AMERICAN FORK Good Earth Natural Foods started 34 years ago when folks taking vitamins and food supplements were either considered "wingnuts" or looking for a last resort, said general manager Scott Howard.
Today, with three decades of health awareness under its belt, the family-owned chain just opened its fifth store along the Wasatch Front. Health-conscious customers believe that good health doesn't come just from doctor visits or medicine, Howard said.
Medicine has its place, he said, but he believes the body has the power to heal itself of many diseases and to prevent illness with natural food supplements facilitating the process. Natural products help eliminate interference from chemicals and pesticides, he said.
His parents, Rae and Ken Howard, Highland, began the store as an outgrowth of his grandmother's chiropractic practice. Scott Howard worked there as a teenager. Since those beginnings in the 1970s studies have "overwhelmingly shown what food supplements do (to create good health)," he said. "The track record (of food supplements) is its own proof."
Rae Howard, president at the time of the then-National Nutritional Foods Association, was instrumental in a grass-roots effort to stop a 1990s congressional move to limit access to food supplements, which led to the Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's support of Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994.
Scott Howard, a former chiropractor, believes that having access to information about food supplements is a right.
"People who value that freedom should let their voices be heard," he said. "The FDA doesn't need any more power. It's about control at this point."
Along with food supplements, organically-grown food is one of the store's specialties, which complies with federal U.S. Department of Agriculture rules that organic food must be certified independently, he said.
"It was a good move," he said of the rules. "They gave consumers confidence that (food advertised as organic) is organic," he said.
The store also supports local farmers by offering locally-grown produce in season.
Each store measures about 10,000 square feet. The newly constructed American Fork store replaced a couple of old homes on Main Street. Other stores are in Provo, Orem, Sandy and Riverdale.
A big difference in health food stores today, vs. the 1970s when health awareness was still in its infancy, is the availability of specialty items, Howard said, such as gluten-free products. Those products are a boon to folks who suffer from Celiac disease, an intolerance to the gluten in wheat from birth.
Alternative sweeteners aid diabetics, including xylitol made from corncobs or birch bark. It looks and tastes like sugar, but is safe for diabetics, he said.
Trained wellness counselors are on hand to answer customer's questions about the supplements and natural foods.
"They are a key part of our business and customer service," he said.The reception to Good Earth has been positive, he said. North county shoppers used to do much of their shopping in Orem but now have shifted to American Fork because of "The Meadows" shopping center about a mile west of the store, he said.