food for thought

Rooted Women: Joan Boykin of Boykin Consulting

We’re so honored to introduce natural products industry superstar Joan Boykin as this month’s Rooted Woman. Joan has nearly 50 years’ experience in the natural and organic products industry in CPG, retail, publishing, and nonprofits. She was Executive Director of The Organic Center, and held leadership positions at Hain Celestial, New Hope Network and Alfalfa’s & Wild Oats Markets. She’s been a Senior Advisor to organizations such as WhiteWave Foods, Celestial Seasonings, and 1908 Brands. She was a founding member of The Organic Center and a cofounder of Naturally Boulder. She has also served as a Board Member and Advisor to many organizations, including Alfalfa’s Market, CU’s Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, Leeds School of Business Natural+Organic Programs, and FLOCK Regenerative. Joan was awarded Naturally Boulder’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” as well as “Local Hero Award.” She was inducted into the “Hall of Legends” as an Industry Legend in 2017. Today, Joan continues to serve as Senior Advisor, Coach and Consultant to companies and entrepreneurs. She is committed to “paying it forward,” and leaving the world a little better for having lived in it. Most importantly, she considers her family her life’s greatest work.

Q: You’ve been a thought leader and an inspiration to so many women for so many years. How did you get started and what motivates you to go out there and kick butt every day, year after year?

A: First, a note of appreciation to Kuvy for inviting an older woman in the natural products industry to

participate in Rooted Women. Often, the older, pioneering women are overlooked, making the invitation even more special.

Back in the 70s, I began to help shape the nascent Denver/Boulder community of natural foods enthusiasts into the industry it is today. Importantly, I couldn’t have done it without the opportunities I was given by two of the industry’s founding fathers, Mark Retzloff and Hass Hassan. Although I’d started to learn about natural foods in the late 60s in college, I’d only dreamed of being a part of it. Yet in 1975, that dream came true when Mark and Hass, who were co-leading Rainbow Grocery Natural Foods Coop, asked me to work on marketing, graphics, and store materials. Later, as they leveraged their passion and expertise in natural foods to create Pearl Street Market and 13 Alfalfa’s Markets, I continued to work with and learn from them. I’m deeply indebted to them and other industry leaders who gave me opportunities to prove my mettle; thus, I stand on the shoulders of giants to whom I am forever grateful.

After nearly 50 years of working with great companies and iconic brands, I am still motivated to ensure that the burgeoning natural products industry—forecast to surpass $300 billion in sales in 2023 (Nutrition Business Journal)—upholds the values upon which it was created. I’m also motivated to be Generative (Erik Erikson’s 8 stages of Human Development)—to give back to future generations by making a positive impact on others and our beautiful mother earth. For me, Generativity takes the form of teaching, mentoring, volunteering, and coaching executives and teams, primarily in the wonderful industry in which I’ve been blessed to work.

Q: We know all too well that women are still trying to do it all – succeed at work, look after their families, run a household, be a good friend and member of the community. What do you like to do to unwind after a hectic day/week?

A: There’s nothing like an evening walk and a great book to decompress at the end of a hectic day. I also unwind by re-learning piano and painting, and exercise is part of my daily self-care: ultimate fitness, running, Pilates, weightlifting, etc. Mediation and prayer also contribute to my sense of wellbeing today.  However, when my husband and I were raising kids, I was working long hours, getting another undergrad and graduate degree, juggling our kids’ sports and extracurricular events, attending family activities, etc., and I could barely catch my breath. During that phase of life, it was much harder for me to unwind, so I carried the day’s stressors with me until I fell into bed. With age comes hindsight and wisdom, hence I can assure younger women that life gets easier after your kids leave the nest and establish lives of their own. That’s something for many of you to look forward to!

No  matter how hectic your life gets, it’s imperative to reconnect with your “why.” This journey called “work”—even in an exciting and passionate industry like natural products—can exact a toll. To keep tracking forward without resentment or burnout, take time to remind yourself “why” you do what you do.

Q: What is your favorite meal using a local produce during a busy day?

