.

Many fads have come and gone over time, as well. We were guilty of partaking in the low fat food fad. Low fat means high sugar, but we were ignorant until after the fact. Yoga was popular then and now and that goes hand-in-hand with more people paying attention to spirituality. Integrative medicine is going mainstream, which is exciting. When we opened, it was very rare for a physician to refer anyone to our store, but it is happening more often as doctors are more likely to endorse supplements such as vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids and others.

We hear so much about the importance of knowing the source of our food. What is the best way for consumers to realize what they are putting in their bodies?

Visiting local farms and developing relationships with farmers, as well as going to local farmers’ markets is a great way to start. Easton Farmers’ Market is terrific and the standards are local only. A small store owner should have a relationship with the farmers, even if the customer can’t, and he or she should be able to answer any questions about the products. With that said, shopping small is part of that answer.

How important is education to your success?

In 1975, we were considered odd and very fad-oriented. Over the years, we’ve maintained our own and become better educated about our product mix and inventory. Combined, our staff has more than 100 years of combined experience. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and they want good, solid information. If we can answer an intelligent question and provide the support they need, they’ll keep coming back. It’s what’s kept us ahead of the game.

How do you incorporate your herbal practice into your retail setting?

I do find it challenging at times, but I do my best to use my knowledge to educate customers. People still have a fair amount of trepidation about herbs: whether they are safe and whether they can be used with supplements and medications. I answer their questions in the aisles as much as I can, but I also have a small office where I see patients who require a more in-depth service. People just want to be able to help themselves and I can help them with that. All of us at the store help our customers understand how they can strengthen, nourish and improve the normal function of their body by eating well.

For more information, call 610-253-0940 or visit NaturesWayEaston.com

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