A: We eat very simple meals, such as a fresh salad with locally grown greens and herbs, a whole grain like faro, barley, quinoa or brown rice, Colorado-grown grilled veggies, and occasionally fish. For extra zest on the side, I’m all about Mediterranean condiments with bold flavors. Think sundried tomatoes, Kalamata or Castelvetrano olives, marinated garbanzos, lemony hummus, roasted garlic, capers, pesto, baba ganoush, and roasted red peppers in EVOO.

In the summer, I grow oregano, basil, garlic, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, and parsley for the freshest seasonings possible. My go-to drink is water or herbal tea, and I consume lots of it every day!

Q: What are 2-3 local farmers and/or producers you’d like others to know about, and why?

A: Munson Farms – Founded by Bob & Marcy Munson, this Boulder farm is a Colorado Classic. They started the farm in 1976 with only 2 acres, and by 1979 they opened the farm stand at Valmont and 75th. Today, the Munson’s sons carry on the tradition, growing pumpkins, spinach, sweet corn, and veggies on 75 acres. They’ve had a continual presence at the Boulder Farmers Market since 1978, and their farmstand is a local treasure. 

Growing Gardens – This powerful nonprofit has brought regenerative agriculture education and thousands of pounds of food donations to over 136,000 Boulder County residents in need. Their programs empower people of all ages, income levels, and abilities by reconnecting them with local food systems and teaching gardening, cooking, and nutrition education. The farm is famous in town for its annual fundraiser, “Growing Gardens Farm Gala,” a delectable dinner of farm-raised dishes by celebrated community chefs, held on their 11-acre urban farm. 

The Fresh Herb Co. – Chet & Kristy Anderson are the founders and growers at The Fresh Herb Co, a local favorite that’s been in business since the early 80s. The farm is a preeminent producer of culinary herb plants (and flowers) in the Rocky Mountain Region, so if you get a hankering to savor their flavorful assortment of herbs, stop by your local Whole Foods between Spring and Fall. Of note, Chet & Kristy promulgated Farm to Table sustainable agriculture long before it was buzz-worthy.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of the Natural Products industry?

A: As an industry, we have a golden opportunity to continue to distinguish ourselves by operating as values-driven, conscious businesses that benefit both mankind and the environment—or we stand to lose the specialness, the soul, that has set this industry apart since its inception. To that end, we all have a responsibility to:

  • Hold each other accountable for product purity and truth in labeling.
  • Help others learn, grow and thrive by encouraging peak performance, celebrating success, and competing in ways that generate value for society and transform business as a force for good.
  • Share, not hoard knowledge, and in doing so, model an abundance vs. scarcity mentality.
  • Foster collaborative teamwork—essential to the creation of better-for-you, innovative products.
  • Help each other manage through all the messy ambiguity that characterizes radical imagination, discovery and invention.
  • Recognize, appreciate and nurture each other’s unique abilities, treating each other with the dignity and respect we all deserve.
  • Give back to others without expectation of reciprocation, doing so out of kindness & generosity of spirit.
  • Last but not least, confront issues that don’t square with our ideals and values, then change them with courage, integrity, and civility.

Q: Based on your years of accumulated learning and wisdom, what matters most to you?

A: Throughout the course of my career, I’ve learned that what really adds up to a lifetime of satisfaction is being productive; giving back to those in need; pursuing excellence; insistently challenging yourself; helping others learn, grow and thrive; creating healthful products that align with your values; persevering through thick and thin; and making a difference in some small way, every day, in your own unique way.

I could never have managed my career without my loving husband of 50 years, who has consistently put up with my driven and determined nature, our remarkable and encouraging sons, now grown men with beautiful wives and children of their own, and my large supportive family.

For all the moms, dads and future parents wanting to make a difference at work but struggling to raise families and juggle careers, remember the road is long and time is on your side, for most of you will live well into your 80s. Hence, the extra time you invest in nurturing your families and raising well-adjusted, socially responsible children who will be tomorrow’s leaders is an enormous contribution to not only them but the world.   

In closing, work matters a lot, especially when you are working to change the way the world eats for the better, but family matters most. No contest. 

See all of our Rooted Women by clicking on the Spotlight” search button on this page.


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